The first thing I did before reviewing The Last of Us Part 1 was ask myself, “Who exactly is this for?” To be perfectly frank, I never got into either of the two The Last of Us games. Having never played them prior to this review, the fabled series did not hold any nostalgic value for me. However, I definitely had an answer to my question by the end of my playthrough.
It turns out that it is not just for fans of the series, but also for people like me. While The Last of Us Part 1 has its fair share of flaws, it features one of the best stories I’ve ever encountered in a video game and is without a doubt the best plot of any survival/zombie game I’ve ever experienced.
Note: All footage in this review was taken in Performance Mode, with “Default Gore”
What does The Last of Us Part 1 bring to fans?
The Last of Us Part 1 is a next-gen remake of the classic PlayStation 3 title, which was already remastered once to take advantage of the PS4’s capabilities. It has been advertised as having improved controls, gameplay, and greater immersion in exploration and combat. I spent a bit of time watching gameplay from the previous releases, and I do feel like they hit the mark here.
While it did add improved facial animations as well, I have to talk about some points in The Last of Us Part 1, where the horrors were perhaps more down to animation issues than design choices. After the Bloater enemies grab Joel, they tend to tear away his face. The visual effect of the skin peeling off his eye looked horrifying and awkward, as players can see the entire eyeball in a way that makes it seem more like a visual glitch.
All of the other character designs and animations in The Last of Us Part 1 more or less look terrific, with some notable exceptions. At a few points in the game, Ellie’s character model looks mediocre in terms of visuals and animations, but these moments were rare.
Once players complete The Last of Us Part 1, a variety of character/weapon skins are unlocked along with cheats to make the game easier. I played a fairly complete run of the game – not 100%, but I completed most of the optional character interactions, the Firefly Pendants, and other things of that nature.
It is worth noting that I had no problem unlocking all of the codes, skins, and filters I wanted, as well as a few of the other optional unlocks. I liked how much this adds to further playthroughs.
I’m particularly looking forward to playing with the black-and-white “Noir” filter with infinite ammo. Just plowing through every enemy after spending most of The Last of Us Part 1 playing as stealthily as possible is an incredible amount of fun.
Solid gameplay with plenty of accessibility options
As someone not exceptionally adept at stealthy games, I found the experience relatively easy enough to get through. I appreciated the fact that I could save at any point, and whenever the game was too easy or too hard, I could also adjust that as necessary.
The Dualsense controller implementation was solid for The Last of Us Part 1 on PlayStation 5. Pulling on the R2 button in combat, as well as while using Medkits, felt solid. Overall, the controller’s haptic feedback felt terrific in this game.
However, what stood out most was the accessibility options. There’s nothing wrong with difficult games offer such customization. Players can turn on some visual changes to prevent motion sickness and choose alternate controls, but the two big sets of options have to do with Navigation and Combat.
When it comes to huge open areas like those featured in The Last of Us Part 1, it can be hard to figure out where to go, and though not every checkpoint is filled with enemies, the foes players fight can be clever.
The human characters are quick to try and flank, stealth kill targets can occasionally break free, and your guest party members can occasionally be grabbed by humans or the infected. These can be adjusted in a variety of helpful ways, if necessary. Players can turn on slow motion, remove weapon sway, or even go so far as to become invisible if they wish.
These options are not turned on by default, though. Players can make enemies less perceptive, or even prevent foes from moving to flank. They can turn on Navigation assistance to figure out where to go, enhance the Listening Mode, and even prevent players from falling from lethal heights.
The big changes are Infinite Breath and the Skip Puzzle Option. While designed for people with poor vision or those who are blind, it can also be used by players who are frustrated and cannot see a solution in sight. That’s why I love these options – players are not going to be barred from enjoying the game, thanks to the wealth of accessibility options.
In The Last of Us Part 1, Joel’s gun features a significant amount of recoil and wavering because he’s a regular civilian and not a trained killer. Players can collect tools and parts on work benches to gradually tone down these effects. On top of that, players who aren’t comfortable with shooters can also turn this off in the combat accessibility options.
Another feature worth mentioning is that players have to craft their own medkits, shivs, and other combat tools. This can be easily done by tapping the touchpad on the PlayStation 5 controller and selecting the right item. Depending on your settings, you can make the game offer more crafting materials as well; otherwise, they can be a little sparse.
The Last of Us Part 1’s story may be mostly predictable, but it is masterfully told
In many ways, The Last of Us Part 1 is a movie. This can be positive or negative, depending on the sort of experience players want. I’m a sucker for a well-told story, though, especially a tragic one. It hit all the notes I expected it to. Joel and Ellie had their problems at first, but they came together slowly, in a way that made sense. They had their big Act 2 split and reunited in the third act.
Then, of course, there’s the tragedy involved in the ending. In a very subtle way, The Last Of Us Part 1 sets up the second game, but I won’t get into that too much. Without spoiling the story, I have to say it is one of the best I’ve ever experienced.
Streamlined and well-narrated, there were gaps where all I was doing was sneaking around and farming supplies. There were also long stretches of just walking and doing nothing. If newcomers to this franchise are expecting a never-ending battle with foes — infected or not — they’re going to be disappointed.
The combat felt great, though. In almost all cases, players can easily sneak through The Last of Us Part 1, and it’s more rewarding to play that way. Ammo is sparse, and wasting shots is tantamount to throwing fights away.
The Last of Us Part 1 is very generous when it comes to checkpoints, particularly the Ellie vs. David fight. Each hit on this particular boss is a checkpoint, which can make it easier or it can make it a lot harder.
David would immediately be there after the first hit, and I fell to a near-instant machete chop more times than I’d care to admit. It was a lot to juggle, though. There were occasional moments of inactivity, but I still enjoyed these. They allowed me to really take in the environment and how the world was set up.
Top-notch environment and immersion
The visuals and sounds of The Last of Us Part 1 are incredible. From the violent squelch of sinking a blade into a human (or infected), to the cacophony of firing bullets, everything is amplified in this otherwise quiet game.
There was virtually no music throughout my playthrough, and this was a big positive, given the mood and setting of the game. I loved the improved visuals, particularly the environment the characters wandered through.
While the snowy locales, and any area that featured the spores, really stood out for me, the overall level design always made sense and was visually stunning.
The game ran quite well on my PlayStation 5, primarily in Performance Mode, which targets 60 FPS and has a balanced resolution and framerate. I didn’t notice any particular framerate dips, either.
Frankly, I went into this game a bit cynical but ended up changing my mind by the end. It was a masterful and enjoyable experience that has inspired me to consider progressing on to the next game in the series.
Some of the boss fights were incredibly frustrating, but for the most part, I found the default experience to be accessible and fun. The game started off very slow but picked up the pace in a hurry. While I was glad it came with the “Left Behind” DLC, it would’ve been nice to have it blended in with the main story for maximum immersion.
While I wasn’t sure who this remaster was for, I was certainly glad to have played it. Aside from getting immersed in the experience, a few of the story beats genuinely shocked me, and that’s a pretty high compliment for a game of this type.
Sure, it’s a title that many have played before, but I feel it’s worth another shot. However, the fact that it is a $70 game is disappointing and no doubt something that deter some players. It is an enjoyable experience, but I see the price being a genuine hurdle for some.
The Last of Us Part 1
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5 (Code provided by Naughty Dog)
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PC
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: September 2, 2022