The Last of Us Part I Review
The Last of Us Part I has arrived on the PlayStation 5, completely rebuilt in exciting new ways that evolve the experience, my full review.
The Last of Us was originally released on the PlayStation 3 in 2013 and was immediately hailed as one of the best games of all time. Many (myself included) considered it a masterpiece in storytelling, game design, and technical achievement, this was developer Naughty Dog's "magnum opus". Fast forward to July 2014, and the Last of Us Remastered was released on the PlayStation 4, upgraded to take advantage of new hardware. Many were eager to dive back into one of PlayStation's best games now with added visual upgrades.
Now, with a new generation in the PlayStation 5 and an HBO TV series on the way, The Last of Us Part I has been completely rebuilt for audiences new and old. This time around it features stunning 4K visuals, overhauled environments, new animations, a host of accessibility options and other features made possible by the power of the PS5. Like a classic novel, or a blockbuster film TLoU has seen remakes and re-releases for audiences new and old. Is this latest revisit enough to justify a purchase for those who have already played the game on the PlayStation 4? Let's step back into Naughty Dog's brutal post-pandemic world and find out.
The Last of Us Part I Details
Platform(s): PlayStation 5
Developer(s): Naughty Dog
Publisher(s): Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action-adventure, survival horror
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
A gripping story of survival
Just like the original 2013 release, the game is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a fungal infection has turned most of humanity into zombie-like creatures called 'the infected'. For those wondering, there aren't any major changes in the story to reflect the developments from The Last of Us Part II. If you have never played The Last of Us and are jumping in for the first time, you are in for an incredible tour-de-force in storytelling.
"If you have never played The Last of Us and are jumping in for the first time, you are in for an incredible tour-de-force in storytelling."
The game follows Joel, a gruff and grizzled survivor, as he escorts Ellie, a 14 year old girl, across the country in an attempt to find a cure for the infection plaguing humanity. Along the way, they must deal with both the infected and hostile human survivors. The Last of Us is a story about love, loss, and hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
A timeless classic
As someone who has played through the game multiple times, I can say that it holds up incredibly well against any modern title. The characters are rich and expertly developed, the world is fascinating and meticulously crafted, and the plot is well paced with plenty of twists and turns to keep you invested.
"The characters are rich and expertly developed, the world is fascinating and meticulously crafted, and the plot is well paced with plenty of twists and turns to keep you invested."
If you have played The Last of Us before, the story will be very familiar. However, that doesn't make it any less impactful or engaging. Naughty Dog's masterful game design and writing shines through in every scene. The characters feel real and believable and the dialogue is natural, with shocking and heartbreaking moments that will keep you invested all the way through.
"The characters feel real and believable and the dialogue is natural, with shocking and heartbreaking moments that will keep you invested all the way through."
Overhauled gameplay refines an already stellar experience
The Last of Us Part I features completely overhauled gameplay with quite a few quality of life improvements. Just like the original, players will spend most of their time exploring abandoned buildings and fighting off both the infected and other survivors. Combat has always been one of the game's strong suits, and it is even better in the remake. It's more visceral than I remember and that's saying a lot, as 2013's original release was one of the most brutally violent games I've played. The events and world overall feel far less scripted, even through you are on a linear path it feels like anything can happen.
"The events and world overall feel far less scripted, even through you are on a linear path it feels like anything can happen."
Refined aiming and shooting mechanics
The shooting mechanics have been fine tuned, and the AI has been improved both with allies and enemies. The infected are still as terrifying as ever, but they feel a bit more manageable this time around. Human enemies are also more aggressive and will actively try to flank and ambush you. They also will search for you in pairs making it harder to get the jump on unsuspecting foes. This makes for some intense firefights that require quick thinking and precise aim in order to not get overwhelmed quickly.
In terms of game design, The Last of Us Part I is nearly perfect, preserving the best parts of what made the original game so special. The level design is top-notch, the puzzles are challenging but not frustrating, and the combat encounters are expertly balanced. I was dismayed to see AI companions still dart out into the path of enemies while I was trying to sneak around, but it has been greatly improved over the original. There is a good mix of stealth and action, with players being able to approach each encounter in multiple ways. If you are playing on higher difficulties, you'll definitely want to use the stealth route, and hold onto those precious resources.
"I was dismayed to see AI companions still dart out into the path of enemies while I was trying to sneak around, but it has been greatly improved over the original."
Beauty in the collapse
The Last of Us Part I is a visually stunning game. It has been completely rebuilt for the PlayStation 5 with improved graphics and overall performance. The world is incredibly detailed, and the character models look fantastic. I spent hours in photo mode marvelling at the character realism, environmental effects and detail in everything.
"I spent hours in photo mode marvelling at the character realism, environmental effects and detail in everything."
The facial animations are some of the best I've ever seen in a video game, bringing it on par with The Last of Us Part II. Character's eyes now well with tears, skin becomes flush in stressful situations and smaller subtle emotions are more apparent. The particle and lighting effectives truly bring the world to life, everything seems more alive. Light now filters through trees and windows, while spore sections are even more detailed as the deadly molecules swirl around you.
