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It is finally here, one of the most talked about games of the year. A game that asks the question; just how many times can Naughty Dog charge their customer’s exorbitant amounts of money for the same game?
Of course, I am only joking, although the $70 price tag did make me cry a little. This game introduces a world of new changes that alter the game in almost indescribable ways, enhancing what needed enhancing and adding in everything they have learned from the not so well received The Last of Us Part 2.
In this review, I will express the thoughts and feelings I had while playing the new game this week, and, believe me, I have some things to say.
Bottom Line Up Front
The Last of Us Part 1 is a complete remake and graphical remaster of the massively successful and critically acclaimed PS3 title that has set the bar for single-player, story-driven narratives ever since. However, many have asked whether these upgrades are worth the $70 price tag. In my opinion, not really. Read on to find out why.
How Did We Get Here?
As I am sure you already know, this release of The Last of Us does not include any extra content or storyline. Instead, the game’s director, in an interview with IGN, stated, “what you are seeing (in this new game) is much closer to the very expansive vision for what the game was going to be.”
This is not surprising as the guys at Naughty Dog have always said that the power of the consoles limited the first game at the time.
Well, in the PS5 era, I think we can easily say that graphical power is no longer a problem. However, did this ‘original vision’ really require another full game purchase for fans of the series? Well, let’s see.
As someone who tends to replay old/classic games over and over again, I am not someone who puts too much value on graphical quality in a game. However, as soon as I started this game and saw Sarah’s face as she lay asleep on the sofa, I was shocked.
Before playing this game, I quickly ran through the opening sequence on my PS4, and the difference was night and today, even running on performance mode, which emphasizes FPS over resolution.
This graphical update is the main reason people will choose to buy this game, and so they should. The developers have taken all of their assets and remastered them for this generation, allowing for depth and quality to seep into every pore of the game’s surroundings.
Due to this increase in overall visual quality, the entire game is elevated to another level. Each element of horror is all the more frightening, and all the sad beats are even more gut-wrenching.
Below I have placed a photo of Joal holding his dead daughter in his arms. Believe me, in graphics like these, this moment hits so much harder, even when I knew it was going to happen.
Lighting, Oh, the Lighting
While technically a part of the graphical update, I just had to give the new lighting system in this game its own section as I firmly believe it to be the best part of this new game.
I say this because, as a fan of horror in general, I know just how important good lighting is in setting a mood, and this game just gets IT, you know, IT.
Every dark room that is illuminated by a shaft of light gives hope to the player and their situation, but every spore cloud shown by Joel’s torch tenses your muscles.
In this game, it seems like Naughty Dog has taken full advantage of the PS5’s ability to express dynamic light and shadows to the next level, setting the bar for future games for this console generation.
In essence, the lighting ensures that you feel a part of this game as it twists, turns, and manipulates your emotions as a good soundtrack can.
One moment that stands out to me, in particular, is the first time you enter the smuggling tunnel with Tess, and you see a beam of light breaking through the floorboards to illuminate your surroundings, mere moments after your first encounter with an infected.
The way the light illuminated all the dust in the air and flashed off of the player’s screen was very powerful and a true demonstration of just how far modern gaming has come.
Character Facial Animations and Details
Another thing that the developers banged on about during their various press junkets days before this game’s release was the improvements made to the facial animation system.
In particular, Shaun Escayg stated that “the facial animations are so much more believable,” relating to the PS5’s ability to process and display even the most minor change to a character’s expression.
Listening to this before playing the game, I was excited, especially as someone who thought the acting was already pretty good. However, while I saw an increased focus on facial animations, it was not for the better.
Playing the game, I constantly got distracted from the dialogue and everything unfolding before me during cutscenes as expressions changed at a speed that could only be described as alarming.
To me, it looked like the characters had taken some kind of substance and couldn’t stop their faces from twitching uncontrollably. Therefore, I wouldn’t exactly count this change as a successful one.
Outside of all these twitching facial animations, there has been a massive upgrade to the faces of the characters. In this version, characters such as Joal and Tess look far more haggard and tired than they had in previous iterations.
It also seems like some characters have been made much older, more in line with the second game. In particular, Joel looks like they’ve added a hard ten years on top of his already hard life. At the same time, Tess looks like a completely different actor altogether.
Haptics and Gameplay
The next big change for me was Naughty Dog’s excellent use of the new PS5 controller. It seems they focused a lot on anchoring the player into the game with their controller, making you feel everything your character did through it.
Every time you pull a trigger is an event as your R2 stiffens, and the entire controller bucks backward. This makes every press of that trigger much more meaningful, increasing your awareness of your ammo expenditure.
For me, it made me more likely to try and sneak through a section rather than run and gun, which improved my experience overall.
Outside of the triggers, the controller was also masterfully coded to ensure you felt the pitter-patter of rain as it was dispersed throughout your entire hand. For me, this is the best use of the new PS5 controller yet, a bold claim I know.
