The Last of Us Part 1 is almost here, and we must discuss the main question - is the $70 price justified by the contents and changes included in the project? That is a great question, and even after spending many days playing, it is still hard to say whether it's worth it or not. There are many things you have to consider, including gameplay changes, rebuilt visuals, the addition of accessibility features, and so on. With the original version being almost a decade old and remade from the ground up, we ask ourselves: is it worth replaying once again, and more importantly, is it worth the $70 price tag? The time has come to answer those questions - Welcome to our review of The Last of Us Part I.
There is a ton to unpack here, but before we get into the finer details of the changes and visuals, I'd like to talk a little about the franchise and how it plays. The Last of Us was a brand new IP released in the Summer of 2013 for the PlayStation 3, developed by Naughty Dog, who was known for titles such as Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter back in the good old glory days of PlayStation. Then later, they moved to more mature games like the Uncharted series and even darker, The Last of Us, during the PlayStation 3 era. I won't be talking too much about the storyline here because that would defeat the entire purpose of playing this game.
The narrative in The Last of Us is incredible, and that's what this franchise is known for. It's an absolute roller-coaster from start to finish. At one point, you may be crying, and at the next, you are in shock because of a plot twist or something else. The characters are well-acted, the motion capture is beautifully executed, and the cut scenes are well shot. It is not a fast-paced game you can blast through. It's a game that's a bit slower-paced and has a deep, meaningful story with a lot of symbolism and life lessons. The Last of Us is like a drama-filled action thriller with horror elements, a fantastic cast of characters, and good writing. The game occurs in the United States, where a fungi infection has started spreading, and everyone is trying to survive.
The game received massive praise and lots of love, quickly becoming several people's favorite game of all time due to its fantastic storytelling, characters, and constant suspense. Then in 2014, Naughty Dog remastered it for the PlayStation 4. Fast forward to 2020, and The Last of Us Part II finally came out, bringing massive internet drama due to certain plot-point decisions. Now, Naughty Dog has remade the original classic to fit the narrative of The Last of Us Part II exclusively for the PlayStation 5 and for the first time on PC at a later date.
The gameplay in The Last of Us is simple. It's a slow-paced 3rd person shooter with an emphasis on stealth throughout several game sections. In one section, you are trying to either stealth-kill all the enemies in the room or sneak past them, using the environment to your advantage. And in the next section, you are fighting a bunch of thugs or an onslaught of infected enemies. There are a variety of objects you can pick up, such as melee weapons, and bottles or bricks to distract or kill enemies. Certain enemies, like Clickers, cannot be killed with regular melee attacks, but if you have a brick, then a three-hit combo to the face will usually finish the job; a melee weapon will suffice as well. Or you can grab a bottle, throw it in the opposite direction, distracting the Clicker, and then sneak past them saving you ammo and resources.
What's nice about the game design of The Last of Us is that it doesn't have many mechanics, and the mechanics it does have play well with each other, making for a better experience overall. Everything flows, the stealth, the weapons, and the items you find throughout. The game also has crafting. You can explore areas to collect resources such as duct tape, bandages, scissors, and so on to craft gadgets like bombs, smoke bombs, health kits, and even shivs used to instantly stealth kill Clickers or open the locked doors spread throughout the game. These shiv doors contain resources that help you upgrade your weapons and get through harder difficulty settings.
Throughout your adventure, you will also come across workbenches where you can upgrade your weapons, provided you have enough materials. The workbenches in the original game were nothing but a UI menu. However, in The Last of Us Part 1, workbenches got a major facelift. Those who played The Last of Us Part II will recognize this. Just like in the sequel, you can see Joel tinkering with the guns as you put on upgrades in real-time. Naughty Dog has added more realistic animations, new audio, and a full-on implementation of Dualsense haptic feedback. Anytime Joel touches the gun, or moves a part of the gun, the Dualsense gives feedback that goes with the rhythm of the sounds and animations. While it doesn't change the gameplay much, it still adds more believability, realism, and atmosphere to the already immersive experience. With that small summary out of the way, let's discuss the difference between the original and the remake.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room - the ground-up visual overhaul. The moment you start playing, you will immediately notice substantial differences. It has improved lighting and higher resolution character models that still look how you remembered but better. During cut scenes, the facial animations have also taken another step up. They are more expressive than the original or remastered PS4 version and look more believable and realistic.
The character's faces received the most changes. For example - Tess looks a bit older in the remake than in the original, and there is a much higher poly count. Not sure if that was intentional, but perhaps the PS3 didn't allow them to get enough polygons to make Tess's face look as old as they intended. Ellie's face looks more mature as well, but not by much. The new and improved facial animations make them stand out more this time around. Joel looks fantastic, and some later characters, such as David, look good as well. Personally, it didn't bother me that Tess looks a bit older. I think it gives her a much more realistic look. Some people may think otherwise, yet that's a subjective matter.
