The Last Of Us Part I REVIEW (PS5)
Developed: Naughty Dog
Published: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: Sept 2nd, 2022
*Review copy provided by Playstation*
The Last Of Us Part 1 is a remake of often claimed masterpiece from the PS3 era, that is developed by Naughty Dog and published by SIE. After being remastered previously on PS4, Naughty Dog now aims to re-work the game for the modern generation in hopes to provide an even grander experience. But do they succeed in their attempt? or was this remake just not needed at all? Only one way to find out, so lets go.
In a ravaged civilization, where infected and hardened survivors run rampant, Joel, a weary protagonist, is hired to smuggle 14-year-old Ellie out of a military quarantine zone. However, what starts as a small job soon transforms into a brutal cross-country journey. Hunted by not only infected mutations, but other humans as well, Joel and Ellie must find strength in each other in order to survive their ordeal.
So far from the get go, the Last Of Us remake has been a somewhat polarizing title. Not in the same way The Last Of Us 2 was of course, but mainly over two main topics. The price point of $70 and does it need to even exist at this point in time?. Honestly I have my opinions on both of these, but that will be answered the further we get into this review. For a quick disclaimer, this review will not be like my normal reviews where we go down story beat after story beat until we reach the conclusion, because let me be honest, most everyone knows the full story already. But that's not saying I'll skimp out on things either, I will still give some story details, as well as my opinions on specific scenes, game play, thoughts of character arcs and everything and anything in between.. and even talk about Ellie being my spirit human with how much of a cuss bucket she is with her sassy attitude. I can totally relate to her attitude. So lets dive into this condensed review and see if this upgrade is actually worth it.
At its core, the Last Of Us is your very basic third person shooter, with L2 being your aiming button, R2 to shoot, D-Pad to switch between usable health items or throwables, cover system, etc. If you've played a third person shooter ever in your entire life, then nothing on that front is new. However, where this title truly stands out against the rest of the pack is in its story telling, narrative and character arcs as you playthrough the entirety of its story. The game starts you off at the height of the outbreak in which Joel, loses his daughter in a downright tragic event due to the military taking the ''kill dozens to save the many'' approach. Which is entirely screwed up. Witnessing the scene of Joel's loss of his daughter in 2022 is just as sad and depressing as it was in 2013. We then flash forward to twenty years in the future where Joel is an older man, bitter, angry and just existing for the sake of existing. He has a cold demeanor to nearly everyone. But as story progresses through events like Rogers hiring people to beat up his friend Tessa, meeting back up with your brother in a semi reconciliation from years of not talking, coming to terms with the loss of his daughter, being around Ellie and realizing there is something to live for after all and shooting someone in the face while they beg for their life and me just telling them ''bro, chill, I'm not gonna kill you, just shut up already''.. but then I do it anyways just to be an ass. All those are just some of the events that transpire that help Joel continue to grow and open up as a character. Well minus my antics that is, we can't count that.
As you wade your way through eerie boat yards, swampy looking cities, beautiful woods, the cold icy snow and many other underground subway areas, you will have a chance to become accustomed to how this game actually plays. I mean I said it was a third person shooter, but there's a lot more to it than just standard pointing and shooting anything that moves. This isn't duck hunt... although I wish it was because then I'd be able to throw a brick in that dang dog's face just like I did to hunters in this game. Full Home Alone 2 treatment all the way. That's how its done, Kevin. Even though shooting is the focal point of how this game plays, I mean, again, its a shooter, its strongly encouraged that you conserve any ammo you collect to use in emergency only situations due to mutated threats like Bloaters, Runners and Clickers taking a bit more force to take down than the usual human enemies that hunt you down. Crouching down and doing the duck walk, you can sneak up behind enemies and press Triangle to give everyone big nice care bear hug of death, hide behind cover of a wall or barricade and either use crafted items like knives, molotovs or land mines to strategically use to your advantage. For example you can use bottles to cause a distraction to lure an enemy away from you so you can make a sneaky get away, or be a super jerk like me and toss a land mine down on the ground, then throw a bottle to lure them to my location and them BOOM, watch them as they explode into tiny bity pieces. Simply amazing stuff. That's part of the beauty of this title. You can truly play how you wish to play. You can run and gun your way through enemy fire and stabbing people in the neck with a knife, throw bottles in peoples faces like you're the bottle kids from trailer park boys, use square to melee punch and go into a Rocky like fighting frenzy, or pull out molotovs to really heat things up. I know, that was a bad pun, but come on, nothing beat's crafting molotovs and then being like ''hey bro... you're fired''.
