On June 14th 2013, Naughty Dog released “The Last of Us”. A third-person stealth action game set in a post-apocalyptic world. Following the story of hardened survivor ‘Joel Miller’ as he travels across the United States escorting a fourteen-year-old girl named ‘Ellie Williams.’ Nine years, one DLC, one remaster, one sequel and an upcoming TV adaptation later. The Last of Us has now been “Rebuilt for PS5” and released for the third time as The Last of Us Part I.
So what’s the story?
There’s no need to go into story beats here. The game is unchanged and has been left intact. The only two new additions I noticed are, Jerry’s character model from Part II is included as the surgeon in the final act. Also, Ellie now sports a Mortal Kombat II poster in her bedroom during the opening cinematic of ‘Left Behind’. However storywise, The Last Of Us Part I is still as powerful and engaging as it was the two previous times. If not more due to the upgraded graphics. The past two games look almost cartoonish in comparison to Part I. This game is beautiful. From the lighting, environments and character models, Part I has set a high bar for standards as to how good you can make a game look on the system.
The facial capture in this rendition is second to none. The final moments of the prologue, a scene I have watched unfold about twelve times now, hit me harder than it ever has in the past. The subtext that was always implied in behind-the-scenes footage and director’s commentary tracks can be read on the character’s faces clearly as if you were watching a live-action performance of the actors on stage. As well as that, performance and fidelity modes can be switched anytime by pausing the game and opening the required menu to access it.
Are sixty frames per second just not enough for you? Have you got the tv/monitor that supports more? Well, you can enjoy the feature of an unlocked framerate of up to one hundred and twenty frames per second. But looks aren’t everything though, how does the gameplay differ in this new rebuilding of the game?
Is it not just the same game with better graphics?
I’m not going to say all barriers have been removed but the huge and vast amount of accessibility options that Naughty Dog have provided to new players who have difficulty or disabilities is astounding and has opened the door for new players to approach this game now who previously could not. These include high contrast settings, audio and haptic feedback while exploring an arena, audio description during cutscenes, a screen reader while navigating menus and a huge array of gameplay features to toggle to assist players who are finding the game difficult (invincibility while crouched, allies don’t get grabbed, puzzle skip).
Starting difficulties include ‘Very Light, Light, Moderate, Hard, Survivor and Grounded’ Custom is unlocked after completion of the game. (All of these can be paired with ‘Permadeath Mode’ for the hardcore players out there) For my playthrough, I played ‘Survivor’ difficulty and I don’t know if it was me being rusty at the game from not playing in a while but my death count for this run of the game was ridiculously high. The AI will pick up on every move Joel makes, telling their allies to flank him while he’s in cover or charges up on him while reloading.
Glitches and guns
Enemies yell they are moving up to get the drop on Joel, while their friends hang back with their guns fixed on Joel’s last known location. Staying in one spot, hiding in cover and expecting to clean up while picking off headshots will just get you a death screen. Gunplay is still fast and frantic, every shot missed during a firefight is felt and can force you to change your plan of action in real-time as you figure out how to deal with a group of enemies with less ammo now.
Sadly, some of the jarring problems from past games seem to be present in this one too. Ellie still can walk in front of an enemy while you’re sneaking up on them and they will just be oblivious to her. Also, some enemies just have tunnel vision for Joel and ignore everyone else. I had a hunter chase me down with a 2×4. While this was happening he was getting shot in the back and not caring about the collection of 9mm rounds he was assembling in his spine. These moments were sparse and few between to take me out of the experience.
The Last of Us Part I – What makes it different to the last gen version?
In regards to this being rebuilt for PS5, it uses everything the system has to offer. The haptic feedback is nice to have present throughout the playthrough, not up to par with ‘Returnal’ I will admit but nice to see it being used by other developers.
The activity cards are just an absolute treat to have, each chapter has its own activity card and every collectable, optional conversation and hidden area is listed in the order they appear. Great to have for completionists out there who are gunning for that platinum trophy and don’t want to have a guide open on their phone beside them. Fun fact, I actually used my old PS3 walkthrough in tangent with the activity cards to see what collectable was next. Then I used the guide in front of me to pinpoint the location as a player.
Tools of the trade
Joel’s tools for upgrades are now actual tools you can inspect as a collectable and each one is needed for its respective upgrade. It’s nice to see Joel’s little toolbelt fill up over the course of the game as he assembles various tools and then see him reach for them and use them on the workbench. One little nitpick would be, that so much attention to detail is put into some of the upgrades as Joel works on the weapon, for example physically extending the magazine in his handgun for more capacity and seeing the clip customised. To then pick the same upgrade on the hunting rifle and Joel just gives it one good wipe with a cloth and it magically gets +1 in ammo. Again not enough to take me out of the game but I did get a good laugh out of it whenever it happened.
The photo mode is back and revamped. In my playthrough, I say I spent 60% of my time playing The Last of Us Part I and the remaining 40% was getting lost in taking fancy screenshots. The images you can set out to create are nothing short of stunning and look like professional stills from a movie set.
So much content for completionists
Last but not least I cannot write about this game without mentioning one new feature of the new game plus. Known as ‘FULL LOADOUT’. In the past during NG+, you kept your upgraded weapons but only received them as you would normally on a playthrough. FULL LOADOUT means as soon as Joel gets his backpack in Boston he has everything. This includes the automatic assault rifle from the final area. This along with infinite ammo, infinite crafting and explosive arrows from the cheat menu you unlock at completion creates what I like to call ‘Murder Miller Mode’. I cannot state how much f*cking fun I had for that playthrough. Becoming a one man murder machine is so satisfying. I highly recommend it for anyone doing a collectable cleanup run.
As stated, cheats unlock with completion of the main game, along with skins for Joel and Ellie and weapon skins for the handgun, shotgun and bow (for Ellie). A speedrun mode is unlocked too, a great tool for anyone out there looking to get started in the speedrunning community and some visual and audio filters become unlocked too. Back at the main menu, you get a heap of models to view in the model viewer. There is also concept art from both the 2013 and 2022 releases of the game.
What’s the verdict so?
All in all The Last of Us Part I is indeed the intended way to play this game. If this is your third time around with this title I would recommend holding off for a price drop. You are not missing out on anything new or secrets to find.
If this is your first time with the series then I would say go for it. As a new game, as a new experience, The Last of Us Part I has more than enough for you to sink your teeth into. I have nothing but a mixture of envy and excitement for you if you decide to dive in and discover the cordyceps-infested world of The Last of Us for the first time.
Words by Lewis Magee.