There’s no denying The Last of Us Part 1 is an upgrade on the original. With nine years of added experience and two generational leaps in between, you’d certainly expect that to be the case. But is there enough here to justify the premium asking price of a new release title?
Much like the release window of Part 2, The Last of Us Part 1 remake has been surrounded in controversy since initial details leaked online. Why rerelease the game for the third time in under a decade? What could this new version offer to warrant its premium price tag? Is it nothing more than a simple “cash grab” as many have suggested?
All of those questions are valid and have fuelled the discourse in the leadup to what should be a celebration of the PS3’s final masterpiece. So now that we’ve played through the latest iteration of the 2013 game, we can start to clear things up and provide answers.
While the value proposition is ultimately subjective, as with any new game purchase, it’s worth setting expectations before jumping in.
What’s actually new in The Last of Us Part 1?
Starting with the obvious, The Last of Us Part 1 is a clear step forward in terms of visual fidelity. Environments are more richly detailed than ever before, character models have been upgraded across the board, and animations are smoother than in the previous builds.
From the outset, it’s clear that ‘remake’ is the more fitting term, opposed to a mere ‘remaster.’ You can see the amount of effort that went into revitalizing every section of the original and aligning it with the quality seen in Part 2. There’s no question it’s one of the best-looking games on the market today and will likely stand the test of time until Naughty Dog’s next project further raises the bar.
Making it even better to play are new graphic mode options allowing you to pick between a native 4K option that targets 40FPS, and a dynamic 4K option that exceeds 60FPS. With the added bonus of unlocking frame rate limits, playing on the latter setting provides the smoothest experience possible.
Beyond the visual and performance upgrades, there’s not a great deal to write home about. Photo mode has some new lighting options if that’s of interest to you. There’s a new Trophy list for those hunting every platinum they can get their hands on. And Naughty Dog has implemented its robust slate of accessibility features, enabling as many people as possible to experience the 2013 release.
One key feature highlighted ahead of launch was upgraded AI. In the original, a common gripe was how your companions would often break the immersion by running out in the open. Here, the issue was supposedly resolved, though our latest playthrough proved otherwise. While it certainly wasn’t a frequent occurrence in the remake, friendly AI still found themselves directly in enemy sightlines on a number of occasions. Thus, it’s wise to temper expectations here. Go in prepared to see an improvement, but not an outright fix.
In terms of the bundle itself, The Last of Us Part 1 comes with the original game along with Left Behind, Ellie’s side-story that’s also received the same facelift. However, fans of the PS3 launch and PS4 remaster from 2014 may be saddened to learn the Factions multiplayer offering hasn’t been brought forward.
For those around during the initial release, Factions was a surprisingly great online component to add further value. While the story itself is far from short, multiplayer kept thousands coming back for weeks on end. As someone who pumped hundreds of hours into Uncharted 2 & 3 before jumping over to Factions and doing the same, not having the option here in the Part 1 remake is a tad disappointing given the price tag.
Great for newcomers, but still tough to justify
If you’re new to the franchise and yet to experience the full story, The Last of Us Part 1 remake is unquestionably the best way to begin. It’s the most polished version of the original experience and should help ease the transition from Part 1 to Part 2. However, that’s not to say the previous versions of the game are in any way made obsolete due to this remake. Far from it.
With the original having hit store shelves just nine years ago, and given Naughty Dog’s penchant to overachieve, the very first build of the game isn’t yet all that dated. Similarly, with the PS4 remaster fresher still, the ‘old’ versions of the title hold up well to this day. For just a fraction of the price, or even at no added costs if you subscribe to PlayStation Plus Deluxe, you can experience the exact same game. Even with their age, these initial versions are still visually stunning and perform competently across the board.
This is what complicates the situation. Had The Last of Us launched in a rough state, the remake would be a great second attempt to stamp out any major issues. Had the game released at the beginning of the PS3 era, with noticeably poor graphics and performance, this remake would breathe new life into a title that desperately needed it. But since the original was ahead of its time and still holds up, it’s hard to recommend paying a premium for a slightly improved version.
If you have a PS5, want to see what it’s capable of, and have no history with The Last of Us franchise, you’re likely the perfect target for this release. For anyone outside of that criteria, it’s a very tough sell with its current price tag in mind.