Despite the game being in an apocalyptic setting, there are plenty of beautiful sights and vistas to witness. The outdoor chapters look amazing, especially the foliage and trees. The scene with the giraffes is incredible. It's just a beautiful moment, both emotionally and visually. It was refreshing to take a step back into Bill's town and the university chapter on new-generation hardware and witness it again in higher visual fidelity. For those who have never played the original game, you are in for an awesome treat regarding immersion and graphics. And for those who have played it, it's nostalgic to experience it again with all these massive improvements.
Thanks to these visual upgrades, the game is more immersive than ever. The Last of Us was already an incredible-looking game on the PlayStation 3 before it got a slight upgrade on the PlayStation 4 with full HD resolution of 1080p at 60FPS, higher resolution on character models, and improved shadows and lighting. Now Naughty Dog has decided to remake the game for the PS5 and give it the full next-gen treatment, and it shows. The lighting probably received the greatest upgrade, making the biggest difference to visuals. Lighting in video games has a massive impact on how your games look and feel, especially when it comes to creating a good horror atmosphere. If you wanted to take a closer look at all the detail of the new models, you can do so in the newly included model viewer. The model viewer was originally added in The Last of Us Part II so it only makes sense that The Last of Us Part 1 would get the same treatment.
Players can also choose from two different graphical options, performance, and high quality. The high-quality option is native 4K which tries to hit 60 FPS as much as possible. Meanwhile, the performance is locked at 60 FPS but changes the resolution dynamically on demand as it needs to stay at a locked 60. During the review session, I decided to play the game on performance mode, which is a locked 60 FPS. I haven't witnessed or experienced a single hitch, and it was a buttery smooth experience from start to finish. With the graphical and visual changes out of the way, it's time to discuss all the new quality of life features, gameplay changes, and bonuses that Naughty Dog has thrown into the mix.
I am not exactly sure what Naughty Dog did with the remake, but the gameplay feels more fun and fluid than in the previous versions. Traversing from enemy to enemy and shooting them in the face with a shotgun feels more gratifying this time around. There are slight animation improvements as well, and, if I am not mistaken, the updated animation blending makes the game feel more fluid than before. The gore has also been turned up quite a bit and is more frequent and gruesome than before.
The AI also recieved an upgrade. Both your allies and enemies are smarter and more reactive. They do frequent call-outs and react to your positioning better than before. Now one might ask, does it make the game slightly more difficult? In a way: yes, smarter AI usually means more of a challenge. It's refreshing to see reactive AI. You do not see much of that in games these days, which is disappointing, as good AI can significantly enhance the experience.
Speaking of difficulty and additional challenges, Naughty Dog went out of its way for the speedrunning communities and individuals who enjoyed no-death run modes. After you beat the game and start a New Game or a New Game+, you have the option to turn on permadeath mode. Players may also limit the permadeath mode to only one death per chapter or act. And yes, you can also choose the option where it restarts the entire game from the beginning of the prologue if you die at any point.
You can also turn on speedrun mode. This will put a timer on the top right so you don't have to make your own, and you can combo this with the permadeath mode. Those seeking the ultimate challenge can dive straight into the Grounded+ difficulty setting with speedrunning and permadeath enabled and have their wishes fulfilled. After you beat the game, you can also see the speedrun recaps menu and your stats for potential time savings, personal records, and chapter bests. The options are a great addition and add more replayability if you enjoy this type of thing.
I've already spoken a bit about the Dualsense haptic feedback functionality earlier, but I still think it's worth mentioning how it feels during actual combat scenarios. The best example of haptic feedback is the bow and the water gun. As you press the trigger and start to draw the arrow you will feel a bit of resistance and tension. As you keep drawing, you will feel more and more resistance at your fingertip. Then, of course, when you let go, you feel the vibration of the arrow being shot. The water gun feels the same way, but obviously, you'd only feel the pressure and resistance when squirting the water. For weapons like a revolver or a hunting rifle, the player will feel tension every time they fire a shot or reload. It's a nice touch that adds to the immersion. I like the Dualsense features. It was smart to implement them since they add to the overall experience.
Now it's time we talk about Naughty Dog's efforts regarding accessibility. They did an outstanding job at helping individuals who are impaired in hearing and seeing, or those with other physical limitations. They thought of everything you could possibly think of. Those who need visual aids can turn up the HUD Scale to a bigger size. They can also change how light or dark the HUD background is. Don't like the default white color of the HUD? You may also change it to blue, red, yellow, and green. Colorblind mode is also available with a turn-on and off switch. You can even make your HUD flash if you need to and turn on high contrast display. The high contrast display mutes environment colors and adds distinct contract coloring to allies, enemies, items, and interactive objects.
Do you not take motion sickness well? You can reduce things like the camera shake, and motion blur, and even change the camera distance and field of view. You can also put up a persistent dot at the center of the screen that hides during cinematics and aiming. The game lets you turn on navigation assistance that shows players where they need to go next to get through the story if they are lost or having difficulties. You can also turn on automatic traversal assistance that will automatically climb ledges, squeeze through small gaps, sprint during special encounters, and even vault over small obstacles when on a horse. Players can turn on infinite breathing and a toggle for skipping puzzles if it is too difficult.
