The Last of Us Part One Review
It’s been 9 years since I first experienced The Last of Us, which I originally played on PS3. The game for me unraveled a story like no other I had ever experienced in my 30+ years of gaming. It brought me moments of excitement, hope, fear and even sadness.
I will say right now, and I’m not too proud to, this was the first video game that as a father…. made me cry. Ever since completing it back in 2013 it has been in my top 3 games of ALL TIME. I never played the version they brought to PS4 because partially I was afraid it wouldn’t make me feel the same way as it did that first time playing it again.
How could it capture that magic again? So, I skipped it. Now with the release of The Last of Us Part One on PS5, I dared finally to see if this could possibly capture the feeling of playing it again for the first time.
The game for those unfamiliar follows the journey of Joel, a man who has suffered immeasurable loss in his lifetime, just doing whatever it takes and fighting to survive.
The game takes place 20 years into a mutant fungus outbreak that caused humanity to crumble, also creating some humans effected into horrific creatures known as the infected. Without getting into any spoiler territory, he crosses paths with Ellie a 14-year-old girl who is on her own with no one to turn to, except Joel. The game then follows them on a massive trek through what’s left of the world in search of hope, if it even exists anymore.
Now as is with almost every post-apocalyptic setting, the creatures aren’t the only thing to worry about. There are plenty of folks still out there with nefarious intentions or even just others in your same situation, just trying to survive. But as Joel, you are determined and equipped to let nothing stand in your way. Over time Joel has learned a few things and continues to throughout the game.
The game takes place from a third-person point of view as you are looking over your characters shoulder. For combat you have melee, which can be done with just your bare knuckles, or you can pick up things such as 2x4s, pipes, machetes to use as well, however overtime they become worn down and do eventually break.
Later in the game you can learn ways to enhance these weapons to be more durable and damaging to those on the receiving end of things. Of course, you have guns as well including handguns, rifles, shotguns, etc. all of which can be tweaked and enhanced throughout the game using scavenged parts you find along the way and using a workbench. You get acquire a Bow as well which can be enhanced in the same fashion. For additional help, Joel can learn to craft healing kits, Molotov cocktails, nail bombs and smoke grenades all of which can be used to get you out of some uncomfortable situations a little bit easier.
The graphics in this game really show off just what the PS5 is capable of. The game looks absolutely stunning, the realism of things, lighting and shadows, the environments are all a master class of game design.
You can get a real sense of dread depending on some of these environments, the way the light plays tricks with the shadows and creates movement with the plants and land. You can see the spore particles in the air in certain parts and is enhanced by using your flashlight in dark places. It all works just as it should, and I found myself exploring around a lot and soaking it all in. Especially some of the views.
There is one very famous moment in the game too that with the enhanced visuals gave even more credence to the moment of peace in an otherwise chaotic game. Not to be overshadowed (pun intended) the sound design is also incredible, led by an obviously fantastic voice cast. But I played the entire game in my Pulse 3D headphones, which the game takes advantage of heavily and the sound was incredible.
From every step as you run, to gunshots, reloads, listening to the animals it’s all there. But the MOST effective use is with the creatures known as clickers. They are one of the mutated creatures mentioned above, but one key thing is they are blind. They rely on echo location in the form of clicking (hence the name) so you have to either be prepared for a fight or go into stealth mode and take every step with care to navigate around them if you are low on ammo or don’t want to stir the beehive if there are many.
With the 3D audio you can hear the location of the clickers…. even when you don’t see them. For instance, if they are off to the right, I would predominantly hear it in my right ear. But I can tell you with experience when one is behind you as you are creeping along with the audio effects it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up absolutely chilling. The game also of course now utilizes haptic feedback on the Dual Sense which lets you feel the rain drops, the crunching of the rocks or snow below you. The adaptive triggers also make weapons like the bow and shotgun just feel that more real.
With the enhanced version detailed below even show the changes done from PS4 to PS5, lots of folks focused on the look of the characters, saying well it’s not much better. Sure, that may be true, but I think it gave them more realism.
Joel at the start of the game, pre-apocalypse was mid 30’s or so. The screenshot below should put him in the mid 50’s living a hard life in what’s left of society, I think it suits him much better. For Ellie, she looks much less Disney/Pixar and more real world as well. BUT what a lot of people haven’t mentioned is the environments, using the picture below for an example.
Look at the walls and changes in these shot for shot comparisons. You can see the lighting effects in play, how the walls and items on it have more texture more realism to it. Then looking at the couch behind Ellie, look at the drastic changes there as well, it has more life, more wear in it which are little details but things I notice.
During one portion of the game while controlling Ellie, I shot someone and for whatever reason i was holding on to the aiming button and i noticed slight trembling in Ellie’s hands, and I thought just WOW. Of course, a 14-year-old kid who just murdered someone would be shaking…just the little details some may not notice, but they are there to tell the story.
I saw some folks with early hands-on impressions state that not enough changed and that this didn’t need to be made, cash grab etc. Well, I’m here to defend that stance honestly.
When first announced I too was like wow this is being released again for the 3rd time. But after playing it, to me it became clear that the version released on PS4 was actually the one that didn’t need to be released. This game on the new engine, with all the enhancements they made was done to make it look and feel as great as The Last of Us Part 2.
This game virtually made me feel like I was playing it again for the first time, sure I remembered much of the plot points, but it still hit me in the feels, still got my blood pumping and I enjoyed every second of it. The Last of Us once, again proves that is bluntly, clearly, and undeniably is video game perfection.