The Last of Us Part 1 – Review

The Last of Us was originally released in 2013 and was unlike any experience before it.  It was my favorite game of the PlayStation 3 generation and so I was delighted to hear it was being remade from the ground up for PlayStation 5.  As the title suggests, The Last of Us is about Joel and Ellie trying to survive a pandemic.  This pandemic has wiped out a large part of the population with seemingly no cure.  Shortly after meeting Ellie though Joel finds out that he needs to help her cross the country to find a group that thinks they might have discovered how to create a vaccine that could potentially save humanity.  One of the interesting things about releasing a remake now is that the storyline hits a little differently in 2022 than when it was originally introduced in 2013 thanks to Covid-19.  There is also the upcoming HBO show in 2023 that will follow Joel and Ellie so if you are a fan of the series, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

The opening of The Last of Us shows us a world that should look familiar to anyone.  The events of the game haven’t happened yet and Joel is working late to support his family.  It doesn’t take long before everything goes to hell though and you are running for your life through the city streets.  There is a key event that happens here that I won’t spoil for those who haven’t played the game yet but I will say the scene is just as powerful today as it was when I initially saw it back in 2013.  Since this game was remade from the ground up for PlayStation 5 though, it looks and sounds better than ever.  There were many times when I was looking at the environment and checking out areas that I am familiar with having gone through this story before and being impressed with how nice it looked in this new modern version.

In addition to looking and sounding better, The Last of Us Part 1 also plays better.  This version of The Last of Us plays a lot more like The Last of Us Part II, which is a very good thing.  The controls for the original title in 2013 weren’t bad at all but I do appreciate the more modern approach here and how the game just seems to run better overall.  That isn’t surprising of course with how powerful the PlayStation 5 is compared to the PlayStation 3.  It also feels better due to the capabilities of the DualSense controller and how Naughty Dog has utilized the tech in that controller with the adaptive triggers and different vibrations.

As I was progressing through the story I was reminded of why I liked this game so much when it was originally released.  Of course, the story didn’t have the same impact on me since I already knew what was happening but I still thoroughly enjoyed my time experiencing it once again.  The voice acting and animation in the game are second to none as well with Naughty Dog hitting that out of the park once again.  The character models are highly detailed and there was more than one occasion where I utilized photo mode to take a picture of the environment or I tried to get a nice shot of Joel and Ellie reacting to what was going on around them.  Then there are the other characters as well such as Tommy, Maria, and Bill.  All of them look great and have their part to play but for some reason, Bill really stood out to me as far as the secondary characters are concerned.  They did a great job with him and I enjoyed the banter he had with Joel and Ellie.

In addition to the main campaign, Naughty Dog also included the expansion, “Left Behind”.  I’m not going to go into story details here for spoiler reasons but this expansion primarily focuses on Ellie and one of her friends and one of the adventures they had together.  It is an important piece of the overall story arc for Ellie with some of what we learn in this expansion being expanded upon in Last Of Us Part II.  The story of The Last of Us is generally very dark and grim, so I appreciate the brief moments of levity that the team at Naughty Dog were able to weave into the narrative.  There is a big moment in the main story towards the end that I won’t spoil here but the placement of that section was perfect after going through some dark stuff.  Similarly in the Left Behind expansion, there is a segment where you can see Ellie and her friend goofing off and having some fun, which is a welcome break from everything else that was taking place.  For a few moments, they were able to act like normal kids before they had to get back to their serious tasks.

I mentioned above that the expansion Left Behind is included for free with this version.  Unfortunately for multiplayer fans though, the Factions mode from the original version is nowhere to be found here.  I never really got into the multiplayer for The Last of Us too much so it really isn’t a loss for me, but I know others who really liked it.  Trophy hunters will be happy to hear you don’t have to worry about those annoying multiplayer trophies though.  In fact, the platinum trophy for The Last of Us Part 1 is quite a bit easier than the original list.  For the Last of Us Part 1, there aren’t any difficulty trophies tied to the main trophy list.  That means you can choose whatever difficulty you want to play and still have a chance at getting that platinum.  It is much more accessible to a wider range of people which is a good thing, in my opinion.

In terms of overall accessibility, Naughty Dog remains one of the leaders in this field with a wide range of options for you to choose from so that you can enjoy their masterpiece.  The choices are almost overwhelming but that is a good thing in this instance since it means that more people will get a chance to play this game.  Some of the accessibility options include being able to hold a button down instead of repeatedly having to push it to get through an action, having your character sprint by default, being able to aim your bow by either holding down a button or tapping it, whether you have lock-on aim on or off, and much more.  You can also control whether your character will automatically pick something up when you run over it, whether there is a time limit for the minigames, and the level of input you want in those minigames.  You can change the scale of the heads-up display (HUD), turn on colorblind mode, turn on high contrast so it is easier to see certain things, and much more.  There are also options for motion sickness, navigation assistance, being able to skip puzzles if you want, having infinite breath underwater, screen reader and audio cues, and combat cues.  The combat cues are where you can determine how the enemies behave, whether you want to reduce their accuracy, whether weapon sway is on or off, and a lot more.   In addition to all of that, there are different things you can do with the DualSense controller as well, such as turning the adaptive triggers off if you don’t like them or turning off the bow resistance.  There is also an option for “speech to vibrations” which will play the spoken dialogue through the DualSense as vibrations so that you can actually feel the line being delivered.  Of course, you don’t have to do any of this and you can simply play the game on its default settings, but it is really nice how much thought and care Naughty Dog put into this to make sure as many people can play this game as possible.

For those who are really big fans of the franchise, there are a bunch of extra items for you to look at once you complete the main story.  There is concept art you can look at, a model viewer so you can get a close look at the different models in the game, different skins you can look at, commentary you can enable that will play over cinematics, and more.  There are also gameplay modifiers that you can unlock here such as infinite ammo, a mirror world where the rendering of the world is flipped horizontally, 8-bit audio, and more.  There really is a lot to see and do here and should keep you busy for quite a while.

As you progress through the world of the Last of Us you will discover there are a lot of collectibles that you need to find.  A good rule in this game is you should be scavenging the environment regardless so that you can craft items needed for your survival, but there are special items to be found as well.  Naughty Dog breaks them down into chapters which I really appreciate because it makes it easier to find something you might have missed.  For example, as I write this review, I see that I found two of three firefly pendants in the second chapter, while in the third chapter I found all of the artifacts.  There are also different encounters that you can play through again without having to go through the game so if there is a particular encounter you really enjoyed in one of the chapters, you can go into the “Encounters” menu and jump right in.  For those of you who really like watching the cinematics, those are also available to watch at any time once you unlock them in the campaign.

Overall, the Last of Us Part 1 is still the same masterpiece it was when it was released almost a decade ago.  The story is still fantastic and now there is more of it thanks to the Left Behind expansion being included.  There is no multiplayer here though so keep that in mind if you were a fan of the Factions mode.  I really appreciate how Naughty Dog was able to take advantage of the PlayStation 5 and how beautiful this game is as a result.  It also plays a lot better than it has in the past thanks to the PS5 and is more immersive thanks to the DualSense controller.  This is absolutely one of those games where if you are a fan of The Last of Us, you should definitely check it out.  If you haven’t done anything with this franchise before, this is a great time to jump in.  You could go through The Last of Us Part 1 and then move on to The Last of US Part II and finish with the HBO show that will be arriving in 2023.

Score: 10/10

Originally posted on Gaming Target


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