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‘The Last of Us Part 1’ is an expensive way to revisit Naughty Dog’s masterpiece


Hours after The Last of Us Part 1 debuted – Naughty Dog’s 2013 dystopian classic remake that hit PS5 Friday – Protagonist Joel gives his surrogate daughter Ellie a handgun to defend themselves in their post-apocalyptic odyssey across the United States. It comes after she proves herself by covering Joel with a gun as he kills a group of bandits.

“How about something a little more your size?” ” he says. “For emergencies only.”

“Okay,” she replies.

It was one of the countless moments I had forgotten since my 2013 reading of the original PS3 release of this survival horror adventure, and probably something I skimmed over back then. After all, 14-year-old Ellie seems to know what she’s doing and weary Joel could use the backup.

The scene hits differently once you know the violence and death that pervades Joel and Ellie’s story, both in this adventure and its heartbreaking 2020 sequel. Joel recognizes that Ellie cannot maintain her innocence in the horror show this world has become. This is one of the most subtle defining moments of their journey.

Despite the joy of incredible scenes like this, it’s hard to justify The Last of Us Part 1 as a $70 PS5 game when you have several cheaper ways to play it.

Remake or remaster?

I thought I had a crystal clear memory of The Last of Us. Developed by Uncharted studio Naughty Dog, it’s part of PlayStation’s exclusive Crown Jewel series. How could the passage of time deprive me of one of the greatest gaming experiences?

It turns out that it is; I really only remembered the heartbreaking intro and the emotional rollercoaster of an ending. I had forgotten most of the characters you meet (like surviving siblings Henry and Sam), several places Joel and Ellie venture to (including Pittsburgh and a hydroelectric dam), and many macabre combat scenarios that you have to overcome (like the intense boss battle in the high school gymnasium). Playing through The Last of Us felt surprisingly fresh.

Joel dodges a cloud of gas in a bright high school gym in The Last of Us Part 1

Bloater’s first encounter is beautifully lit and damn intense.

The naughty dog

This is the second updated version of the original Last of Us – a PS4 remaster landed a year after the PS3 original in 2014 – so it’s understandable to wonder if Part 1 is worth your time or yours. silver.

Naughty Dog called the PS5 release a remake rather than a remaster – frustratingly, the internet has started to use those terms interchangeably – and it’s certainly a major step up from a visual standpoint. Plus, the wealth of new accessibility options opens up the experience to a much wider audience (these might justify the price for some players).

But it’s not a remake like Resident Evil 2 2019 or the 2020 Final Fantasy 7. The gameplay is the same and you shouldn’t expect any narrative surprises – unless you forgot as much as I did.

Another masterpiece

The Last of Us is set decades after a frighteningly realistic fungal brain infection turned much of the population into aggressive, cannibalistic mutants. (In-game reports of millions dying, countries halting travel, and the failure to find a vaccine land differently now.)

The survivors of this world have three options: move to totalitarian military quarantine zones, find a place in an independent colony with questionable security, or run with nomads who often do terrible things to stay alive.

Joel and Ellie (played superbly by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson) have bad encounters with all three groups, as well as the many varieties of infected. You often find yourself thrown into little gameplay sandboxes, where you have to dispatch a bunch of enemies (or sneak around, in some cases). It’s still tense, engaging, and satisfying, even if the environments are less sprawling and ambitious than those of the second game.

The stealthy approach will see you sneak into the area and choke, spit, or shoot your enemies – humans will often beg for their lives, which is always a pain. You can also choose the gun option, with a fun range of weapons available to dispatch your enemies. The best encounters are usually a mix of the two, so don’t go reloading your save if you make a mistake and get caught.

New skills are unlocked with collectible pills and screws are used to upgrade weapons, so your approach can evolve as you play. The excellent Left Behind prequel chapter, which reveals more of Ellie’s backstory, is also available here as a separate menu option from the main game (and best played after completing the main story).

Joel and Ellie observe a bridge in a rural area in The Last of Us Part 1

Joel and Ellie’s journey takes them through rural and urban America.

The naughty dog

It plays like a more grounded version of sister series Uncharted. I admit I mentally labeled The Last of Us “GrimUncharted” after finishing the original, but that was reductive and immature. Older and wiser now, I appreciate the realism of this series.

For those who played Part 2, the original might seem pretty stripped down. With a running time of around 15 hours, fewer intensely scary encounters with the infected and more focused narrative, it doesn’t offer as much bang for your buck.

A dark odyssey

If you’ve managed to avoid spoilers for this series (especially the bad faith controversy over the equally incredible sequel), you’re in for a treat here. The Last of Us is one of the best-written and mature games I’ve ever played, and the PS5 remake is definitely the best way to experience it.

The characters look as realistic as anything I’ve seen on console, the environments are lush, and everything runs extremely smoothly. I only encountered one or two minor graphical glitches while playing the game. The game’s use of the DualSense controller is subtle, but the resistance when I pulled the trigger on a gun or readied my bow added a nice layer of immersion.

So The Last of Us Part 1 rules, but it’s also a full-priced version of a game that’s available in several other forms and doesn’t have the multiplayer mode seen in previous releases – probably because that a standalone multiplayer game is coming.

The Last of Us' Joel is seen in side-by-side comparison photos from the PS4 remaster and PS5 remake

Joel got a makeover on PS5 for The Last of Us Part 1.

The naughty dog

You should consider the PS4 remaster (which is playable on PS5 and available at no additional cost on the $18 per month PS Plus Premium Subscription Service) or even the PS3 original (this version is however not playable on PS4 or PS5) are always easy to obtain. Non-players can also wait the HBO show Next year.

One way or another, I urge everyone to experience (or relive) The Last of Us in one form or another – Part 1 is also coming to PC at some point. Some moments may fade over time, but you’ll be engaged for every harrowing minute of your game, and it’ll make you feel like few other games can.

CNET

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