This system’s brilliance, however, was also one of its biggest flaws. At one point, I was walking through a building where I could feel the floorboards creek beneath my feet, and then, the next moment, the rain was dripping quite heavily through the ceiling, but I couldn’t feel it hit my character.
This little rain spout gave me no haptic feedback, and the lack of continuity ripped me right out of the game and back into the real world. While this isn’t a big deal, little issues with missing haptics like this built up throughout my playthrough, getting more annoying as I journeyed.
While the haptics certainly plays a part in the overall gameplay experience, the biggest change to how you will progress through the game is the overhaul to the AI system.
Before, I always felt the AI was pretty good, able to react well to player movements and only spot players when they actually fell into their line of sight.
However, this improved AI system allows enemies to respond much more accurately to player interactions and work together, forcing the player to play the game differently altogether.
The game also claims that the follower AI has been improved; however, I found myself constantly being trapped in doorways by Tess and Ellie, sometimes getting caught by a clicker. While this is something I expect in games with dedicated followers such as this, it is still worth noting.
As mentioned before, the haptic feedback that the PS5 controller gives to the player is strongest amid gunfire. The tension in the trigger makes every shot feel important. Outside of this, however, the gunplay has been updated substantially via many minor tweaks, bringing it more in line with The Last of Us Part 2.
The core shooting mechanics, including camera positioning, hit markers, and reactions, are more akin to the second game than the first, displaying a change towards realism than over-stylized action. In particular, certain weapons have had complete overhauls, with the shotgun getting a new reticle and kickback strength.
All of these changes, combined with the continued focus on photorealism, motion blur, and slower zoom speeds, create a gunplay experience that feels completely different from the earlier models of the game.
I hated these changes in the beginning as I always preferred to run and gun; however, in the end, it made me a better player and almost forced me into having the proper Last of Us experience, so maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.
One of the things I really admire about this game is its focus on ensuring that this is a game for everyone and anyone who wishes to get in on the action.
Naughty Dog has improved upon their previous accessibility provisions to ensure all bases are covered, increasing the likelihood of differently-abled people being able to boot up and enjoy their latest game.
All of these new features and provision categories have their own list of settings and parameters that the player can fiddle around with to see what is best for them; however, the general overview of these options can be seen below:
- Control modification options.
- Visual aids as well as magnification controls.
- Motion sickness.
- Optional changes to the UI navigation system and overall gameplay.
- Screen Reader and audio cues.
- Subtitle borders and text color settings.
- Combat accessibility controls.
As with most games, the previous editions of this title allowed the player to control the game’s difficulty in a very grand sense, changing the entire game’s resistibility to the player with one button. Now, however, the player can adjust the difficulty of several categories separately. All of which are listed below:
- Overall difficulty.
- Enemy resilience.
- Player resilience.
- Ally aggression.
- Stealth efficacy.
- Resource availability.
All of these categories allow the player to create a gameplay flow that suits their own playstyle.
When I finished this game, I would guess that it marked the fourth playthrough I have made of this same storyline over the years. So, the issue of replayability at a base level is not something I ever would have identified when recommending the title.
For me, this game is one you will continually come back to if only to experience the love shared between Joel and Ellie near the back half of the game.
However, Naughty Dog has gone a step further with this new release by adding several settings that aid this game’s replayability factor. First, the individual difficulty settings I mentioned before can be tweaked per playthrough.
This means that each time you play the game, the enemies, your character, and the environment of the world around you can be completely different, helping you experience the game differently.
Along with these new playthroughs, Naughty Dog has also added additional skins and filters that become unlocked when you have completed the game, allowing you to change the look and feel of the game entirely for your next run-through.
Secondly, the game now has a Speedrun setting that times how long it takes for you to complete the game. This extra challenge was something simple for Naughty Dog to add, but for the competitive players among us, it adds an exponential amount of replayability to the base game.
Lastly, while I did not really cover it in the main review, this release also comes with The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC as standard.
This additional piece of content adds roughly 3 hours of gameplay on top of the base game and gives the player a deeper insight into Ellie’s character and just what she went through before meeting up with the Fireflies and Joel.
All in all, I would say that these changes/additions make for a rather replayable game. You can find all of these additional skins and more under the ‘Extras’ tab on the main menu.
The Little Things
One of the things I haven’t seen talked about much in all the reviews about this new game is all the little tweaks the developers went to great lengths to improve and polish. For me, it is the culmination of all these things that truly makes this game satisfying and a joy to play, even for hours on end.
At first, you would be excused for missing some of these things, such as how Joel tucks his pistol into the back of his waistband, the smoothness of the animation, and the detail in the rendering. All these combined make the action appear much more natural and aid with your immersion.
