First released in 2013, the game we now know as The Last of Us Part 1 kicked off a Renaissance for narrative-driven video games, establishing itself as one of the greatest video games of all time among fans and critics alike.
The game that helped define PlayStation as the place to be for experiences of the highest quality would receive a critically acclaimed remaster and a sequel on the PS4, cementing it and developer Naughty Dog as a staple of not only Sony's console but the industry at large.
Now, we're in the PS5 era and it seems like the general attitude has changed. The announcement of a brand new remake and rebrand to The Last of Us Part 1 was met with a pretty divided opinion. Many gamers and writers claimed that it was just another attempt at milking the cash cow for a new generation, a point they made while pointing at its next-gen pricetag and approach to gameplay.
Were they right to do so? Let's talk about it.
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Elephant Giraffe in The Room
When it comes to writing a review on remakes or remasters, you'd normally focus on the changes made to the experience but when it comes to The Last of Us Part 1, I think we need to start by addressing the opposite.
If you've played The Last of Us before, you've played The Last of Us Part 1 and if you haven't played it yet, you're doing yourself a disservice.
The game is fundamentally the same with the story completely untouched and the gameplay mostly left the same, with some subtle changes made to the in-game AI of NPCs instead of any overhauls to the core mechanics you'll experience first-hand.
The AI improvements are mostly positives, however, with encounters feeling a lot more intense as enemies interact with each other, the world around them and the player.
Allied NPCs are also supposed to be improved but from my experience, they still seem to move around randomly, running in front of enemies for no reason and occasionally having their share of Skyrim Lydia moments where they block the path forward.
These aren't exactly the end of the world but can be a little immersion-breaking at times which is a shame when so much of this remake's strength is its immersion.
For the fan looking for something new, however, there are still some gameplay changes for you to enjoy. Specifically, loads of new unlockable cosmetics for Joel and Ellie have been added along with a new Permadeath mode and Speedrun Mode.
The Apocalypse Has Never Looked So Good
The main reason to pick up The Last of Us Part 1, however, is the updates to how the game looks, with all of the assets made from scratch to breathe new life into the game while updating it to the standard of Part 2 in terms of its visuals.
The upgrade is undeniable from moment one, taking what was already a visually stunning game and combining it with the power of the PS5 to make for an unforgettable experience.
Its world is one that's always been defined by its atmosphere and the stark contrast between the urban environments being reclaimed by nature, both of which are enhanced with the new and improved graphics that The Last of Us Part 1 provides.
Exploring the spore-filled ruins of the old world has never felt so immersive, with each building either a haunting vision of the past or a highly intense encounter with the infected that now call it home.
A massive part of this comes from the incredible lighting work in The Last of Us Part 1 with Naughty Dog's decision to use a softer light in most of the game really helping the game feel more alive than other, more harshly lit survival horror entries and while it's not quite ray-tracing, it's still the best showcase of the PS5's power that we've had so far.
This fact also stretches to the characters, with the new models looking absolutely outstanding and enhancing the already untouchable performances of the original game.
This is highlighted by the small changes made to cutscenes throughout the game. With slightly different camera angles and framing choices made to enhance the impact of some scenes. It makes for an outstanding playthrough and truly shows how ahead of its time the original game was.
The End of The World is For Everyone
Naughty Dog has earned a reputation as the king of accessibility in the modern AAA scene, with the studio often trying to push how accessible their games are and The Last of Us Part 1 isn't any different.
A wide array of accessibility options can be found in the menus of the game, letting players customise the gameplay experience to better suit their needs.
The ability to change how the game controls including the swapping of holding buttons to simple taps goes a long way for players who struggle to keep buttons like the triggers held in place for long periods of time.
The Last of Us Part 1 is also excellent for visually impaired players, providing a screen reader and cinematic description option for cutscenes and readable items in the game, while also adding more audio cues to the game to assist with navigation.
The most impressive feature of The Last of Us Part 1 is its use of the Dualsense, however, with a "speech to vibrations" option to let players feel how a line is delivered through the controller itself.
These settings along with more general accessibility features such as motion sickness options, gameplay assisting options and customisable HUD and Subtitles, finally let differently-abled gamers experience this masterpiece of storytelling in games in a way that suits their needs and that is always worth celebrating.
Coming to a conclusion on The Last of Us Part 1 is a bit like trying to solve a philosophical problem. It's a masterpiece of a game from 2013, rebuilt to be presented in a way that is among the best that the entire industry has to offer in 2022. In that sense, it's untouchable.
Yet there is this unshakable question of "Did this remake need to happen?" and while many will have their own answer to that and firmly believe it, I'm not so sure.
It's a game that's already been remastered once and that remaster is still perfectly playable on PS5 via backwards compatibility and for such a high price point, it's hard to argue for this game.
At the same time, however, all of the changes made to the game have been absolutely excellent. They are undeniably great improvements to an already top-tier product so it's also hard to argue against The Last of Us Part 1.
Realistically, I think this game is best suited for two types of players. Those who are wanting to experience the game/the series for the very first time and those who are massive fans of Naughty Dog's work and want to experience a game that they love at the best it can possibly be.
For everyone else, The Last of Us Part 1 is a game definitely worth picking up but not a must-buy experience right now, especially with new games on the horizon.