Throughout life, there are bound to be some memorable experiences one would wish to simply forget, just so that there is a new opportunity to enjoy the moment yet again. And thanks to improving technology, the world of games gets to do just that with remakes and remasters. For Naughty Dog’s latest action-adventure project, The Last of Us Part I, the intimate familiarity of how everything plays out is superseded by the amazing details that breathe new life into the 2013 masterpiece, ramping up the emotional stakes even more.
The elephant in the room to be addressed is definitely the justification of whether this remake should exist at its current price point of SG$97.90, and it will be hard to find a reason supporting the costs involved, especially for longtime fans. Yet, if you happen to have never played the original, it is strikingly clear that this is the best way to enjoy one of gaming’s most seminal titles. And for veterans, it is an excellent way to view an impactful story through a decidedly fresher lens via the technological breakthroughs of the PlayStation 5.
From the much-improved lighting and physics systems, the 3D audio that simply makes the world come alive with every blood-curdling scream of the infected, to the tremendous facial animations of each and every character, it becomes clearer why Naughty Dog was adamant about going down this route instead of an intensive overhaul of its systems or general gameplay.
It definitely brings to mind comparisons with The Last of Us Part II, with this remake giving the sequel a run for its money in graphical fidelity. Old, recognisable areas are suddenly filled with details galore, characters that were never that eye-catching become more fleshed out, and naturally, these are the most accurate mo-cap performances by the many actors behind the scenes that can be presented to players.
Subtle changes in body language and facial expressions do more to enrich an already strong narrative than one would expect. Expect the stakes to feel much higher, and the tears to flow more freely with this tale of loss, grief, and redemption in a post-apocalyptic world beset by a fungal infection.
Save for a few animation gaffes, it will be hard to think of The Last of Us Part I as something other than a native PS5 game; that’s just how good the remake is when it comes to visuals. Even against some of the platform’s latest blockbusters, it can compete, and that is certainly no mean feat.
On the gameplay front, things are less ideal in the sense that nothing significant has been changed, but returning players will find an experience that is much more accessible, smoother, and just better to play.
The intense combat benefits from an upgrade in the enemy’s AI programming, no longer giving the advantage to Joel and Ellie. Your foes will fight harder, smarter, and attempt to catch the pair out, often engaging in flanking manoeuvres that will keep even the most seasoned player on their toes. For the moment-to-moment combat, there is nothing more exhilarating than emerging by the skin of your teeth, and The Last of Us Part I has plenty of such encounters.
In terms of more specific PS5 upgrades, the use of haptic feedback, as is the case for much of its implementation, heightens the immersion when exploring and fighting. Adaptive triggers do the job as well, ensuring that every round fired has weight and heft to it, keeping the player fully focused on the task at home.
Naughty Dog has also added extra content in the form of outfits, new viewable dioramas that could easily be something fans want in real life, and more specialised modes for the hardcore speedrunning or permadeath audiences. The ability to choose between Performance and Fidelity modes is also welcomed.
That is contrasted with the aforementioned lack of meaningful gameplay tweaks, and the loss of the Factions mode will be especially harmful to those that had blast with the multiplayer that tested all the survival skills.
In the end, the true strength of The Last of Us Part I lies firmly in its storytelling; familiar yes, but never more keenly felt or expressed in both major and minor story beats. Players are not going to get groundbreaking and innovative gameplay additions with this remake, which is definitely a missed opportunity, but seeing the original vision of the team finally come to fruition is not exactly a bad deal either.
And that’s the conundrum that has to be resolved for fans, a problem that is nonexistent for new players discovering the series for the first time or coming over after watching the HBO show that is due to debut next year.
For what it’s worth, The Last of Us Part I is an absolute tour de force when it comes to utilising technology to tell a story that cuts deeper this time around, with even more details to wow and amaze those that care to look so closely. This is an excellent PS5 game meant to be enjoyed by all, even if the price might not seem all that worth it after all.
The value of the remake that is The Last of Us Part I will forever be debated; what’s not to be argued is its amazing storytelling brought to the next level and the gameplay still holding up nine years on.