2013 was when I encountered The Last of Us, a title that showed a very different style of storytelling and became one of THE games where you play the role of some sort of father, and you spend time protecting a child through your journey. This formula would set up your protagonist to show both sides of strength and ruthlessness towards his enemies, and make a striking contrast with how one would show how they care for the younger person in the pair. The child, in turn, grows from the experiences they go through in their journey. Transforming from a naïve, defenseless liability to a dependable companion that can hold its own during a fight, and even pull through when the going gets tough. Joey and Ellie conclude their journey beautifully with the implied understanding of how they need each other to continue living. Their struggle to survive and endure may never end, but at least they’re not alone anymore.
That is until they decided to make a part 2, further cementing the idea that the words LAST or FINAL have lost all meaning in the world of games. It doesn’t help that the conversation about Part 2 is a fun topic to bring up at any party. But enough about that, PlayStation has brought back The Last of Us and slapped on ‘Part 1’ on it. They handed us a review copy because they’re quite positive we’ll love it and well, I did.
Turns out playing a game you left behind nearly a decade ago can be a fun time to dedicate your couch potato hours to, especially if it’s touched up in areas it needs to be to match it to current standards on gameplay and graphics.
The Last of Us Part 1 is a worthy pickup in my opinion, even if you played it already on PS3, more if you haven’t played it all. Let me tell you why.
Back in the PS3 age, this title had shown a masterclass of just how good graphics can look on that hardware. The HD remaster basically raised the bar a bit, particularly on definition and resolution, but for Part 1, it’s quite different. They made sure that this release would be able to match the graphic fidelity of Part 2. I understand that the last sentence doesn’t make a lot of sense, like somebody messed with the timeline, but that’s how the chips fall.
Sculpts of the models, the faces, and even the hair has been completely redefined. They even went out of their way to add post-production effects such as film grain and if you so choose, filter effects to give more convincing images to match the age that the game depicts. On top of this, there are options for UHD displays if you have that sort of TV capable of doing that. You can also set the game to either focus on having a higher resolution or better frame rates to match your preferences, this was a no-brainer for me because nothing is better than having a stable framerate is a must for any game I’m playing.
Textures are also renewed to match the complexity of the new models. The same treatment was given to the environment, though not as thorough, it still does give a good impression. If you look closely, you’ll see that it’s still the same game at the bottom of it all. Foliage, like grass, still makes use of dated techniques to populate the ground. While flourishes like reflections on the water are refined, how they would animate once disturbed isn’t quite what you’d expect of a game created in the year 2022. If you push the system enough, you’ll spot awkward animations or collision issues that may break your immersion. But I think these only pop up if you’re actively looking for them.
As for the audio side of things, well, I don’t think there’s really much to say since I can’t really find anything that different. It was already great from before and experiencing it on the PS5 Pulse headset gave me little to complain about, except maybe the paranoia it gave me whenever I heard even the slightest of movement during the stealth sections.
Mechanics is quite old school (I mean it’s an old game) especially if you’re familiar with how Naughty Dog does their action games. You progress through linear stages and make use of the terrain for either stealth or active combat. Your traversal is a bit limited but you can climb platforms that are within reach. The big difference from the Uncharted experience is the weapons you get a hold of. Where most of them until along the end are single-shot weapons with very difficult handling and limited ammo. I mean watch me trying to hold a shotgun still but it’s desperately trying to give me a dance lesson.
Naughty Dog had intentionally hamstrung the gun handling experience to match the survival horror feel that The Last of Us Part 1 is producing. This way we don’t get too trigger-happy and turn it into somewhere along the lines of Resident Evil 8. It also makes you depend on the other systems it easily allows you to do even mid-combat. And that is scavenging and crafting.
While prowling around any area, you are able to pick up random supplies that will either be ammo, upgrade materials for your weapons, or materials that you can turn into whatever you need them to be. Make a Molotov or any other improvised bomb to handle lots of enemies, a healing kit to replenish your dwindling health, or a shiv that serves multiple purposes in and out of combat.
