There has been a bit of a furore leading up to the launch of The Last of Us Part I as to whether or not the game needed to be remade and if it justified a $70 price tag because of it. In some ways, it’s easy to agree – the game is less than ten years old after all, whilst this isn’t a full-blown remake akin to the likes of Resident Evil 2 or Final Fantasy VII.

After finally playing and beating the game (for the seventh time across this and the original release), it’s clear that Naughty Dog have done something special here. Yes, this is the same game you would’ve played before as far as the blueprint is concerned, but the revamped visuals, improved enemy AI, and excellent range of accessibility options make this an even better version of what was already a perfect game.

Check out some screenshots down below:

The Last of Us Part I puts players in the role of Joel and Ellie as they look to survive through a post-apocalyptic world that has been ruined by the Cordyceps virus, which essentially turns humans into mutated and savage creatures known as Clickers (named after the ominous noise they make). Humanity has had to live with this crisis for the last twenty years, but there’s the possibility of a cure when it turns out that Ellie is immune to the virus. It’s up to you to travel across the United States and get her to a group known as the Fireflies in order for their doctors to study her.

What follows is one of the most gripping narratives seen in any video game. Not only do the characters of the game feel believable thanks to some brilliant voice performances and writing, but the plot itself is full of twists-and-turns that’ll constantly keep players on the edge of their seat. Whilst it doesn’t quite hit the gut-punching heights of its sequel, I forgot how dark The Last of Us Part I could be with its storytelling.

Of course, this is the same plotline you would have possibly played through a ton of times already, so there’s not a lot to say about it – Naughty Dog hit the ball out of the park in 2013 and it feels just as impactful now. It is just the same though, with no big additions included to flesh out the storytelling or reveal more about the world. It’s definitely worth keeping your expectations in check if you expected The Last of Us Part I to reinvent the narrative in any way.

“You can see every detail in a character’s face, every emotion they convey, and every swift change as they turn from pain to anger to sadness.”

That doesn’t mean that the storytelling isn’t significantly improved upon though, which is something owed to the outstanding facial animations in the game. Whilst Naughty Dog really showed off their graphical prowess in The Last of Us Part II, everything is ramped up tenfold here. You can see every detail in a character’s face, every emotion they convey, and every swift change as they turn from pain to anger to sadness. It’s ridiculous how good it looks in-game and it goes a long way in helping The Last of Us Part I achieve a realistic cinematic presentation. Be warned though: it makes the game’s heart-breaking scenes ever harder to bear, which is something players will find out swiftly in one early scene… never have I seen such pure emotion more tragically displayed in a video game.

It’s not just the facial animations that have been improved upon though, with just about every facet of The Last of Us Part I getting a fresh lick of paint powered by the PlayStation 5’s capabilities. The environments have been rebuilt with more life-like visuals and richer levels of detail, slick lighting effects and reflections add to the immersion, whilst extra levels of detail found in the destruction you cause along the way make each set piece all the more believable. Naughty Dog haven’t just given the game some fresh new textures; they’ve re-invented what existed and made the world look a hell of a lot better than it ever did before. If you’re someone who only cared about the visual improvements made in this new release, you will NOT be disappointed.

The enhancements to the gameplay aren’t quite as significant as the facelift, but they still help make The Last of Us Part I feel better to play. Both enemy and ally is AI is significantly improved upon to make each showdown with foes feel more intense and challenging, animations are more fluid and life-like than before, whilst the DualSense functions and 3D audio make the whole experience more immersive. It’s possible to play the game at a dynamic 4K resolution at 60fps too, which makes everything feel smoother in motion.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Additional game modes such as Speedrun and Permadeath will give players extra challenges to strive towards, whilst it’s also possible to fully customise the difficulty to make the game play exactly how you want. Photo mode is also there for creative sorts who want to showcase the game’s beauty, with plenty of fancy options available for those who like to be artistic. The best new inclusion though are the accessibility options, which go above and beyond in making The Last of Us Part I available for just about anyone to play. It’s fantastic to see developers putting more effort into accessibility for games and Naughty Dog have proven in their last few releases that they take the issue very seriously. Visual, audio, and even controller options are in place to help players out, with the game covering all bases to ensure EVERYONE can play.

It’s clear then that whilst The Last of Us Part I doesn’t necessarily go to the extremes that similar remakes have in re-defining the experience, a lot has been done to ensure this is the definitive edition of the game that matches the highest standards set by modern releases. Sure, there’ll be a sense of familiarity for players, but it isn’t just a prettier game – it’s been revamped to make it not only play better, but also be more accessible for a wider range of players. There’s bound to be complaints that it doesn’t implement some of the newer features found in The Last of Us Part II or that it plays out in exactly the same way as the original game did, but the quality found across the board here proves that it didn’t need to implement these changes. The Last of Us Part I hits the highest standard with all of the improvements it already has, and whilst it might not always feel like a fresh experience for players, it will feel like a vastly superior one to what came before it.

That being said, there was one disappointment I had: the lack of the Factions multiplayer, especially since I loved the mode back in the day. It would have been cool to be able re-visit the mode and compete with others online, especially since it was a genuinely engaging multiplayer experience that often felt as intense as the single player mode. I’ll be honest, it does leave the package feeling a little incomplete with its omission, and whilst it’s understandable that it’s not included given that Naughty Dog are already actively working on a multiplayer experience based around The Last of Us, it would have been nice to give it another go.

The Last of Us Part I

The Last of Us Part I takes what was already a masterpiece and improves upon it in every way, with the visuals in particular standing out as a highlight. This is one gorgeous game, with the revamped look not only making the world and action more engrossing than ever, but also making the storytelling more believable and emotional. Add to that the improved AI, expanded accessibility options, and additional game modes, and it’ll quickly become very clear that this release is a lot more than just a fresh lick of paint.

Some will complain that it doesn’t change enough and even I will admit that the lack of Factions multiplayer is disappointing, but these issues don’t stop The Last of Us Part I from being another outstanding release from the team at Naughty Dog. The high price tag might put some folk off, but this is an unmissable title for both fans of the series as well as those that didn’t experience Joel and Ellie’s emotional journey the first time around.

Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: PlayStation Studios
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed)