The Last of Us: Part I Review

Just over nine years ago, Naughty Dog sent shockwaves through the gaming industry with the release of what was arguably its most impressive effort yet. Hot on the heels of three great Uncharted games, the developer that many became familiar with through Crash Bandicoot upped the ante with the gritty, cinematic, gut wrenching and incredibly immersive digital adventure that is The Last of Us. Since then, the game has been a mainstay on ‘Best of All-Time’ lists, received a remaster for PlayStation 4 and was also continued through an equally impressive sequel in 2020. It has deserved all of that, as well as the continued praise that comes its way.

Sony wasn’t finished with the original game, and made that obvious more than a year and a half after the release of its both rare and highly sought after PlayStation 5 console. This occurred in early June, when a Twitter leak suggested that The Last of Us: Part 1 was going to come to PS5, and that it would do so as a remake as opposed to a remaster or a reboot. This, of course, stirred things up and got people talking. Then, not long afterwards, we received our first official news regarding this remake of the PlayStation 3 classic. An updated game that I’ve had the opportunity to check out and play through (again), and can now tell you my thoughts regarding.

To be honest, I hadn’t played The Last of Us since it first came out back in the summer of 2013. Back then I received a copy of the game in a steelbook case, and remember being both excited and worried about damaging the disc, because the steelbook cases are awfully difficult to get discs out of. I played through it over the course of several days, and was blown away with what I experienced. Not only was it jaw dropping in its beauty, but it was also so human and cinematic that it felt like I was there with Joel and Ellie. No game had ever felt as human and realistic as that one did at that point in time.

I wasn’t able to get a review code for The Last of Us: Remastered on PlayStation 4, so I bought a copy. However, as has been the case far too often, I didn’t actually get around to playing it. Why? I was playing far too many other games, and it got lost in the shuffle. Sure, I always planned to play it, and even installed it once or twice. I just didn’t get around to actually doing so, and that’s something I regret. Hell, I may even go back and check it out sometime in the near future.

When The Last of Us: Part I was announced I, like a lot of others I’m sure, was somewhat surprised and confused. Excitement also factored in, because the announcement led to looking forward to revisiting this gem on modern day hardware. It’s hard to believe that over nine years have passed since this thing first debuted, but it’s true, and when you consider that a whole generation of consoles passed in-between it makes you think about how time truly does fly. In some ways, it feels like just yesterday, but not in others.

If you’re new to the fold (and welcome, if so), The Last of Us is the story of Joel and Ellie. Set in a post-apocalyptic version of the United States of America, which has been overrun by foliage, famine and a strange illness, it’s a mixture of action, adventure, stealth, exploration and third-person shooting, with some melee elements thrown in for good measure. Although Ellie doesn’t appear until a couple of hours into the game, she’s an important character and becomes Joel’s closest ally after he’s entrusted with transporting her from one point of the country to another. I won’t spoil anything, so let’s just say that there’s something about this mouthy and headstrong fourteen year-old girl that could perhaps change the world, as it deals with an infection that has turned many of its residents into spore-filled zombies and giant, booming, creatures.

The core gameplay loop involves making one’s way through overgrown, destroyed and dilapidated areas of the country, all while being on high alert for enemies of the human and not-so-human varieties. Whereas human enemies will flank and surround Joel, before unleashing physical or gun-based attacks, the turned creatures are less predictable. Some are like zombies, while others are blind and will only react if they’ve been alerted to your presence, coming in with a quick, one hit kill. Thus, it’s important to evaluate each scenario and get a good grasp of what the nearby area is like. Thankfully, Joel has the ability to ‘listen’ and can use his ears to show where nearby enemies are. This helps when it comes to planning one’s next move, and the way you’ll either avoid or take the foes out. Perhaps you’ll just throw a brick or a bottle to get them to go elsewhere, or maybe you’ll use one of those things to get a better route of attack. Hell, maybe you’ll go in with guns-a-blazing. Each scenario requires its own planning and execution.

As you progress through this fantastic, must-play campaign, you’ll gain access to different weapons. There are the expected options, like a pistol and a shotgun; then there are the less traditional, like bricks, bottles, traps, Molotov cocktails, a flamethrower, a bow and arrow and a hunting rifle. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, and you need to try to conserve ammo as best as possible. Of course, as those who’ve played through it at least once will know, you’ll also come across numerous different items in the game world and can use them to craft things like Molotovs, shivs (for killing the blind clickers), medkits and more. On top of that, ammo is scattered throughout the game world though it is limited. This is, after all, a gritty and challenging survival game that requires thought. It’s not too demanding, though, nor is it unfair.

What I said in my original review still stands: I feel as if the lifelike presentation and overall experience is better than the core gameplay. At its core, this is a very good game with well above average combat, enemy AI and encounters. However, it’s the relationship between Joel and Ellie, the incredible presentation, the amazing writing and the lifelike/cinematic feel that truly transcends everything else and makes this a masterpiece.

Sony has promised that The Last of Us: Part I was “rebuilt from the ground” up for PlayStation 5, and it shows. It looks incredible, and plays better than before. The enemy AI has been upgraded, which makes for a more realistic and challenging adventure, the DualSense’s adaptive triggers add extra sensation and engagement to the experience, and it truly feels modern despite originally releasing more than nine years and two PlayStations ago. The haptic feedback really adds to things, the 3D audio is there for those who can utilize it and the loading times are fantastic. Most of all, though, the updated character models, improved lighting and upgraded textures are where this beautiful game truly shines.

This rebuilt and re-released version also offers new accessibility features, as well as additional difficulty modes. I’m not sure why someone would want to play with permadeath on, but if that’s your idea of a great experience it’s there for you to do.

As you’d expect, the game’s previously released DLC also factors in. Thanks to The Last of Us: Part I, I’ve finally been able to play through its prequel chapter, Left Behind, which stars Ellie. I don’t know why I didn’t back then, but I believe I just never did buy it like planned. Too many other things got in the way. Regardless, its inclusion makes this an even more appealing package, because you’re not just getting the core game; you’re also getting its prequel, which was pretty well received too.

This may have been a surprise announcement and an unexpected remake, but The Last of Us: Part I is a great one nonetheless. If you’ve been lucky enough to find and own a PlayStation 5, it would make a phenomenal addition to your library, although it is expensive at a full, $89.99 Canadian, price tag. The work that was put into modernizing what many consider to be one of the best games of all time really shows through, and it doesn’t feel dated at all. If you’ve played through this campaign before, you’ll likely admire this modernization and enjoy going through it again. Meanwhile, if you’re new to the fold, this is an absolute must play. The Last of Us has always been a masterpiece, and this is the best its ever been.

This review is based on the PlayStation 5 exclusive, which we were provided a code for.

The Last of Us: Part I is a very impressive remake; so much so that the game feels right at home on today's PlayStation 5 despite being nine years old. It also continues to be a must play, and is well worth revisiting if you've already experienced it before.
Reader Rating0 Votes
The Good Stuff
Looks, sounds and performs incredibly well
Still a masterpiece
Doesn't feel dated, and actually feels like it could be a new PS5 IP
The Not-So-Good Stuff
This is the third console (in a row) it's been released on
It carries a full price tag