Review | The Last of Us Part 1: a justified remake or sinful cash grab? | Culture

Amid an era when remakes and reboots of pop culture media are a common phenomenon, it’s no surprise the video game industry would also jump on this trend. First released back in 2013 and later remastered for the PlayStation 4 in 2014, The Last of Us Part 1 is a narrative-driven zombie survival game created by Naughty Dogs Studio. 

The game revolves around the harrowing journey of Joel — an old, disgruntled man trying to make ends meet — and Ellie — a young teen who’s eager to explore the world beyond the safety of walls and is always ready for a new challenge. Together, they make their way across the country trying to reach the main operations base of the Fireflies — a militia group of radicals — because Ellie might be the key in developing a cure for the zombie-ridden virus.

A remastered game is just a game where pre-existing assets and the in-game engine is updated to run better with the current generation of consoles; a remake is when a game is built from the ground up and can drastically change how the game looks and plays. With the remastered version of The Last of Us Part 1 still standing up to today’s standards in both gameplay mechanics and graphics, many fans of the series were split in their opinion when a remake was announced for the game.

Fans who were excited about the remake had hoped the game would be improved to match the capabilities of its sequel, which was released in 2020 — a proper remake that would take advantage of the PlayStation 5’s hardware. On the other hand, fans who were skeptical of this announcement felt that a remake was too soon and would be overshadowed by the PS4 remastered version, as they felt that not much can be improved from an already upstanding remastered title. 

To make matters worse, the remake is priced at a whopping $70 price tag; many gamers and even hardcore fans of the series were enraged that the remake would be the same price as the brand-new PlayStation 5 game. The main question that would justify fans purchasing the game at its full price is: Will there be drastic improvements and changes from the remastered to be considered a proper remake?

Even before the start of the first cutscene, one immediate improvement of the remake is the accessibility options. Just as the sequel was praised for its inclusivity, The Last of Us remake brings and adds to its features that allow for more expansive audio cues and various color and contrast to allow even those who are legally blind to play the game without a hitch. 

The most drastic and noticeable aspect of the game is the graphical improvements in both the characters and the environment. Character models have been recreated to resemble their actors more closely. Additionally, facial animation has been improved with emotions appearing more alive and making each scene with character interaction and dialogue much more impactful and alive. 

With the game running up to a 4K resolution, improvements in lighting and shadows make environments pop more and make it more distinguishable between transitions. The attention to detail in creating a post-apocalyptic world makes the world of The Last of Us that much more terrifying to explore.

However, it’s more than the aesthetics that you see on the screen that’s been given an overhaul: Gameplay physics and mechanics have been modernized as explosions feel more impressive as fire moves and looks more natural in environments. Even how water is interacted with during gameplay seems far more impressive in the remake than in the remaster. When it’s raining, you can see individual droplets splashing on puddles; when characters trudge along large bodies of water, ripples across the water surface are realistic and can’t help but actually feel like real water and not just a bunch of code. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) companions and enemies have also been improved in making “smarter” decisions. Characters are acting and moving with caution and even with awareness from other characters based upon the severity of the situation and environmental props and hazards, making the player experience that much more captivating. Furthermore, the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller brings immersion to another level for gamers. The haptic feedback and adaptive triggers let players feel the tension of pulling back a bow and arrow or the momentum of a gunshot.

With all that in mind, is The Last of Us Part 1 remake worth the full $70 price tag? It’s honestly hard to say since there are varying factors that might be personal to each individual that might influence their opinion. However, it’s a shame there isn’t any new content and in fact, less content. The remake doesn’t include the original’s multiplayer mode — Fractions, a mode that still has a strong community to this day — and I was disappointed there wasn’t an updated multiplayer functionality to play with friends.

The game is, however, justified to be a remake and the definitive version to play the game. The remake having overhauled the visuals and gameplay mechanics of a game close to a decade old to take advantage of the PlayStation 5’s hardware is an experience that both old and new players should experience. 

Contact Andrew Kwak at [email protected] For more on the culture, arts, and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.

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