The Last of Us Part I PS5 review. On the face of it, The Last Of Us Part I presents an undeniable offering. It is, by far, the absolute best version of The Last Of Us, a Game of a Generation calibre effort that has arguably defined the sky high production values that have underscored and set player expectations for every PlayStation Studios title since its release. On the other hand there is also a legitimate and sadly timely economic conversation to be made here, since after all, Sony seem quite happy to charge $70 for a game that content-wise at least, is overwhelmingly similar to The Last of Us Remastered which is still available for around $10 or can be had for free via PlayStation Plus Collection.
The Last of Us Part I PS5 Review
The Absolute Best Way To Play One Of The Best PlayStation Games Ever Made
So just to address the massive elephant (well, giraffe) in the room, The Last of Us Part I is content-identical to The Last of Us Remastered, albeit without the inclusion of the ‘classic’ Factions multiplayer. This means that the story, character arcs and Left Behind DLC are all structurally identical to what you had when The Last of Us released all those years ago. In a sense this is something of a disappointment because the $70 RRP for The Last of Us Part I might have been easier to swallow if it was delayed and bundled with the upcoming rework of The Last of Us Factions; a seemingly ambitious effort that is deemed to be one of the studio’s biggest projects to date. As it is however, The Last of Us Part I can only really be sold on its own merits and in that, your mileage will vary greatly depending on your circumstances.
Given that The Last of Us Part I is functionally a repeat of the game that we all played in 2013 (The Last of Us) and then again a year later (The Last of Us Remastered), I’m not going to harp on at length about the narrative, game mechanics and characters, other than to say that the premise of a world weary father escorting a girl across post-apocalyptic, amoral North America through a four season span is still as compelling as it ever was. Then there’s the combat too – an often wincingly brutal affair that would be bettered in the eventual sequel, the fact remains that taking out groups of thugs, infected and Clickers, will never not be satisfying and it has aged extremely well in that regard to say the least. With its essence resolutely unchanged and that raw, emotional core very much still intact, The Last of Us Part I represents the original The Last of Us story in its most perfect and refined form.
Certainly, the most obvious improvement that The Last of Us Part I brings to the table is the visuals, which have been upgraded significantly over what we saw in The Last of Us Remastered on PS4 and even PS4 Pro back in 2014. Quite simply everything has been overhauled from a visual standpoint in The Last of Us Part I to bring one of the best survival horror games of all time kicking and screaming onto PS5 hardware.
The Last of Us has always quite rightly been heralded for its vivid, living depiction of an apocalypse where nature is attempting to regain her domain – a certain far cry from the shop-worn dusty and scorched earth scenarios that are associated with the genre. Starting with the game world then, The Last of Us Part I leverages the massive leap in processing power that Sony’s current generation console provides to pack in a gargantuan amount of fine detail that just wasn’t there or possible before.
Every nook and cranny of the trek that The Last of Us Part I takes players on as it spirits players across North America is jam-packed with detail. From an appreciably huge increase in flora and fauna throughout, to much more dense fields of debris, puddles (which are now much more reflective of the environment) and more besides, the post apocalyptic North America that The Last of Us Part I depicts simply feels so much fuller and more fleshed out as a result.
Beyond the realms of Mother Nature, so too has the destroyed beauty of the civilisation that came before been granted a similar bounty of staggering visual improvement. Though the architecture of notable landmark structures such as the Capitol Building have been decked out with a much higher degree of ornate detail that gives the effect of The Last of Us Part I looking like a high-powered tech demo, so too have the more mundane structures and buildings been granted a similar uplift in detail that just wasn’t before. This lends a whole heap of weight behind the notion that this isn’t the same game remastered, but rather an all new product that has been remade from the ground up to better match the original ambitions of Naughty Dog’s cadre of talented artists.
Further afield, the huge uptick in facial detail and overall fidelity that the character models now boast also stretches far beyond a seemingly cynical upgrade too and serve a much greater purpose beyond the surface. Conversations now carry more emotional and nuanced heft as the wider range of more detailed facial expressions and improved character likenesses helps to enhance the intensity of the numerous emotional traumas and heartrending tragedies in ways that just weren’t able to be accomplished before.
