Archives by Day

April 2024

The Last of Us Part I

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: Sept. 2, 2022


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

In-Depth PS5 Review - 'The Last of Us Part I'

by Redmond Carolipio on Oct. 27, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

The Last of Us Part I is a genre-defining experience that blends survival and action elements to tell a character-driven story about a population decimated by a modern plague.

Buy The Last of Us Part I

You have to get up to play The Last of Us Part I. That's what I tell anyone who asks about it, whether they've played it before or not.

You need to fortify yourself mentally. You have to be ready to absorb what comes as you wade through and get deep — waist-deep — in thick, emotional waters.

Naughty Dog did not make something fun. My colleague Chris called it "relentlessly grim and depressing" in his review for the game when it came out for the PS3 nearly 10 years ago. From a storytelling standpoint, that hasn't changed. It'll leave you spent at the end, fulfilled at the connections people forge and emotionally arid after the horrors you've been made to witness, endure, and even commit. That was before the real world went through more than two years (and counting) of an actual pandemic. This game hits different, and harder, now.

There's a question of what to call this version: remake or remaster? I think of it like a "remaster-plus," where it doesn't feel like a brand-new, reimagined experience like what Capcom has done with the Resident Evil series, but it's far from an old game with a new cloak of graphical finesse tossed over it. I played the original, and going through this version felt fresh, newly alive, and bright with possibility — which could be considered odd in a way, given the game's weighty themes that can tighten the chest and give one an emotional backache.

It's been nearly a decade, so many of the people who might be interested in this game are already intimately familiar with the setting and the story to the point where they can serve as spoiler arbiters at inevitable watch parties for the upcoming HBO show. However, many others could be using a combination of the PS5 and the show's existence as their foray into the gaming space and be completely unfamiliar with this title, which is truly one of the greatest games of the PlayStation era.

If that's you, here's a humble summary: It's 20 years after the practically complete annihilation of modern civilization, courtesy of a spore-triggered disease that mutates everyone it touches into a variety of abominations. Everyday life consists of quarantine zones under military control and eking out ways to survive by trying to fight — or avoid — the legions of denizens that roam outside; some of them are mutated, and some of them are just broken, crazed and desperate people.

In the middle of this vortex of gloom is Joel, a veteran of survival who tragically lost his daughter in the outbreak 20 years ago (but not in the way you might think), and Ellie, all of 14 years old and somehow immune to the disease. Joel's been charged by the leader of a resistance movement to smuggle Ellie out of quarantine and to people who might be able to make something out of Ellie's immunity. She's one of a kind. Thus begins one of the more brutal odysseys you'll see in a video game and the core reason why this game is held in such high critical regard.

The relationship between Joel and Ellie remains the beating heart of the game's storytelling arc, but going through it again, I took a step back and digested how their journey reflects on the disturbing and multifaceted ways humanity can cave in on itself, leaving different forms of wreckage and debris scattered about.

This is where the PS5-built visuals make their biggest impact. I couldn't take my eyes off what I saw on the PS3 and remastered PS4 versions, but it's this PS5 edition that elicited the occasional "whoa" from the soul. I probably spent a few minutes just staring at the variety of set pieces Joel and Ellie encounter, even though I've seen them before: the high school, the abandoned hotel, the odd coffee shop, the record store, and the university. All carry an even greater vibrancy of decimated postapocalyptic beauty. It's so pretty it could make one ask questions about how we live as humans, with Joel being old enough to remember and Ellie young enough to wonder about things she'll probably never experience, like college, dorm rooms or even an ice cream truck.

The visuals also add the kind of eye-catching emotional detail that can keep up with and even augment the powerful voice acting performances. You can feel Tess — Joel's partner in the early part of the game — switch from gritty, dead-inside near-criminal to hopeful and desperate, even noble once she finds out Ellie's special condition. You can see it in her eyes. Her plea, "Joel, this is real," flushes any cynicism off the screen, if but for a moment. The agonizing conclusion of the Joel and Ellie's encounter with Henry and Sam, who could be their counterparts in another life, probably — well, certainly — unearthed a new kind of "god d**n" from me, even though I knew it was coming and have seen it a few times before. The same goes with the final action sequence, which is one of the few times I've played as a character and thought to myself: Stop doing this. I don't want to do this. Please, please stop making me do this. Joel, come on, man.

Visually, it's even more apparent that Joel is shrouded in a blanket of pain. Ellie shines even brighter as the game's not-so-hidden star, curious as a 14-year-old would be, until you realize that all of those years were spent growing up in this hell. Every face scrunch of hers, every mannerism seems to stand out even more to pull in the player further. This looks like every bit the PS5 game it was supposed to represent. It also sounds like it. Play this game with headphones on if you want to be perpetually freaked out whenever "clickers" show up. If you're a veteran, it's just as horrible as you remember.

The gameplay elements and systems — such as crafting, melee, swimming underwater and the general exploration and gathering of materials — remain relatively unchanged from the original. In particular, I almost forgot how disjointed and occasionally tanky the combat can be. From an artistic sense, I guess it works because while Joel and Ellie are survivors, they are not trained assassins who can handle guns with ease, nor are most of the people they face, and certainly not the Infected. Or are they? One of the game's various wrinkles is the sheer number of adjustable play options, including things like aim assist that can help you snap to nearby enemies.

For those who already flexed their skill in previous versions and want to simply take in the story, such options are welcome. I don't, however, remember some combat encounters having this fast of a pace or me having to work this hard on occasion. That represents a tangible difference in both the game's smarter AI as well as the number of assailants that can make themselves available within a battle area thanks to the capability of the PS5. Taking on "bloaters" with Ellie, being flanked and swarmed by the Fireflies in the hospital with Joel, and trying to ward off angry hordes with survivor Bill carried a tense, almost panicked, energy that wasn't there in previous versions.

Another piece to add to the overall package is the presence of the Left Behind chapters of the game (not to be confused with the religious "Left Behind'' stuff), where Ellie takes the narrative lead and players learn more about her past. It takes place in a period of time during the main story when Joel and Ellie are separated during the winter. The main draw of this is more Ellie, which complements her eventual larger role in the second game.

If you're waffling on the price, I'll say this: If you've played the original and remastered, perhaps wait until the price comes down low enough. Don't put off a nice dinner and a movie with your significant other (or the ability to pay for your streaming services) over it.

If you've never experienced it before, The Last of Us Part I is a must-buy. It's essential in any library. One of the things I liked about playing this again is that it's a nice change from a lot of the exhaustive open-world concepts out there. The level designs and settings are expansive enough for you to explore, but they're not big enough to go off the rails. You have a definite destination and mission, even if the journey carves a few pieces out of you. It's worth it. Just remember to perhaps pour yourself a drink afterward.

Score: 8.9/10

More articles about The Last of Us Part I
blog comments powered by Disqus