As someone who plays many action games, there is nothing worse than your back-mounted weapons clipping through your character’s clothes or appearing out of nowhere. Thankfully, in the PS5 era, Naughty Dog has decided we should be passed such a thing by now.
Other things like how tables move slightly when put under the weight as characters lean on them or the flapping of a dustbin’s roof when you slide it into position combine into a much more believable and satisfying experience.
Should You Buy This Game?
As I played through this game, I kept a question in my head, whether everything I saw and appreciated really equated to the massive $70 price tag? Especially for a game nearly everyone already owns on multiple Playstation consoles.
Well, to be honest, I was on the fence about how I would ultimately wrap up this review and my answer to this question for most of my playthrough.
In the end, while I did enjoy and appreciate most of the changes made to the game, especially the graphical update, I just couldn’t bring myself to recommend the game to any of my friends who had already played the original release.
To me, this game seems like a rather easy cash grab for Naughty Dog, a studio that pretty much crashed the entire franchise via the catastrophic handling of the IP in The Last of Us Part 2.
In the end, while I did enjoy the novelties this game presented me with, I just didn’t get that feeling of joy or excitement that I needed to keep coming back day after day.
Quick Pros and Cons
- The visual elements of this game are simply outstanding and demonstrate just how powerful the PS5 is, giving me hope for the future of gaming on this console.
- Gunplay and character movement have been improved to ensure a more satisfying experience throughout the game.
- Character faces have been updated to make them look more believable and lifelike, removing much of the stylized nature of previous releases.
- This game has plenty of replayability with fully adjustable difficulty settings and new skins/filters.
- Some elements, including the haptics, don’t work all of the time, breaking immersion when they don’t.
- The storyline remains the same, so players of the previous game won’t be getting anything new with their purchase.
- Pacing is still an issue at times in this storyline, with the opening scenes of the game still taking forever to progress through. This makes starting over again all the more difficult.
- By putting a $70 price tag on this game, Naughty Dog is charging a lot for a game that, at its core, is nearly a decade old now.
As I have already said, one of the biggest problems with this game is the fact that Naughty Dog is asking for a great deal of money for a nearly decade-old storyline.
With this in mind, I want to give you a slight nudge towards games you could buy instead of this title to give you a new gameplay experience and scratch that Last of Us itch.
1. Days Gone
Not only is this game clearly inspired by The Last of Us, but I would also wager that it simply would not exist without the success of TLOS.
The gameplay is similar in the sense that you are, once again, fighting your way through the zombie-infected United States to achieve a goal revolving around heartbreak and love. T
he gunplay and overall level of violence one can achieve in Days Gone is far more high octane than TLOS, but at the same time, the story just isn’t quite as strong, but what game could compete in this area?
Also, as another Playstation exclusive, this main barrier to entry with this game is probably not that big a deal should you already be on considering The Last of Us Part 1.
You can either pick this game up on the Playstation Store for relatively cheap or simply pay for a Playstation Plus subscription and get it for free as part of that collection.
2. Ghost of Tsushima
While this game may not feature any zombie or flesh-eating viruses, I would highly recommend this game to anyone who loves a good story and strong main characters.
This game also features brilliant combat mechanics, satisfying progression, and a boatload of content sure to keep even the most dedicated gamer busy for a long time.
Once again, you can either pick this game up from your digital store of choice or pay for the increased Playstation Plus: Extra collection and get it for free. Trust me; you won’t be disappointed.
3. God of War: Ragnarock
Suppose you are looking for another game featuring a complicated yet loving father and child relationship that also combines great action scenes and breathtaking visuals. In that case, this game is perfect for you.
Another member of the Playstation Plus collection, this game will leave you wanting more and get you excited for the next entry in the series.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is the Last of Us Part 1 a remake?
Answer: With no additional content or storyline extras, this release is simply a complete remake of the original game that was released for PS3 in 2013. The biggest changes made to the game for this remake include updated graphics and an overhaul to the AI system.
Question: Is The Last of Us Part 1 coming to PS4?
Answer: This game is not coming out for previous Playstation consoles, only being made available on the PS5 and PC.
Question: How Long will it take to Complete The Last of Us Part 1?
Answer: It will take the average gamer 19 hours to complete the main storyline. However, to complete every piece of content, you will need to spend roughly 25-30 hours on this game.
So, there you have it, a comprehensive review of one of the most talked about games of the year, covering everything that’s new and everything you should consider before making that $70 purchase.
In the end, I decided that I didn’t get enough value out of the game to warrant this price tag, considering that by owning a PS5, I already received The Last of Us PS4 remaster for free and that, like most, I had already completed the game many years ago.
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy the game. If you truly appreciate beautiful, almost cinematic standard graphics and maybe didn’t get around to playing the original release, this game is definitely worth a try. I hope you enjoyed this review and that I’ll see you again soon. Best of luck!
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