The Last of Us Part 1 Review: An expensive re-remaster

A premium price tag alongside a dated core.

The Last of Us is an undeniable masterpiece, a well-crafted title that rightfully made a couple Stevivor staffers’ “Best Games of the Last Ten Years” lists (including my own) not too long ago. But therein lies the problem: the original Last of Us on PS3 is less than ten years old and has already been followed up with a PS4 remaster called, unsurprisingly, The Last of Us Remastered.

With that name already taken, Sony’s now released The Last of Us Part 1 on PS5, but don’t let that fool you: this is the same PS3 title you’ve played many a time before, re-remastered and with a premium price tag.

If Sony and Naughty Dog can retread the same content, so can I. Back in 2013, our own Matt Gosper described the title as “the story of Joel and Ellie, a survivor and a child in a world ravaged by an outbreak that has destroyed civilisation as we know it. Taking the role of Joel, you’ll journey halfway across the United States in search of answers and a better life, all while doing your best to protect Ellie in the face of an unrelenting world.”

Matt continued on to say that, “in the game’s setting, the cordyceps fungus – a parasite that targets and takes over insects to spread its spores – has mutated and adapted to humans, resulting in a variety of horrifying mutations which leave the host as nothing more than a mindless killer. It’s an interesting twist on the standard ‘zombie apocalypse’ trope, made all the more terrifying if you’ve ever taken the time to read about cordyceps as it behaves in reality.”

Playing for the most part as Joel, you’ll settle into a third-person, behind-the-shoulder view in a post-apocalyptic USA, usually with an AI-controlled companion in tow. In some segments, you’ll explore the environment, slowly piecing together (as the player for the most part, though Ellie is a bit sheltered as a 14-year-old) how this world came to be. You’ll be forced to fight other survivors or, worse yet, the zombie-like beings that have toppled the world. Joel is armed with an arsenal of weaponry, from guns to 2x4s or bricks, and can craft items like health packs and shivs, the latter of which aren’t only useful for stealth killing zombies, but accessing locked doors that contain always-useful supplies.

Naughty Dog has painstakingly moved to bring The Last of Us to modern times in terms of visuals. Ellie’s model looks straight out of The Last of Us Part 2 — and likely is, thanks to flashback sequences found within that game — while Part 2‘s lighting effects have also been employed. At face value, The Last of Us Part 1 looks as good, if not better, than any current PS5 title out there. Cutscenes are where this re-remaster shines, with extremely lifelike models, animations and facial expressions. The care and attention put into Part 1‘s facelift is commendable, though sadly — and just like a real facelift — is ultimately superficial.

The real problem with this package is that gameplay hasn’t been given that same treatment. Despite promises that AI behaviour has been improved upon, you’ll immediately notice when your NPC companion just walks out in the open right in front of human or zombie enemies… just like back in 2013; thankfully, it doesn’t matter to gameplay now as it didn’t then either.

I audiably groaned when my flashlight fizzled out for the first time and an on-screen prompt suggested I wiggle my DualShock — oh, sorry, make that my DualSense — to turn it back on. While they were standard at the time, unnecessary ladder puzzles or segments were you squeeze through narrow passages — aka bits that were hiding the PlayStation loading the next area for you to explore — stand out now that we have super-fast SSDs and no need for such artifical barriers.

Lemme borrow from myself now, circa 2014: “I know the game’s story. I’m aware of what happens in its tragic prologue, and that carries all the way onto its epilogue.

“Just with your favourite movies, they’re still amazing and enjoyable, but you can’t recapture that experience you have when you walk into an unknown property. If you’ve already played the game, it mightn’t be worth jumping back in so quickly.”

Sony’s even taken to the PlayStation Blog with the giraffe shot (above). The giraffe shot! You remember that — it was neat! It’s decidedly not a spoiler anymore, because we all know it.

Back in 2014, I wasn’t thrilled that Sony repackaged The Last of Us using a strategy as it’s again adopted for 2022. Though, with the option for double the framerate than before and gameplay that was only a year old, there was still something to be said for Remastered at that time. That’s also more allowable given that the PS3 wasn’t as widespread as the PS4 or even the PS5, in terms of user adoption in their respective generations.

The problem here is that anyone with a PS4 has — or at the very least, should have — played The Last of Us already. Now on PS5, it’s a much harder sell: this is a PS3 game that looks like a PS5 one that’s also been jacked up to Sony’s premium, $125 AUD current-gen console title price point. That’s unacceptable.

If you’re one of the very few PlayStation owners that hasn’t played The Last of Us and doesn’t require the fantastic accessibility options found within Part 2 and now Part 1 — or you’re not a hardcore Trophy hunter — you don’t need this game. The Last of Us Remastered on PS4 is priced at $25 AUD on the PlayStation Store (and likely cheaper at physical retailers) and will certainly get the job done. That’s $100 AUD less than what this title is on offer for via the same marketplace, and it really boils down to that. Good looks can only get you so far.

This is like an old PC game that gets an HD texture pack by a modder, except that has already happened, officially, from Sony on PS4 and is again happening now. And you’re paying a premium for it each and every time.

6.5 out of 10

The Last of Us Part 1 was reviewed using a retail disc and current digital patch on PS5, as purchased by Stevivor. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale and click here to read more about our post-launch Sony reviews.

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