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The Last of Us Part 1 remake review: A modern masterpiece made even better

Updated visuals go a long way in heightening the tension in The Last of Us Part 1.

Ellie and Joel on horseback
(Image: © Android Central)

Our Verdict

The Last of Us may not have needed a remake, but there's no denying the sheer quality of it. Its visuals, from the environment to the character models, look like they're plucked directly from a movie. The new lighting and shadows make for a more realistic experience, without completely changing the atmosphere. Its gameplay, especially the shooting, still needs some fine-tuning, but every improvement just serves to make a near-perfect game even better.

For

  • Industry-leading visuals
  • Story is just as impactful ten years later
  • Tense combat
  • Impressive level design
  • Accessibility options

Against

  • Shooting still feels frustrating
  • Updated UI could be more user-friendly

When The Last of Us first released in 2013 for PS3, it was praised for its visuals and narrative, setting a new high bar for the games industry at large. When it was remastered for PS4 a year later, Naughty Dog improved on those visuals even further. 

Despite both versions still being entirely playable — they're less than ten years old and don't feel outdated by any means — Naughty Dog decided to go ahead with a complete remake, rebuilding its graphics (and more) from the ground up. Was it necessary? Probably not. But in an industry where photo-realistic graphics means everything to some people, The Last of Us Part 1 is a welcome addition.

Playing The Last of Us Part 1 on PS5 didn't give me a whole new feeling, because it's how I still remember my first playthrough of the remaster; looking back through rose-colored glasses. Side-by-side the differences are stark, but in the moment, it feels the same. A game as good as The Last of Us always holds up, though, and even though this playthrough wasn't a life-changing experience, it did give me a new appreciation for its sequel and the story as a whole. 

On top of its rebuilt visuals, Naughty Dog added a suite of accessibility options, leveraging what it did so well in The Last of Us Part 2. With additional fan-requested modes like permadeath and speedrun, along with unlockable cosmetics and gameplay modifiers, the remake makes a better case for its existence.

The Last of Us Part 1: What's improved

Captured in Fidelity Mode (Image credit: Android Central)

The core gameplay experience remains the same, barring some UI and menu tweaks to keep it more in line with what The Last of Us Part 2 offers. The real differences and improvements come down to its visuals. Aside from more detailed textures, The Last of Us Part 1 delivers more realistic lighting and shadows, more natural water, and denser foliage and particle effects around much of the map. Even cutscenes received a revamp, with new character models and improved motion tracking.

Though Naughty Dog says that the AI was improved to allow enemies to behave more realistically, I wasn't able to feel a distinct difference when playing. It didn't seem noticeably harder or easier than when I played the remaster, and enemies could sometimes even walk in front of me without noticing me crouched five feet away. 

Category
TitleThe Last of Us Part 1
DeveloperNaughty Dog
PublisherSony Interactive Entertainment
GenreAction/adventure
PlayStation VersionPlayStation 5
Game Size68GB
Play Time16 hours
PlayersSingle-player
PlayStation Plus PremiumNo
Launch Price$70

Its DualSense features include haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, providing tactile cues when drawing a bow or upgrading a weapon. Though I honestly could have done without them at an upgrade bench, it did add a heightened sense of tension to the combat when you actually feel yourself shooting a weapon. Naughty Dog found a good balance between ensuring that the sensations don't take you out of the game, while also making their absence notable, should they be turned off. 

If you're just here for the story, you'll be pleased to know nothing has changed on that front. It's the exact same dialogue and narrative as the original, and it still packs a punch where it counts. You'd think after 10 years and a few playthroughs it might lose some of its emotional weight, but it doesn't. 

If anything, it makes me appreciate the story as a whole, including Part 2, even more. There's something very visceral and unsettling about the opening of the game now that the world has experienced an actual pandemic, albeit one that doesn't turn people into crazed flesh-eating monsters. 

And like the remastered edition, The Last of Us Part 1 also includes the Left Behind DLC. Again, the story isn't changed at all, but it looks prettier and helps players get a better understanding of Ellie's life before she met Joel. 

Its accessibility options have been greatly expanded so that more players can experience the game for themselves. The Last of Us Part 1 offers alternate controls, magnification and visual aid settings, motion sickness settings, navigation and traversal assistance, screen reader and audio cues settings, and combat accessibility that can toggle actions like your weapon sway, whether enemies can see you while not aiming, whether enemies can flank, and more. 

Each of these options serves to open up the game to a wider audience, and Naughty Dog's efforts on this front should be commended. 

Just like The Last of Us Part 2, Part 1 has gameplay modifiers that can be unlocked after completing a playthrough to make your next playthroughs even more interesting. With cheats like infinite melee durability, one shot kills, and explosive arrows, among many others, it keeps the replay experience fresh. There are even options to horizontally flip the world rendering, or enable "helium" audio so that all of the audio is pitched up as if filled with helium. 

Other extras that can be unlocked include character and weapon cosmetics, concept art detailing some of the differences between the 2013 and 2022 versions, character and enemy models, and filters that completely change the graphics. It's damn near unplayable in 8-bit mode, but it's a cool visual to say the least. 

All-in-all, I'm very happy with what Naughty Dog has done to The Last of Us Part 1. A lot of these changes may have been unnecessary, and I'm not sure I'd shell out $70 for them, but they do a commendable job enhancing a modern classic. 

The Last of Us Part 1: What's still frustrating

Captured in Fidelity Mode (Image credit: Android Central)

Despite improving the UI so that the weapon crafting menu and item selection is more consistent with The Last of Us Part 2, it's still not amazing. Swapping between weapons, even with an extra holster, can be frustrating in the middle of combat, and there were a few times where I died because I wasn't quick enough to switch my gun or equip a Molotov. 

Speaking of its combat, the shooting could use a lot of work to make it more satisfying. Third-person shooters already feel clunkier than first-person, and this is especially true in The Last of Us Part 1. I understand that it may be more realistic for weapons to sway a certain amount and for aiming to be less precise — even with the sensitivity adjusted — but it just ends up being an annoyance more than it should. 

The Last of Us Part 1: Should you buy it?

Captured in Fidelity Mode (Image credit: Android Central)

Whether or not you should buy The Last of Us Part 1 is a tough question to answer, because the original is still entirely playable. If you haven't played the original for whatever reason, then this is absolutely the version you should get. For those that have played the game on PS3, or even the PS4 remaster, I'd only spend the money if The Last of Us is one of your favorite games of all time. 

The gameplay modifiers are fun and it looks gorgeous, but I don't know if those enhancements are worth the $70 to some people. It's also important to remember that this remake doesn't include its Factions multiplayer mode at all, and that may sway your decision if that's important to you.

The Last of Us is still one of the greatest games ever made, and it's certainly one of the best PS5 games anyone can play right now. You just need to ask yourself if you'd be better served with this version versus the remaster, depending on how much money you want to spend. 

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The Last of Us Part 1

The Last of Us is still as impactful as it was the day it came out in 2013. Naughty Dog improved just about every visual aspect while retaining the same tense atmosphere and powerful story that fans love.

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