The conversations surrounding The Last of Us Part 1 has been entirely divided since Naughty Dog’s reveal earlier this year. The biggest conundrum is the price point of $70 USD for a game that’s been remastered for the PS4 back in 2014 – and with the absence of Factions multiplayer, said conundrum is further solidifying the argument for players.
Now, while the conversation about pricing is definitely warranted, let’s not confuse or undermine what The Last of Us Part 1 is – a complete remake, from the ground up, of one of the biggest games to ever grace our time that launched almost 10 years ago for the PlayStation 3. It is not a remaster of a remaster, not even close.
A Remaster in video games utilizes the assets that’s already present but increases its resolution and perhaps frames per second. Sometimes textures get a rework here and there to better fit moods, but still within its legacy engine. That’s what happened with The Last of Us PS3 to PS4 – same character models, environmental details, animations, particles, physics, rigging – but with better resolution and fps.
A Remake in a video game is rebuilding all of its assets from scratch within an entirely new rendering engine; that means character models, environmental design, lighting engine, pipelining, textures, shadows, adding next-gen technology like GPU accelerations to particles, volumetric smoke, ambient occlusion, light bounces, refraction, screen space reflections, updated animations across the board etc., has been handcrafted to a degree that makes the game almost unrecognizable.
This is what Naughty Dog did with The Last of Us Part 1 – it is a rework so immeasurable that it makes the game feel entirely brand new, even for someone like me who has beaten the game multiple times on the PS3 and PS4, obtaining the platinum trophy to both. The labor of love Naughty Dog decided to do for us is nothing short of magical and one that needs to be recognized because The Last of Us Part 1 is undeniable in delivering one of the best experiences ever made.
When I played Uncharted 4 for the first time, I was taken aback the level of commitment Naughty Dog put themselves through to deliver us one of the best looking and playing games ever. I couldn’t help but hope that one day Naughty Dog decides to remake The Last of Us in this level of fidelity. Fast forward 9 years and here we are.
Every facet of this game has been redone in ways that shouldn’t exist – the physical based rendering made every revoking moment feel beyond the immersion factor the original could ever achieve. The level of detail in each character model just feels alive with its more realistic approach; subsurface scattering to the skin is fleshed out stupendously, which brings the player closer to the character than ever before. You actually feel the emotions Joel is going through as he treks a harrowing journey across the country. The performances from the actors behind these characters is realized in such a way that you forget it’s a video game, more so than it did originally, and that to me is one of the biggest reasons I needed to replay The Last of Us.
And now that every waking moment of this game is running on real-time and not pre-recorded like it did with the PS4 Remastered (goodbye cut-to-black cutscenes) it just further connects the illusion that this world you’re experiencing, is that much closer to home.
Furthermore, everything has been physicalized, meaning no texture or model is flat, there’s layer to clothing like never before, ragdoll in places that feels right. That means that weapons are properly places in straps, backpack shuffle and bounce accordingly, arrows ruffle and weapons sway. Character rigging has been exponentially improved to feel a lot weightier and bouncier. It just looks and feels absolutely better than before. This is complimented by the improved character animations and AI across the board. Joel moves much more naturally around the arena while in stealth, and when you’re rushing through, Joel is far more responsive to your controls.
This is all while exploring a world that’s also been treated with the same level of care, if not more. The level design is the same as the original except that every structure, debris, trash, destruction, puddle, interior/exterior design, materials, art, texture, placement, size ect, has been remade in phenomenal fashion. Coupled with some added technology like dense foliage, GPU accelerated particles to leaves and smoke, destructible environment and interactive physics, next generation lighting engine and ambient occlusion for those sweet ass light bouncing. Then we have Screen Spaced Reflections done so well it looks like ray tracing – it’s a wonder how ND had the time to make this game happen after The Last of Us Part II. A commendation is in order for making this game look absolutely next gen while also maintaining the genetic blueprint of what made The Last of Us so special.
Additionally, the added Dual Sense feature of course further immerses the player into the world, evoking the tension between the highs and lows of The Last of Us Part I. If you’re playing in a surround sound setting, the Dual Sense speakers would benefit. I played with my headset so the click-clack of the Shotgun when I pump it for example, was lost to me. But Joel’s struggle to initially pull the bow while the R2 resisted my press just gave me the sense of Joel’s age. And it’s even more evident with Ellie’s inexperienced hands when you’re hunting that deer for the first time.
The gameplay remains the same, for the most part. Rigging on the character models are vastly improved, a new animation tech was developed to help players maneuver more fluidly and naturally and AI has adopted some elements of The Last of Us Part II’s tech, making them flank and move far more dangerously. Grounded has been revamped making it feel far more forgiving but challenging as well. Another commendation is in order for Naughty’s Dog implementation of their award-winning accessibility features, opening doors for those who would like to experience this masterpiece. The upgraded workbench has been revamped entirely, implementing what was present in Part II. It’s a genuine touch-up that doesn’t remove what made the original so good, just makes it extremely better.
Of course, multiplayer Factions is absent – my personal blow. It was something I was really hoping would be part of the package. I know Factions 2 is coming, but it will play wildly different than Factions did in the original. It was a special MP, one of the best honestly, and it would have not only tempered the arguments gamers are having, but honestly heightened the MP to new heights with the upgraded graphics. RIP Factions, you will be missed.
The Last of Us Part I is a testament, a labor of love in saying “we care for this too.” Naughty Dog didn’t have to develop this game – even working on a new IP and Factions 2 they managed to create the most pinnacle form of one of the best games ever.
REVIEW SCORE: 9/10