While I still have plenty more to talk about with the gameplay, trust me, I want to dive into some of the story that caught my eye in 2013 and now 2022 , touched a nerve with me, or some of the highlights of why this game stands out above a typical run of the mill shooter game. When you progress through the game, after you get orders to take Ellie to the Firefly headquarters, which is across the united states, since Ellie may hold the key to finding a cure potentially by using her blood, Joel is a bit of a sour puss, he doesn't want to baby sit and is only doing it cause Tessa wants to do it herself, but after she sadly dies from the worlds biggest hickie, Joel decides, ''fine, I'll take her just because you asked me to'', while secretly wishing that this punk kid doesn't end up like a yoshi's island scenario. There first interactions are those of angst. He doesn't want to be a baby sitter and she doesn't want an adult telling her what to do. Complete polar opposites of each other. But as they spend more time together as they journey together, that begins to change and that hate starts to become a father and daughter dynamic. You start seeing signs of this when Joel is fending off a bunch of enemies by himself, only for Ellie to come to the rescue and save him, he doesn't say thank you or acknowledge it and is very cold to her, mean even, he's such a freaking jerk. You know what Joel, I'm not inviting you out golfing with me next time with that attitude.. oh... wait.. never mind. Even though the start of the relationship goes a lot like this for a long time, he does start caring for Ellie and thinking of her as his own kid, becoming more protective and worrying of her and doing whatever he can do keep her safe. Whether its him wanting her to stay back no matter what from gun fire, helping her across water in a pallet cause she cant swim, risking his life to find her after she was kidnapped by a group of cannibals and stopping at nothing to find her... in which he finds her absolutely obliterating someone's face with a machete, Jason Voorhee's style. Girl goes nuts. But these aren't the only key moments that I personally felt their relationship change, even though they're still small or pivotal ones. It goes well beyond this.
When traveling with Ellie, you meet an older brother and his younger brother, who's the same age as Ellie, after teaming up for awhile with a ton of close calls, Joel and Ellie get separated from each other with Ellie being paired with older brother Henry, and you as Joel, with younger brother, Sam. This is when you notice some key differences in Joel's behavior and begin seeing signs that the good part of him and caring side of him is still in there somewhere. Joel with Sam is more reassuring when he completes a task or does something right, this is contrast to his behavior towards Ellie by being a jerk and never complimenting her for a good job. Why is this? well to me its because Sam is a pretty timid kid, weaker and not mentally strong. Being rude or showing him tough love would emotionally break him and Joel knows this and takes a kinder approach to him. He doesn't have to do this with Ellie because she's strong willed and minded and self dependent. The writing here can be seen as very subtle, but I saw it as a key moment where Joel opens up his kinder side, while also showing how much he respects and trusts Ellie as a person and as a daughter by the way he treats her in comparison. Keeping her hardened and focused in this cruel and screwed up world, it best suits her strengths. On the flip side, its also Ellie who becomes more of who she truly is as well - sure she's foul mouthed and blunt, but she's also just a kid. During their hardest of times, she tries to brighten the mood by cracking a joke, trash talking Joel for fun with quips or reading a pun book to him to try to get him to laugh and lighten the mood. Honestly, this is probably the most relatable scene in the game for me, mostly because I love REALLY REALLY bad puns. These are only just a few of the great moments between these two characters in your 16 to 20 hour playthrough that makes you understand why so many people fell in love with these characters to begin with. There's just so many great interactions between Joel and Ellie that its impossible to list them all and do them justice.
But getting to these moments isn't just a walk in the park either, because you're going to need to keep upgrading your arsenal in order to survive the treacherous times that await you. You can do this by crafting new throwables, health kits, collecting items known as supplement pills in order to upgrade your maximum health, upgrade your listen mode distance to see enemies behind walls, crafting speed, healing speed, etc. These will be extremely crucial to survival. But what about the guns you say? I talked briefly early about the melee combat with the different ways you can be a jerk, but I haven't talked about the gun play. As you plow through all these stupid hunters or mutations, you can pick up weapons like pistols, shotguns, rifles, bows and arrows, etc, and each weapon in the game are able to be upgraded in regards to their reload speed, holding capacity, firing rate and so forth. To be fair, you do not need to do this in order to beat the game, but I encourage it because it helps boost your play style immensely. Like myself using the bow and arrow through most the latter half of my playthrough and utilizing smoke bombs to hide via smoke screen cover, then proceeding to shoot someone in the neck or chest with a bow and watching them fall down on their dead partner and being like ''awww, little baby goes sleepy with his friend'', to taunt them and man, it just feels so dang awesome. Collectibles are also a big part of your time in this game, no not like the traditional collectibles you get in a platforming game, no, moreover, these are in relation to manuals. Manuals here act as a sort of guidance and upgrade system for your weapons and survival skills, with additional upgrades like adding sharp edges to your melee weapons, knots, etc. It costs a lot of your material's to use just one time, but putting spikes on a lead pipe or 2x4 and sticking it in someone's skull is just bliss. You can stab someone viciously and be like, ''oh yeah baby, I guess he was a little to.. head strong''. Am I right? no? alright then.