Then there are the sheer amount of new visual effects that have been woven into the tapestry of The Last of Us Part I’s evocative presentation. Not only has texture detail seen an obvious and eye-opening increase across the board, so too has a range of all new lighting, shadowing and reflection effects work that makes The Last of Us Part I look every bit like the contemporary, stunning PlayStation Studios effort that it was always going to be. Likewise, the various environments also feel much more destructible than before, with bullets smashing against walls and items that are dotted around the world, creating a spectacle that you wouldn’t be able to replicate in the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game.
The Last of Us Part I also offers up a bevy of different visual presets for players to choose depending on their preference, too. Not only are there the usual two fidelity and performance modes which render at native 4K resolution/30 frames per second and dynamic 4K resolution/60 frames per second modes respectively, but owners of VRR compatible displays have another two visual modes to enjoy on top of that thanks to a special uncapped framerate toggle that can be used.
When the framerate is switched to uncapped on a VRR compliant display, The Last of Us Part I permits up to 120 frames per second with performance mode enabled, resulting in a substantial drop in resolution. However, if the uncapped toggle is enabled against the fidelity setting, The Last of Us Part I outputs at the higher detail setting with a 40 frames per second target.
Given the sheer amount of precise, up close and pin-point detail that is generously awash throughout The Last of Us Part I, the fidelity preset proves to be a more compelling option here at first than it does in other games with similar choices. Unfortunately, when fidelity mode is enabled in The Last of Us Part I, whether the framerate is uncapped or not, the framerate becomes quite unreliable, noticeably dipping especially deeply whenever Ellie or Joel decide to switch on their torchlights in dark, detail-rich environments. It’s a shame certainly, but hopefully this is an issue that can be optimised out of existence in a future patch.
All of that said, The Last of Us Part I doesn’t just provide us with the best looking version of one of the best PlayStation games ever made, but also a genuinely stunning PS5 effort that easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the best looking games that the console can offer. This is one absolutely beautiful game, make no mistake.
The danger of course, is that if you haven’t played The Last of Us for a few years and you hop right into The Last of Us Part I, you’re likely going to think that the substantial visual advances that the developer has made here were there all along. Essentially, it would be like The Last of Us Part I is always how you ‘remember’ The Last of Us looking, despite the fact that the PS3 and PS4 versions of The Last of Us aren’t even a patch on what The Last of Us Part I is doing here visually speaking. Of course, side-by-side comparisons very quickly reveal the absolute gulf of detail and fidelity that exists between The Last of Us Part I and every other version of the game released to date, but you’re not always going to have those comparisons to hand which is what will likely contribute to the mistaken (though understandable) idea that The Last of Us Part I is actually less of a visual leap than it actually is.
On a surface level, Naughty Dog has implemented other improvements that supplement the visual upgrades quite nicely and arguably the biggest of these is the new 3D audio implementation that has been engineered for The Last of Us Part I. Much like the visual improvements that Naughty Dog has brought to the table, so too does the implementation of 3D audio serve to double down on the cut-it-with-a-knife atmosphere that permeates every minute of The Last of Us Part I.
In its more intense moments, the 3D audio of The Last of Us Part I plays an expected but still keenly palpable role. Hearing enemy scavengers sneak around a long abandoned hotel, crunching their feet over nearby shattered glass as they attempt to manoeuvre around to your position has never sounded more visceral. Meanwhile, in the quieter moments of The Last of Us Part I, the 3D audio also serves to reinforce the atmosphere further still, as individual raindrops can be heard drumming down on the ruined chassis of nearby motor vehicles, while the call of nearby birds and other wildlife can be heard all around in the more rural environments of the game, underscoring the massive leap in immersion that The Last of Us Part I brings over its PS3 and PS4 predecessors.
