The Last of Us Part I, while widely regarded as a masterpiece, will not immediately appeal to every type of gamer. The title marks the second re-release of Naughty Dog’s 2013 post-apocalyptic epic. It follows the original PlayStation 3 release and The Last of Us Remastered which hit the PlayStation 4 in 2014.
Since the remake’s reveal, it has had fans up in arms over the seeming lack of justification for yet another rework of the game, especially one launching at the full price of a brand-new title.
For those coming to the world of The Last of Us for the first time, picking up Part I is a no-brainer. This is the definitive way to play one of the most-decorated games of all time. It’s very much the same game that was released back on the PS3 but sports a new coat of paint and subtle changes brought over from The Last of Us Part ll that elevates the experience a touch.
Fans that have been through Joel and Ellie’s journey across America before may question picking it back up again. This is a conflicting masterwork that, as a longtime fan playing through for the umpteenth time, will leave some a little unsatisfied, especially at that elevated price point.
But if the small changes are enough to hook a returning player, then this can be a special experience.
A New Look at a Familiar World
The most immediately noticeable improvement in The Last of Us Part I is its visuals. This new coat of next-gen paint is something to behold. The overgrown environments look lusher, the undead is more terrifying, and the level of detail on characters is unmatched.
Naughty Dog’s post-civilization America has never looked better than it does in this remake. Water ripples dynamically as rain pounds puddles strewn about the cityscape. And the way that natural light peeks through cracks in buildings, diffuses off different surfaces, and reveals spores seeping out of any number of infected corpses feels like wizardry when in action.
All these visual changes, along with enhanced 3D audio and use of the Dualsense with its haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, make Part I feel like a different enough experience. This virtual world has always felt lived-in, but this upgrade makes it feel truly alive.
Next Level Performances
And the graphical overhaul does not stop at the environment. The game’s cast of characters has gotten the PS5 touch-up as well. Naughty Dog is known for pushing the PlayStation hardware to its limits, but this is something else entirely. The minute detail in every emotion portrayed on-screen by Joel, Ellie, or any other member of the cast is spectacular, to say the least.
Seeing Joel transition from confusion to anger to grief all in a matter of seconds during a cutscene will leave most gamers in awe. These small added animations give new context to scenes that have been around for almost a decade at this point. These changes elevate the already incredible performances found in The Last of Us, showing off nuances that fans never knew were there to begin with.
The undead has also gotten a bit of a visual upgrade. Whilst The Last of Us brand of fungi-infested zombies has always been utterly terrifying, Part I ups the ante. Runners look bloody disgusting, with their pale white skin, red eyes, and bulging veins being more prominent than ever. And the mushroom blooms atop the series signature Clickers feature some of the most detailed fauna ever put in a video game. These undead foes were scary before, but they are downright horrifying now.
More of the Same
But all that is where the improvements largely stop. Those who are looking for something more than a step up the graphical ladder will be quite disappointed.
The game does bring over some more minor elements from The Last of Us Part ll like a slightly tweaked crafting system and more-streamlined UI, but these changes - and a few unlockable cosmetics - are the only real other new additions to the package.
The story here is the same as it was back in 2013. It’s emotional, full of unforgettable character moments, and still hits like a truck. But this is exactly the same narrative that was spun almost a decade ago. This is not to say that Naughty Dog would ever make changes to such a beloved tale, especially one that still holds up as one of the best video game stories ever told.
But shot-for shot this is the same thing from nine years ago with little narrative innovation, and that will rub some people the wrong way.
A Repeat Visit
The Last of Us gameplay is exactly as it was on the PlayStation 3 as well. For those who did not like the cat-and-mouse stealth sequences the franchise was built upon, there is nothing Part I will do to change that.
Even fans who like the combat loop may be left feeling a tad unsatisfied. A lot of these encounters feel like coming back to a jigsaw puzzle after having already finished it before. Tense moments can still be found as players scavenge for bullets, take out other survivors, and slink around groups of the undead. But knowing exactly what lies around every corner and how to tackle it can take the sheen off of things just a bit.
And none of the improved moves from The Last of Us Part II make the jump to this remake either. While the sequel allowed Ellie to dodge incoming melee attacks and go prone to hide beneath objects like abandoned cars, none of that is here. Joel has the same set of moves he did back on the PS3.
That is not to say the tools Naughty Dog gives the player in Part I are insufficient. In fact, the actual act of combat is still quite engaging all these years later. It just may have been nice to have seen some of those Part II improvements show up here.
The Big Question
So is The Last of Us Part I worth it? Well, that is a complicated question, it really depends on the gamer.
For those who may be coming to the series for the first time, then the answer is a resounding yes. This is the best way to play one of the greatest games of all time. And with HBO’s TV adaption coming soon, Part I is the perfect place to get familiarized with this world before Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey bring Joel and Ellie to life on-screen.
But for returning players mileage may vary. Many longtime The Last of Us fans will find enough here to justify the purchase, whereas others will call this nothing more than a cheeky cash grab from Sony.
Look for the Light
This feels like the game Naughty Dog always wanted The Last of Us to be. As a diehard fan of the franchise - or a first-timer - seeing that vision realized is well worth the price of admission. However, with the 2013 classic and PlayStation 4 remaster still so fresh for many, it can feel a little redundant.
Sure, this game is more comparable to a favorite movie hitting Blu-ray for the first time than a full-scale reimagining of a classic, but The Last of Us Part I is a masterpiece, albeit one that is not made for everybody.
*Game provided by PlayStation*