THE LAST OF US PART 1 REVIEW FOR PS5.
For almost a decade now, I’ve been calling The Last of Us a masterpiece. It’s remained my favorite game of all time and I completely agree with the PlayStation LifeStyle reviews that awarded the original PS3 version a 10/10 and the PS4 Remastered version a 10/10. Unfortunately, the third time doesn’t quite boast the same charm — the quality remains and notable improvements have been made, though a steep price point makes this a much more difficult sell than its predecessors.
With The Last of Us TV show set to release on HBO in 2023, there’s no doubt going to be a large influx of players diving into the franchise for the first time. Having better parity between the games will be fantastic for newcomers and it’s important to remember that Naughty Dog isn’t just making Part 1 for established fans. As much as I love TLOU and have done for a long time now, I can see the bigger picture and the reasons for this remake to exist a mere eight years after the Remastered launched.
When the TV show audience moves across to the game, they will find a (presumably) similar tragedy of a man struggling to deal with loss and fighting hard to change that losing streak, no matter the cost. The game’s protagonists, Joel and Ellie, are played by video game acting superstars Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who provide both voice and motion capture. Their fantastic performances in the original game are elevated here with enhanced visuals and animations — the characters’ eyes are especially impactful when paired with emotional dialogue.
Joel and Ellie must journey across a post-apocalyptic United States, dealing with infected enemies and human hunters. Death is but a bite or gunshot wound away making for a brutal reality that is channeled through the characters’ desperate need to mercilessly murder and loot in order to survive.
The infected US hasn’t just been “upscaled” to look decent on PS5 — it has been rebuilt in large parts, with Naughty Dog making significant changes to level geometry, textures, and lighting. I found areas with water particularly impressive when moving between Remastered and Part 1.
A veteran of the post-apocalyptic world, Joel doesn’t mess around when facing a threat. Like in the original release, he’s capable of stealthily taking out enemies one by one and manipulating their movement by throwing bottles or bricks as distractions. Once spotted, Joel wastes no time in punching the hell out of the opposition, infected or human, before grabbing them and curb-stomping them dead. Like in Part 2, the photorealistic visuals can lead to some jarring moments where the ultraviolent scenes can look a little too real.
The gameplay in Part 1 is mostly the same as the original, so Joel can’t make use of the crawling or dodging mechanics seen in Part 2. However, there is additional polish to animations that makes transitioning from stealth to an aggressive assault look and feel exceptional. Part 1 has the fluidity of Part 2, especially when gaming at higher frame rates, which is a valuable achievement.
The improvements to friendly and enemy AI were immediately noticeable. During stealth sequences, allies in the original and Remastered used to awkwardly maneuver in front of enemies. While this didn’t alert them, it did break immersion. In Part 1, this only happened to me once, and it was during a moment where I was testing its limits, forcing multiple enemies to surround Ellie to see how she’d react. When playing properly, it’s no longer an issue.
Enemies are also smarter now, similar to how they are in Part 2. They are more tactical in their flanking routes and are less predictable when peeking from cover. For anyone that has played through the original on Grounded difficulty — maybe even twice, for that damn Trophy! — you’ll be familiar with optimal routes through levels. Many of these strategies will need rethinking thanks to Part 1’s bigger-brained foes.
High ledges are the true villain
If I’m to nitpick, there’s one remaining area of jank that has been overlooked: the animations when dropping down from a ledge. Characters have to drop down a surprising number of ledges, and they just sort of clumsily slide or float when doing so. Considering the incredible attention to detail seen in literally every other animation, I’m surprised that this process isn’t more elegant.
Fans of the PS5 DualSense’s haptic trigger feedback will be happy to hear that Part 1 fully embraces it. Different weapons have a different “feel” based on how easy they are to fire. It’s a fun little gimmick that does its job, though I’d personally disable it as the added physical friction can be frustrating.
As also seen in Part 2, Naughty Dog has gone above and beyond what most other developers do by implementing accessibility features to help those who are visually impaired and/or hard of hearing.
And if, like me, you’ve already beaten The Last of Us on the more punishing difficulty settings, rest assured that there are new challenges to tackle in Part 1. Permadeath and Speedrun modes have been added for those who want to test their skills.
Like with the Remastered version, Part 1 bundles in the Left Behind DLC, which explores the story of Ellie before she meets Joel. Unlike the Remastered version, the Faction multiplayer component is totally missing from Part 1. As an enormous fan of this mode in the original, I was very sad to learn this. Hopefully, Naughty Dog is making quick progress on the standalone The Last of Us multiplayer game to help fill this void and justify the omission.
Part 1 also includes the great Director’s Commentary, alternative skins, concept art, and other goodies. Most of this could already be experienced in the Remastered version, though, so it would have been nice to see Naughty Dog push the boat out with this definitive version of the game with some fun additional weapons, or potential tie-ins to Uncharted or other PlayStation franchises. Something extra to make Part 1 stand out and justify the purchase price would have helped reduce the sting a little.
The cost of war
But while there are a number of great additions and improvements here, The Last of Us Part 1’s greatest enemy isn’t its zombies — it’s the steep price point. The Last of Us Part 1 is launching at $69.99 (and $79.99 for the Digital Deluxe Edition). That is $50 more expensive than what The Last of Us Remastered is currently available for. That is a steep ask and, though it’s clear that a hell of a lot of work has gone into Part 1, it’s a price that even I as a hardcore fan find off-putting.
The Last of Us Part 1’s $70 price tag comes at a bad time for Sony, as the company is already causing controversy by increasing the price of the PS5 in non-US countries. Combine that with the cost of living crisis impacting many areas and you’re looking at a target market that isn’t quite so eager to spend. I’d feel a lot happier with Part 1 and 2 being bundled together for $70-80, or Part 1 being sold separately for $40-50.
The Last of Us Part 1 Review: The final verdict
If you can fling yourself over the price hurdle, The Last of Us Part 1 is absolutely the best version of the single-player game. The environments look superb, the characters are rendered perfectly, and the gameplay remains super satisfying. What’s more, the game has been opened up to a wider audience with a comprehensive suite of accessibility settings, and veteran players can sweat it out in the Permadeath and Speedrun modes. The price tag is cheeky, undoubtedly, but if anyone can pull off this wallet heist, it’s Naughty Dog with The Last of Us.
The Last of Us Part 1 was reviewed on PS5 with code provided by the publisher.
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