Naughty Dog has been one of PlayStation’s most prestigious developers, known for franchises like “Jak & Daxter” as well as “Uncharted.” However, Naughty Dog’s magnum opus is arguably 2013’s “The Last of Us” for the PlayStation 3, which blended cinematic action gameplay with incredible storytelling.
Almost a decade later, Naughty Dog has remade the game from the ground up for PlayStation 5 as “The Last of Us Part I,” following the release of the original’s sequel, “The Last of Us Part II,” in 2020. Those who played the original game will feel right at home with the remake’s updated graphics and refined gameplay mechanics. It’s also a great place for newcomers to experience where the franchise all started.
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The game follows a man named Joel and a young girl named Ellie. He is tasked with escorting Ellie through the post-apocalyptic United States as a deadly fungal virus turns other humans into cannibalistic creatures called the Infected. Throughout the story, they’ll both have to fight off the Infected as well as other hostile humans. Once starting as ambivalent strangers, their journey eventually bonds them together in a touching father-and-daughter dynamic.
The gameplay involves using a variety of different weapons like shotguns, pistols, crowbars and Molotov cocktails to kill enemies. Players can also opt to take a stealthy approach and melee enemies from behind, with the aim of thinning the numbers in a particular area, as alerting everyone can lead to Joel being overwhelmed with attacks and subsequently getting killed.
In “Part I,” Joel and Ellie’s movements feel much smoother than they did in the original game, undoubtedly thanks to the polished character models. As a result of improved graphical details and facial animations, the game’s most emotional moments hit harder than ever, even if you’ve already experienced them before.
Furthermore, the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller provides realistic haptic feedback when shooting weapons. You can really feel the intense kickback from your shotgun and the resistance of your bow string when you pull it back. The feedback from the controller adds incredible immersion to the combat.
The game is also a 1:1 recreation of the original, so Joel doesn’t have any of the additional kinds of weapons and tools that Ellie was able to craft in “The Last of Us Part II.” This includes things like makeshift gun silencers, explosive arrows and stun bombs. This was a missed opportunity to potentially make the “Part I” gameplay feel even more updated, but it seems like Naughty Dog’s intention was to stick as close to the original’s vision as possible.
One of the biggest inclusions to “Part I” is its incredibly extensive list of accessibility options. They’re split into several different categories such as visual aids, alternate control functions and audio cues. For example, a player might want to hold down the button to execute multiple repeated melee attacks instead of tapping it repeatedly. Another player may want to only tap a button in order to craft items instead of holding down the button. There’s also an option for enabling narration for on-screen text and silent scenes that’s helpful for blind players.
A personal favorite of mine is the high-contrast mode filter, where the environment’s colors are muted and add distinct contrasting colors, mapping out all of the different interactive elements. This mode was invaluable for spotting small collectibles and items hidden throughout the game. These accessibility options were carried over from “Part II” and are arguably the best reason to play this remake — now the game is enjoyable to a more diverse and greater variety of players than the original ever was.
As with all of PlayStation’s latest big-budget exclusive games, “Part I” also includes a photo mode that lets players take screenshots of their favorite moments in gameplay. It offers an exhaustive list of options such as different filters and full-range camera movement so players can take their perfect shot. For a game as beautiful and stunning with its natural vistas, sometimes it’s relaxing to just sit back and enjoy the view despite being surrounded by murderous creatures around every corner in a post-apocalyptic landscape.
There are some other cool features that add some replayability to “Part I” that the original didn’t have. The game has an official speedrun mode where it tracks your best times for each difficulty throughout the game. It’s great for those who want to see how fast they can complete the game and offers a bit of friendly competition. For an extra challenge, there’s also a permadeath toggle where players are forced to start over at specific points upon dying, whether it’d be at the beginning of a chapter, an act or even the entire game.
“Part I” also contains the “Left Behind” DLC, which are additional stories from Ellie’s perspective that take place during the events of the main game. In the original, it was separate content that players had to pay extra for. Here, it’s all included with the remake. While I would consider “Part I” to be a complete package, it’s missing the original’s “Factions” multiplayer component.
However, Naughty Dog is still working on a new standalone multiplayer title set in the game’s universe, confirming that it has its own story and it’s just as big as its own single-player games. An updated version of “Factions” would’ve been a nice addition to “Part I,” but its absence doesn’t take away from the fact that the game still has plenty to offer.
“The Last of Us Part I” is the definitive way to experience Joel and Ellie’s journey together. With all of its new bells and whistles, series veterans will fall in love with the gameplay, story and characters all over again. For newcomers, “Part I” is an excellent entry point into the franchise as its impeccable presentation makes for an unforgettable adventure.
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