Naughty Dog’s latest remake is what they envisioned
On July 21, 2022, Playstation released a 10-minute deep dive video on YouTube made by Neil Druckman and the folks over at Naughty Dog. In this video, Mr. Druckman said “what if we made The Last of Us Part I look as good if not better than what we have done with The Last of Us Part II…and if we do that we could actually come closer to our original vision of what the first game would have been had we not had been constrained by technology”. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the time has come and The Last of Us Part I is finally here – and my god is this impressive.
The Last of Us was originally released for the Playstation 3 on June 14, 2013 – and if you haven’t played it then, or even when the remaster for the Playstation 4 came out on July 29th, 2014, then you’re still in luck because I’m not going to dive too much into the story. This has been covered over the years from head to toe so I’m not going to waste your time by rehashing it – only to say it takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting in The United States and you play as a goods smuggler named Joel. Joel has been put in charge of transporting a young girl named Ellie across state lines to a woman named Marlene who is part of a rebel organization called The Fireflies.
What I do want to touch on is what makes this “remake” so special – because there was a lot of hype and a lot of controversy around it, especially because Sony was releasing this at full price for $69.99. The feeling you get from playing this game is exactly the same as when we first played it nine years ago – it’s phenomenal. The remake, however, comes with visuals and graphics that are built from the ground up to make the world you’re in feel richer than before. It also has haptic feedback and accessibility features embedded into the Playstation Dualsense controller providing the player with a more immersed feeling of gameplay, and who doesn’t like immersion with their games?
Feeling the resistance from the bow string when aiming and gearing up to shoot off some arrows feels nice as well as the haptic feedback you’d get from firing a few rounds from your pistol, or the kick of a shotgun after blowing off the face of your enemy, or the shock you’d feel when a clicker is chewing on your neck like a ham sandwich. Another neat feature is the controller has a red light when you’re low on health and turns green after you’ve healed yourself from taking damage. You could even feel a slight vibration when switching weapons or when shaking your controller to get your flashlight to work in those dark moments in the game. The sound of the flashlight shaking also comes through the controller!
Every TLOU veteran knows about the first few minutes at the very beginning of the game because it’s a moment that has stuck with us for years to come. The opening act back then in 2013 shook us to our core, and for some, it left us in awe – and it has only gotten better with the remake. Although I know what was going to happen I couldn’t help but be at the edge of my seat, with the graphical improvements making this game feel more immersive and believable to my eyes. Like most games that have been released this generation, we’re given two graphical modes to choose from; fidelity mode which includes native full 4k resolution with 30 frames per second, and performance mode which is the opposite, being 60 frames per second at a lower resolution. One thing to note with the remake is if you choose to play in fidelity mode the framerate caps out at 40 fps. If you have a monitor or TV(that supports VRR) that can display high framerates then you can play the game utilizing that feature as well – either way, this is something that makes the game perform much better than its previous versions.
The gameplay is very much the same but with some noticeable differences. The A.I. is smarter and in some ways more challenging. They communicate with each other and plan ways to flank you when trying to close in on you during a gunfight. This is explained in greater detail in the video above than I care to go into, but what I will say about the combat system is it still feels immensely satisfying when an enemy is down and you put your boot to their face or in an all-out bare-knuckle brawl. The gunplay in this version of the game was also improved. When aiming either before or after firing a round, Joel tends to sway a bit more – which is a player stat that you can upgrade but nevertheless, it’s something that adds to the immersion and overall better gameplay.
Playstation has always tried to include the best audio design they could give, with limitations to their technology. With the inclusion of 3D audio and improved sounds (granted you have a pair of good headphones), you can literally hear everything around you in greater detail. I’ve recently become a fan of horror games and I’m working my way through some rather dated titles, but listening to the audio in The Last of Us Part I tends to make me a bit paranoid – it’s that good! I’ve walked through rundown and decaying buildings where enemies are all around me, and when going into listening mode it’s almost as if I can hear a pin drop in the other room all while being able to hear the clicker I crept past two rooms behind me. If Ellie or any other NPC character is on either side of me in any direction, I can faintly hear them in the background as I’m looking around planning my escape…or kill.
One thing that wasn’t available in the previous version (PS3) of the game is photo mode. What I love about the photo mode in TLOU is the intricacies and in-depth ability to take photos and edit them all from the game. Not every game that has a photo mode comes with these features or is even that great, but because photo mode has become popular over the years, I’m sure Sony made sure they had one that could rival other first-party games such as Spiderman or Ghost of Tsushima, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart just to name a few. My only gripe with Naughty Dog’s photo mode in this game is the camera is either in orbit mode or “game” mode, which limits the angles you can take photos from.
The number of filters and frames is more than satisfactory, along with the depth of field, saturation, and lighting with a free moving light that you can adjust in any way you’d like. This may not mean much to someone that doesn’t use it or rarely does, but for those of you that do, this is a feature they couldn’t leave out, especially since it was heavily used in The Last of Us Part II amongst fans and virtual photographers alike.
The Last of Us has gone on to win many awards since its debut in 2013 and has also gotten many positive reviews and accolades in 2014 with the remaster. The Last of Us Part I Remake has also lived up to that reputation according to Metacritic with an average score of 89 according to 106 reviews (at the time of this writing). We have to note what is included with this game besides the features -the Left Behind DLC with some behind-the-scenes footage of the making of this game along with some extra goodies for you to enjoy. What’s not included is the multi-player campaign, which came with the original in 2013 and was also included in the remaster in 2014 with some slight improvements and cleaner resolution. This is part of the controversy around this game because you’re getting the base game and DLC with some smaller things added that one can argue don’t warrant the price tag.
This version of the game is meant for newer players that aren’t familiar with the franchise, especially since the live-action series will be premiering on HBO in early 2023. This is a way for those to experience everything the game has to offer alongside the show, or afterward if they’re curious to see how different it is. For those of you that are seasoned veterans of the franchise, I doubt you’ll want to make that $70 investment; but if you want to see and experience the grandiose misadventures of Joel and Ellie in native 4k with all the improvements that were made, then jump right in, I sure did!