It’s difficult for me to believe The Last of Us was first released nine years ago, but here we are in 2022, and that is indeed the case.
Though The Last of Us Part I doesn’t really need to exist since the original still looks and plays great — and its subsequent PlayStation 4 remaster remains even more visually stunning — the graphical overhaul offered in Part I is impressive.
Thanks to the power of the PS5, everything from facial animations to environments and enemies has been reworked in the impressive visual style of The Last of Us Part II. That said, it’s worth noting that this improved fidelity makes some of the original game’s aging animation look slightly more robotic when compared to other modern titles. It’s a small issue that you need to look for to notice, but it can be jarring during some cinematics.
Still, Part I is a stunning remake. Whether you’re playing at 4K HDR 40fps or variable resolution with a 60fps locked framerate, The Last of Us Part I looks like a PlayStation 5 title. But if you expected the remake to be a director’s cut-style revision of the iconic game featuring content that didn’t make it into the original, you’ll be disappointed. For better or worse, The Last of Us Part I is a faithful remake of the PlayStation 3 classic that follows the same plot and features identical gameplay. For example, Ellie still can’t swim, and your AI companions remain invisible to enemies in most situations.
There are quality-of-life and accessibility improvements, however. While you can’t dive, dodge or crawl like in The Last of Us Part II, the workbench that allows you to upgrade your weapons now features animations similar to its sequel (there are a few other examples of extra animations throughout the game). You’ll also encounter additional detail in the environment that can sometimes add a bit more to the experience, though I won’t delve into details to avoid spoilers, alongside the DualSense gamepad glowing in different colours depending on the action at hand. Enemy AI has also been improved slightly, resulting in some encounters feeling more dynamic than they did in the original, but the difference isn’t substantial and doesn’t compare to the intelligence offered by foes in Part II.
All of these upgrades are welcome additions to what is still one of the best video games ever made, but they don’t fundamentally add much to the experience.
On the accessibility side, significant positive strides have been made in the same fashion as The Last of Us Part II, including cinematic descriptions, screen reader, enhanced listening mode, additional cues and more. A new speedrun mode that features an in-game timer that pauses during cinematic transitions has also been added.
Part of me couldn’t help but have expected more from The Last of Us Part I given Naughty Dog’s stellar reputation. It would be great to see content that didn’t make it into the original offered in this remake or other quality-of-life changes tied to combat controls and its environment, especially since Part I‘s still very brutal stealth-action gameplay can, unfortunately, feel limiting at times if you’ve recently played The Last of Us Part II.
For example, just like when it was first released, some of The Last of Us Part I’s environments are repetitive, making it easy to get turned around and lost. I spent far more time than I’d like to admit wandering around the title’s overgrown ruined city environments trying to find the next cue to push the story forward (thankfully, the built-in hint system saved me). Subtle solutions to issues like this could have gone a long way towards making the remake feel more substantial and worthwhile for those who played the original.
On the other hand, I also understand that part of the remake’s purpose is that it’s a promotional tool for 2023’s The Last of Us HBO TV show, so it was likely developed on a tight timeline and only so many new features could be added. With this in mind, for some, Part I could act as the perfect intro to the series’ Clicker-filled, Cordyceps-infected world.
It’s also worth noting that even with the above shortcomings, The Last of Us has aged remarkably well for a nine-year-old game and feels far more modern than I expected. This really speaks to how far ahead of its time the original title was. The Last of Us weaves a compelling, grounded story against a post-apocalyptic backdrop, especially as it delves into the moral ambiguity of Joel, Ellie, and their violent actions. Few games have attempted to tell a tale like The Last of Us because Naughty Dog’s narrative does it so well that it’s near impossible to match, let alone surpass.
If you haven’t yet played one of the finest video games ever made, The Last of Us Part I is undeniably the best way to do so. On the other hand, for those like myself that spent a lot of time with the 2013 original and its 2014 remaster, there’s not much to offer here beyond an impressive visual upgrade.
The Last of Us Part I releases on PlayStation 5 on September 2nd, 2022 for $89.99. The game will also make its way to PC at a later date. The Last of Us Factions multiplayer mode isn’t included in this remake, but a successor is on the way.
For more on The Last of Us Part I, check out our interview with the game’s directors.
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Image credit: Sony