Prioritize visual details or frame rate
From the outset you will be given a choice when it comes to graphical performance. You can prioritize visual details by picking a native 4K option that hits 30fps, or a dynamic 4K option that targets 60fps that dials down visual effects. I opted for upgrading visual details, especially because I am such a shutterbug with camera mode, I wanted all the details I could get.
"I opted for upgrading visual details, especially because I am such a shutterbug with camera mode, I wanted all the details I could get."
The load times are nonexistent, which is a huge plus. I was never pulled out of the world waiting for the next section to populate. Overall, The Last of Us Part I is one of the best-looking games on the PlayStation 5. It's a technical showcase that demonstrates what the console is capable of.
More accessibility options
The Last of Us Part I features a number of accessibility options that make the game more inclusive for players with different abilities. There are now options for colourblindness, hearing impairments, visual impairments and more. You can now map buttons to the adaptive triggers on the DualSense controllers, which is a great addition. In total the game has a whopping 60 different ways to adjust accessibility, even surpassing The Last of Us Part II in this respect. All these new accessibility options are encouraging to see, and I hope this continues to be the trend for all Naughty Dog titles.
"All these new accessibility options are encouraging to see, and I hope this continues to be the trend for all Naughty Dog titles."
DualSense integration builds immersion
The DualSense controller integration is one of the coolest aspects of The Last of Us Part I. There are a few different ways that Naughty Dog has utilized the controller's haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, and it really adds to the immersion. When you're scavenging through abandoned buildings, you can feel the weight of objects as you move them around with the haptic feedback. You can feel raindrops pelting you, the rumble of vehicles or even with an unexpected meeting with a giraffe. It's small touches, but they really make a big difference in making the world feel more immersive.
"You can feel raindrops pelting you, the rumble of vehicles or even with an unexpected meeting with a giraffe."
The adaptive triggers are used for things like drawing your bow or cocking your gun. You have to pull back further on the trigger to tension your bowstring, and it feels fantastic. It's a great addition that makes shooting feel even more satisfying than it did before. Every weapon has a variable amount of resistance on the trigger and you can really feel the difference. One of the most apparent times you'll feel this is with healing, as you wrap your injured appendage you can really feel strong tension.
"Every weapon has a variable amount of resistance on the trigger and you can really feel the difference."
The art of sound in the apocalypse
The Last of Us Part I features some of the best audio and sound design that I've ever heard in a video game. Naughty Dog has truly taken the Tempest Audio Engine to the next level to create some truly haunting directional audio. The soundtrack is fantastic, and the audio effects are top-notch. Every gunshot, crunch of gravel underfoot, and slip of the bowstring feels perfectly realized against a detailed soundscape.
" Every gunshot, crunch of gravel underfoot, and slip of the bowstring feels perfectly realized against a detailed soundscape."
The voice acting is still a masterclass across the board. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson reprise their roles as Joel and Ellie respectively, and they both deliver outstanding performances. The emotional journey the actors take us on is an experience I won't soon forget, even if it's one I've been on before.
"The emotional journey the actors take us on is an experience I won't soon forget, even if it's one I've been on before."
I played with a pair of Sony's Pulse 3D wireless headphones, and they sounded great. The directional audio is fantastic, and I could hear enemies coming from all around me. The screams of the infected and their victims are even more jarring, as they are now more pointed and layered with other ambient sounds. There was a few times I needed to pull off my headphones to just double check the sounds weren't real. If you have the chance to play with a good pair of headphones, I highly recommend it even if it is a little unsettling.
"There was a few times I needed to pull off my headphones to just double check the sounds weren't real."
Final thoughts on The Last of Us Part I
The Last of Us Part I is an outstanding game that has been completely rebuilt for the PlayStation 5. It's a technical showcase that features some of the best graphics, sound design, and voice acting out there. Naughty Dog has done an incredible job modernizing the gameplay mechanics, AI and adding in new accessibility options.
"Naughty Dog has done an incredible job modernizing the gameplay mechanics, AI and adding in new accessibility options."
The DualSense controller integration is fantastic, and it really enhances the immersion. I am still vexed with what "could have been" when it comes to this experience. All of these improvements with added story content to bridge to the sequel, or new characters would have been something phenomenal. Even without that, we are left with something quite special, that is worth experiencing for the first or fifth time.
The Last of Us Part I PROS
+ Completely rebuilt from the ground up for the PlayStation 5
+ Outstanding graphics, sound design, and voice acting
+ DualSense controller integration is fantastic and enhances immersion
+ New accessibility options are great
The Last of Us Part I CONS
- Not much new content for those who have played the game before
- Some technical issues with frame rate
Overall Rating: 36/40 (90%)
A copy of the game was provided by PlayStation for the purpose of this review.
About the Author - Matthew "Dapper Tux" Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Along with being the Managing Editor of dappertux.com, he has bylines with Best Buy, Cineplex Entertainment, Mobile Syrup and Walmart. Follow Matthew’s gaming + tech adventures on twitter, Instagram and join in on the fun!
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