A quick word about the AI, too. It’s certainly worth mentioning here that the enemies are much more switched on than they are in previous iterations of The Last of Us. Still capable of flanking moves and those sorts of basic tactics, the various foes that you’ll encounter in The Last of Us Part I are generally much more aggressive and leverage cover a lot more frequently, often engaging the player directly before retreating back into cover and even oftentimes ignoring any allies that Joel or Ellie may have with them in battle. Sure, it’s still not perfect and the enemy attack patterns can be predicted easily enough, but it still represents a significant improvement over what we’ve seen before.
Another aspect of The Last of Us Part I that makes the most of the potent PS5 hardware is the loading speed. Now just taking seconds to get into a game from a cold boot and providing near instantaneous loading of save states from within the game itself, getting back on track with Joel and Ellie’s journey has never been quicker. Away from the audiovisual and loading speed side of things, though it might appear that The Last of Us Part I is a straight one-to-one re-release of The Last of Us: Remastered, it isn’t quite that either. Though the in-game content, story, enemies, locations and other related events are the same as they always were, Naughty Dog has put some frankly massive work into the accessibility side of things, bringing The Last of Us Part I into seamless functional parity with 2020’s The Last of Us Part II.
Something else that Naughty Dog has added to The Last of Us Part I is a new Speedrun mode. Engineered for The Last of Us experts keen to beat the game as quickly as possible and representing a compelling incentive for finishing the game, Speedrun mode creates its own mini-UI which tracks your current play time, personal best chapter time and the name of the current chapter. It’s a neat addition, for sure.
Ultimately, there is a key concern about whether or not The Last of Us Part I needs to exist at all given the conservative approach that has been taken to the source material, in addition to the fact that The Last of Us Remastered is still freely available. The answer is of course a resounding yes, since the stunning amount of work that has gone into the accessibility side of The Last of Us Part I has meant that deaf and blind gamers can finally play one of the best action adventures ever for the very first time.
Certainly in The Last of Us Part I, Naughty Dog have once again gone the extra mile and then some when it comes to the engineering of accessibility options. From a high contrast mode, cinematic descriptions, an enhanced listening mode, customisable Dualsense feedback and even traversal audio cues that can aid hard of sight and blind players alike, this marks the very first time that blind or sight challenged gamers will be able to play The Last of Us and that achievement should absolutely be commended.
Hard of hearing and deaf players are also ably catered for too by the generous selection of accessibility features that The Last of Us Part I prescribes. From full story and combat real-time subtitles to a range of customisable UI elements, Naughty Dog are doing the Good Work here by catering for as a broad a spectrum of disabled gamers as possible and that too, should be shouted from the rooftops.
For folks that have played and completed The Last of Us before, the appeal will be arguably narrower but still potent. This is still the same game you’ve loved, played and completed across two other platforms over the last decade, but it feels and looks refined beyond belief – again, it bears repeating that The Last of Us Part I is by far the best way to play one of the best games ever made and as a super-fan of the series, I would certainly say that I fall into this group. However, I can also completely understand why others might feel short changed by the relative lack of bespoke new content for The Last of Us Part I to justify handing over $70 for a game that they’ve technically played and completed at least two times previously.
If however, you have the sorts of disabilities that have now been addressed by The Last of Us Part I’s suite of accessibility options, or happen to be part of a vanishingly small group of players that has somehow missed out on playing The Last of Us on PS3 and then again on PS4 in its remastered form, then The Last of Us Part I is quite simply essential in every way that a video game can be and you should put down the appropriate stacks to buy it right away.
There’s no denying that The Last of Us Part I might be a tough sell to folks who expected a reworked content offering in line with the overhauled audiovisual presentation and other technical advances. For those with accessibility needs, the lucky few who have yet to experience The Last of Us or even just the number of players who want to immerse themselves in the ultimate form of Naughty Dog’s opus, The Last of Us Part I makes a more than compelling case for its existence and stands shoulder to shoulder with the best games on PS5.
The Last of Us Part I releases for PS5 on September 2, 2022. A PC version is currently in active development.
Review code kindly provided by Sony PR.