For those who are more hearing impaired, there are plenty of options to turn on, such as traversal, combat, and vibration audio cues. They even added dedicated cinematic descriptions and screen readers for the player's convenience and audio aid. While this may seem like it turns the game into a super easy mode, you have to realize that 100 percent of these functions are turned off by default and are manually turned on, meaning the default experience won't be like this.
At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with giving people options to play the game a certain way. Everyone is different and everyone is not at the same skill level. There is nothing wrong with letting someone enjoy the game who's struggling with their life on day to day basis due to visual, hearing, or physical limitations. Letting everyone enjoy The Last of Us is a fantastic thing and a blessing for those who could not in the past. Huge kudos to Naughty Dog for the efforts towards the accessibility options. It's mind-blowing how far gaming and technology have come when it's related to these functionalities.
Last, but not least, Naughty Dog included a bunch of extra bonuses, such as the model viewer and cosmetic skins for Ellie and Joel. When you unlock trophies and get collectibles, you are rewarded with points you can spend in the main menu and unlock a variety of cool stuff. You can even unlock filters that make the game look way different. Imagine playing The Last of Us on the PlayStation 5 but in complete 8-bit graphics. You can even unlock 8-bit or 4-bit audio as well. Want to go through the entire storyline where everyone sounds like they just breathed in some helium? Then feel free to unlock and turn on the helium audio filter, it's quite hilarious.
Do you miss Jak and Daxter? You can unlock a Jak and Daxter t-shirt for Ellie along with Jak goggles as headwear. Maybe you want Joel to rock out with a fully sculpted oak skin for his weapons? Or how about the Winter gear and look from The Last of Us Part II? Point is, there are cool cosmetics to unlock here. While they don't add much to the gameplay, it's always fun to have vanity stuff. Add in a full-on photo mode that Naughty Dog has included and you can start fooling around and taking some cool screenshots with a variety of new character skins.
It wouldn't be Naughty Dog without them adding a bunch of gameplay modifiers that can be unlocked only after you beat the game. You can turn on a variety of cheats such as slow motion, the bullet speed mode that slows down when you are aiming, infinite ammo, infinite crafting, infinite melee durability, and even one-shot kills with both melee and guns. Have you ever wanted to shoot a pack of Clickers and watch them explode? Then turn on the explosive arrow cheat and watch them blow up into pieces.
At the end of the day, The Last of Us is a two-generation old game already remastered for a new-generation console right after the launch of the PlayStation 4 with better visuals and overall fidelity. Sony, however, decided to take another shot at the game and create a completely new version for the PlayStation 5, introducing the franchise to those who have never played it or are about to watch the HBO series. The reality is that the fans are loyal and will most likely purchase anything related to The Last of Us brand, whether it's something new or old.
You have to ask yourself: is it worth spending the $70 on something you experienced almost ten years ago? Is the higher visual fidelity, better AI, prettier cut-scenes, additional immersion features, such as the Dualsense haptic feedback, and the inclusion of Left Behind DLC worth that money? If you are a massive fan, then the answer is clearly a yes. If you've never played the original game or want an introduction to the series then the answer is also yes, it is worth it.
However, if you are like me, a person who likes The Last of Us but is not crazy about it and already played the original game 3-4 times to achieve my Platinum trophy, then it's a bit difficult to decide. A part of me says it's not worth it, but the other part says it is. If the remade version did include the same multiplayer from the original, but with visual improvements, then I think it would be 100 percent worth it since I did really enjoy the multiplayer.
Regardless of the statements above, The Last of Us Part 1 is still a very solid package, and a lot of love was put into it. The game itself aged greatly, the gameplay improvements are nice and make the game more enjoyable to play than ever before. The additional accessibility features are a nice touch for those who have disabilities, the Dualsense does add to the immersion, and the Permadeath and Speedrun modes are great for those who want to challenge themselves. The cut-scenes are a joy to watch once again, and the game is definitely a looker. So if you want to impress your friends or your significant other, then show them this game running on a big-screen TV because it sure is a treat to look at.
If the game was a bit cheaper and included the multiplayer, then this would have been an easy 10 out of 10, but that is not the case here. I know that Naughty Dog is developing a standalone highly ambitious multiplayer game set in the universe of The Last of Us for the PlayStation 5 and that's where they want to put their resources into. But I still find it a tad odd that they decided not to include the multiplayer that already exists in the original game. Is it because of the servers? Or are there far more technical complications that would just end up taking too much of the development time to put it into the remake? I am not a developer of any sort or a programmer for that matter, but I do understand how deadlines work and budgets. I am sure Naughty Dog thought about including the multiplayer at some point in development but decided to go against it for whatever reasons. Still, I think the lack of the original multiplayer is a disappointment.
I understand why this is a $70 product, game development is costly these days, and it's an easy opportunity to make money with the hype of the PS5 and the upcoming HBO show adapting The Last of Us. Business-wise, it makes a ton of sense, but the price point may turn off some individuals as it's quite expensive, and the lack of multiplayer is not helping either. Hopefully, this review helped you make your decision, and as you know, we are always going to be transparent and honest around here. With that said, The Last of Us Part 1 gets an 8.5 out of 10.