It doesn’t feel like massive stretch to suggest that The Last of Us Part 1 is already one of the most polarising remakes of all time — and that’s not just limited to video games, either. From the eye-watering price point to the fact that the remaster still holds up pretty well, The Last of Us Part 1 has been garnering as many headlines as everything TLOU-related seems to get these days. But having actually played the remake, is The Last of Us Part 1 worth buying?
The answer to that may sound like a cop-out, but it really does depend in more ways than most video games purchases do. If you’ve never played The Last of Us (either in its PS3 or PS4 versions), and don’t mind putting down the mightily expensive £70/$70 for the definitive version of the original game’s single-player story, this remake is easy to recommend. However, if you’ve already played The Last of Us, own its remaster, or don’t have money to burn, it’s just as easy to recommend that you simply wait for the price to drop.
The simplest way of putting it is: Do you want a Blu-ray that’s more than good enough or the fancy, pricey 4K special edition from Criterion?
The Last of Us Part 1 polishes up the gameplay and brings the ugliness of post-apocalyptic America into visceral focus in more stunning ways than ever, but calling it a true, full-fat remake that’s been “rebuilt from the ground up” feels just a bit on the misleading side. The gameplay scenarios are pretty much identical, the scenes play out largely 1:1 to the original, and the gameplay changes don’t feel massive enough to warrant the remake tag, more like it’s just building on top of what was already there. It’s a remake in the same way that the 2007 American version of Funny Games (which is, funnily enough, another remake by its original creators) is a remake of the 1997 German original — shinier, prettier, and featuring some more modern techniques, but still fundamentally the same thing.
Having completed the original on Grounded and basically playing it front to back, there were a few key differences that did stand out for me during my playthrough. Combat felt more intense with smarter enemies that constantly made me re-evaluate the situation, while the level of gore was significantly stepped up — I paused almost in shock when a legless infected starting crawling towards me. The transitions between cinematics and gameplay are more seamless, and the cinematics themselves are unmistakably gorgeous and an early marker for the rest of the stuff this generation, particularly in the minutiae of facial emotions and the rather insanely detailed workbench animations (even if they do just get in the way after a while).
Apart from that, though, playing The Last of Us Part 1 (and Left Behind, the brisk yet still great DLC) felt like putting on a comfortable jacket. I remembered almost exactly where everything was, what everything did, how to complete platforming puzzles, look out for specific enemies, when to start preparing the tissues, and so on. I took my time with everything and made sure to check every nook and cranny, and yet I struggled to find any actual new content. A lot of things have been carried over from what Naughty Dog learned on The Last of Us Part 2, yet the lack of a dodge or prone option feels like a real missed opportunity to not truly modernise the original and make its combat feel wholly updated and fresh.
It must be said, however, that The Last of Us Part 1 did reinvigorate my enjoyment of The Last of Us in general, as I became fully immersed in Joel and Ellie’s relationship as if it was the first time, even though I have now completed it around five times across three different generations. While it’s a bit disappointing that so little of the overall package has been changed compared to what the fantastic Resident Evil 2 remake accomplished, it’s hard to deny that The Last of Us Part 1 is now the definitive way of experiencing this incredible story. The 3D audio completely sucked me in and put me on edge for every infected screech, the adaptive triggers added heft to every shot, and the haptic feedback from the trickling of rain or cocking of a shotgun never got old. You almost definitely won’t ever go back to either the original game or PS4 remaster after playing this PS5 version.
However, it’s impossible to not bring up and have concerns about The Last of Us Part 1 in terms of value for money, which is by far and away its biggest problem. The Last of Us Part 1 is simply not worth £70/$70. It just isn’t. Even as a brand new player, you may need to pause before putting down so much money for what feels like the world’s most expensive remaster. While Sony has straddled the line in the past with their other remakes, at least those either cost less or genuinely felt a little long in the tooth. Here, Sony and Naughty Dog have dropped the absolutely excellent multiplayer (and dozens of hours of tense fun with it), added some silly cheats and unlockables to compensate, then asked for $20 more than The Last of Us Remastered ever cost while still using a lot of that game’s framework.
It all feels a bit like Sony has been taking too many cues from Apple in terms of pitching themselves as a premier brand, ramping up prices just because they can while also offering less value overall. This, along with the PS5 price hike, paid upgrades, discless collector’s editions, cynical deluxe editions, and general increases in game prices, isn’t a great look, especially with a financial disaster seemingly on the horizon for us all. If it comes down to a question of being able to live more comfortably for a week or playing a remake that costs more with less content than a game you can play right now with the PlayStation Plus Collection or buy for about 1/7th of the price, it’s not really much of a question at all.
A PS5 key was provided by PR for the purposes of this coverage.
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