Nine years since their debut, Ellie and Joel are now PlayStation icons. Following Naughty Dog's lighthearted Uncharted trilogy, The Last of Us was an extremely dark and intimate post-apocalyptic adventure. Now, to take advantage of the PS5's power, Naughty Dog has released The Last of Us Part 1, which falls somewhere in the middle between remake and remaster.
While it has been "completely rebuilt from the ground up" for PS5, it's the same game for the most part. While the visual overhaul is incredible - beyond anything I expected - you're not going to change your opinion about anything you liked or didn't like nine years ago.
For me, however, The Last of Us Part 1 is the perfect excuse to return to one of my favourite games of all time.
Looks better than I could have ever imagined
Where The Last of Us Part 1 goes above and beyond a standard remaster is in its visual upgrade. From the moment you meet Sarah in the opening scene, I was shocked by how good it looks.
The level of detail added, alongside the reworked facial animations and overhauled lighting, means Part 1 looks as much like a PS5 release as any other exclusive. The world isn’t as complex as Part 2’s, with larger open areas still absent, but the games are comfortably on par visually, which is remarkable for a nine-year-old game.
The only difference I can really discern is it feels like Part 2 is a little more atmospheric. Seattle seems just a little more smoke-filled and decaying than the remade east coast Ellie and Joel explore.
The fidelity and performance visual options also allow you to prioritise what you prefer. I played through The Last of Us Part 1 in the performance-focused mode and it ran flawlessly. Prioritising resolution will make the game’s world look even more beautiful.
It is also incredibly polished, as you’d expect from a Naughty Dog game. I encountered just one bug in my time with it, when a section of the top left of the screen flickered here and there in the middle chapters. Aside from that, The Last of Us Part 1 looked perfect and ran without any issues whatsoever.
Masterful writing and design
Visuals aside, The Last of Us Part 1 is still just a phenomenal game. I probably don’t need to wax lyrical about everything it does well, Naughty Dog just tells one of the best stories of the last three generations.
The story is brutal and emotional, led by Joel and Ellie’s central relationship. As shocking moments happen and relationships change, Naughty Dog tells you the story it wants to, even if it doesn’t make for the happiest of tales.
Get ready to experience some of the most memorable moments in any PlayStation exclusive again. The devastating opening scene, giraffes, that ending, some scenes still give me goosebumps almost a decade later. The writing, performances, world design, set-pieces, and character development are still incredible across the board. The Last of Us is a must-play, in whatever form you play it.
Combat will still be a problem
Since The Last of Us Part 1 falls somewhere in the middle between remake and remaster, though, anything you struggled with in 2011, you likely will now too.
I’ve always been an apologist when it comes to The Last of Us’ gameplay. I think the slow, cumbersome nature of it works in a post-apocalyptic world where the infected are unpredictable and every bullet counts, but I completely understand if it simply feels awkward to you.
In the remake, not many changes have been made to the gameplay. Entering cover and shooting still feels imprecise, switching between weapons is overly complicated, and it takes a while to craft anything.
When stalking a couple of enemies or creeping past clickers, everything feels fine, it’s only when you’re faced with five or more enemies running at you and you’ve only got a few bullets in each of your guns that the flaws become issues. When it gets busy, the action isn’t as fun or precise as I’d like, but the same can be said about Part 2.
Again, I don’t have a huge problem with how The Last of Us Part 1 plays, but it’s obvious that the gameplay isn’t industry-leading like the storytelling and world-building are.
Is it worth the price?
Also, while The Last of Us Part 1 is the best way to play one of PlayStation’s best games, I think the remake’s price needs to be questioned a little.
Yes, Naughty Dog has treated the game more like a remake than a remaster, although I don’t fully consider it the former, but £70 is steep for an upgraded version of a nine-year-old game.
It’s also missing the Factions multiplayer that was a huge component of the original package.
The same was said about Demon’s Souls at the launch of the PlayStation 5, which is a game with a more significant upgrade over its original version.
You’ve simply got to question whether the upgrade is worth the price of a brand new PS5 exclusive. For me, The Last of Us is a must-play game, but £70 is a lot to pay for what is mostly a visual upgrade.
If you’re not too concerned by the price, you’re in for a treat. The Last of Us Part 1 is a gorgeous version of one of PlayStation’s best games. The visual upgrade alone gives new life to Joel and Ellie’s debut story.