When you’re not playing through the story, the game cycles you back and forth between crafting, combat, and scavenging. Reinforcing the idea that you should be thoroughly checking every corner that you come across, as that could be hiding some useful materials you can use for later, or a threat better dealt with on your own terms than theirs. This mixed with thorough level design makes encounters and exploration constantly hold a level of tension, that would keep you on edge at least on your first playthrough. Even if you are aware of what you’re up against, fighting them on a higher difficulty does make the fight feel different enough to keep you on your toes.
Despite the age of this game, the story and themes of The Last of US Part 1 hold up. A world where everyone loses everything and how they deal with the desperation of it all can really tug at your heartstrings, with the performance of every person in the cast pushing you through the emotional rollercoaster. When they have small, lighthearted moments with each other, it served as a great oasis to contrast against the constant doom and gloom that they must face.
Going through the platform challenges and puzzles, as well as combat sections, felt more like a slog, especially since I set it to hard mode, but the inserts of conversations between Joey and Ellie peppered around them made it at least interesting enough to go through as you’re getting a little more than figuring out how to get a plank to cross a gap. They made use of the downtime to further round out the characters and develop them, which was something I was willing to sit through every time.
Other bonus content you will encounter on The Last of Us part 1 are additional skins that are generally easter eggs for fans to enjoy a little chuckle out of, as well as some media content that some might be interested in. Like podcasts and documentaries regarding the game and how it came to be, and your standard concept art and model viewers.
The biggest addition for this title would be the inclusion of LEFT BEHIND, the DLC content for the game before Part 2 came along. This covers more about what Ellie did and what she had faced when Joel was out of commission, as well as the period before she met him. Which is a great addition for those who want to know more about what happened during those times.
TLOU1 actually has a lot of new ways of being played in case you wanted to see a different kind of game. By finding collectibles around the linear stages and playing through it, you’ll earn points to unlock modifiers. These can start from having infinite ammo, making a 1 hit death rule apply to either you or your enemies, or even have different types of music and voice play through your game. I toyed around with it to see what Joel would sound like if the world was full of helium, and I had a hard time taking the game seriously. There are other features like bullet time, and even a director commentary, which you can all unlock so long as you have the appropriate points.
They also gave me my favorite feature, the skip button, for platforming puzzles. These sections are where they choose to drop the tension by a lot to give Ellie and Joel room to talk and have a normal conversation about random topics to help flesh them out. I was more interested in getting back to the action for the most part, so if I found that a certain puzzle was kind of dragging, the option to quickly get past it was much appreciated.
Finally, The Last of US Part 1 has a lot of options built in case you can’t really figure out where to go, or if you have trouble reading subtitles, or even hearing, or even if you have a hard time discerning figures due to being colorblind. They put a lot of consideration into those who can’t play normally, and I’m sure those who need that little bit of help to enjoy the game appreciate it.
When I found out I was going to play The Last of Us Part 1 again, I was a little scared. I knew that development for this game back then and the standards for game design would be quite different from what we expect now. Maybe the experience won’t translate very well, maybe it would age poorly, maybe I was looking at the old title with rose-colored glasses.
But soon as I watched Joel’s world burn and crumble around him, I wanted to keep going. I knew that the campaign wasn’t very long. I knew that the scenes I wanted to see again wouldn’t take too long to revisit. I was delighted to find that despite knowing what was going to happen next, the sheer beauty of the execution of their bigger moments was worth seeing again.
While people may have issues with the direction they took with the releases down the road, I think it’s proper to give credit where credit is due. I thought I wasn’t going to be happy with playing The Last of Us Part 1 again, but here I stand corrected.
If you’ve played it before, I think this is an okay pick-up, especially if you simply want a nicer coat of paint on this classic in your library. If you haven’t, then I invite you to one of the finest works that Naughty Dog has ever created.
The Last of Us Part 1 is a journey you should experience. Scoring a (4 / 5)
Available on the PlayStation 5, PC will be coming, but no info yet.