On top of the upgradable weapons, skills, crafting, stealth gameplay and cool kills, you see a great improvement in each of the games designs for characters and their environment. Is it a super major overhaul? yes and no, but it is still pretty significant and gorgeous looking either way. Everything looks way more crisp, clean and smoother, from the green forests and plant life growing within the time forgotten cities, the desolate abandoned underground subways, the amazing looking rain effects, the ice cold rivers during the winter with their realistic movement and lighting that really makes the cold effect hit home and also something that makes me think to myself that I better not fall in this dang river like Sassy did in homeward bound, because I don't think an old man will be saving me like he did for her at the end of this scenario. By far though my favorite re-vamped scene the game is after Ellie's kidnapping incident, she's completely dead inside, depressed and in a funk do to mental traumatization - she doesn't talk anymore and its awkward as heck. But this all changes when ToysRUs re-opens and Jeffrey the giraffe makes his presence known and she rushes you to the roof where you see a family of giraffes walking around the abandoned city. The design, graphics, the lighting, its all phenomenal. In an already gorgeous scene, it just got even MORE gorgeous. It makes this heartwarming scene between Joel and Ellie that much more touching than it originally was and I absolutely love it.
Besides the main games story, you also have the expansion DLC, Left Behind, included in this package as well. Its a short and sweet endeavor to take on, clocking in at roughly two hours. You will join Ellie, alongside her friend, Riley, as you witness the pre-events of the main game and see Ellie go from a novice, to the honed and fearless survivor she becomes in The Last Of Us. Its a vastly different experience from the horrors Ellie goes through with Joel, but's definitely worth a playthrough at least once.
Uh oh. I'm in for it now. Contrary to everything I've said so far and boasting about the games stealth, gun play, story, characters, crafting, there are several issues I have with the game, some very minor and a few medium ranked ones. Nothing completely damning if I'm going to be honest. On a few occasions I ran into glitches that impeded my progression through the game with the raft or rather pallet, getting stuck and freezing my character completely when trying to help Ellie across a plain of water. This was annoying and caused me to have to restart from a previous save just to fix it. Not something that happened a lot, but it exists either way. My second gripe has to do with the lack of multiplayer in this version of the game. I realize its being created as a standalone at this time. but I feel its a big detriment to the game and its pricing point of $70. Offering a game that has been released multiple times before, ala GTA V and Skyrim, then going and charging more for it with cut features is just a really big no no in my opinion. I'm not a fan of that business model personally. But that's a rant for another day. Devils advocate on that flipside, I realize the amount of money put into re-working the game, but I still can't get over my opinion on it, even with understanding that. I'm sorry.
At the end of the day, even with its issues like glitches and cut multiplayer, there's still an amazing amount of greatness to be seen and played in this remake. From watching Bill and Ellie trash talk each other and her beating him with a pipe in a funny moment, appreciating the AI helping you out by letting you know which way enemies are coming from, Intense moments like being chased by a bloater while trying to use a keycard to get through a door and hearing him get closer and close as I whine ''omg no no no, go go go'', blowing up 3 people at once with a land mine and painting the ground red, laughing as Ellie attempts to whistle and fail and me laughing at her for not being as good as Quail Man, emotional moments like when Joel can't bring himself to abandon Ellie to the firefly's because he loves her like a daughter after their long journey of bonding, discovering cool Naughty Dog Easter eggs with figures of Nathan Drake and Jak and Daxter, intense moments with Ellie drowning in a water filled subway and Joel desperately trying to bring her back, etc. There's just so much to love here in this remake and even in the original 2013 version too, that I can easily tell you to buy this right now. But am I going to? Not really. For me the hang up is a few things.
For one, the $70 price tag, along with cut content, I think is a major factor here. You're paying more for a less when you can play this same game, minus the graphical upgrades on both PS4 and PS3. It's a remake that for people who already played this game before, might see as not having a reason to exist, if I'm going to be blunt. Sure, it has some of the best accessibility features that I can think of for a game in recent memory, allowing people with blindness and other disabilities to experience this great story for the first time, which is not only amazing, but inspiring, but at the time, as an overall consumer, $70 is still a really steep price for what they're offering you. If you've played this game before, do you need it again? not really, but for people who have never played it, is it something you SHOULD play? 100% absolutely. But.. more so at the $40 range rather than a $70 tag. I know I'm going to get cooked more than Gordon Ramsay does to people, but I gotta stay honest. So with all this having been said, my verdict is clear. GameNChick says WAIT, at least for the $40 price point, then pick this bad boy up.