The Last Of Us Part I Reviews Praise The Visuals, But The Misery Porn Remains

·8-min read
Ellie from the Last of Us holds a rifle.
Ellie from the Last of Us holds a rifle.

Well, here we are. The Last of Us Part I, the re-remake of 2013’s legendary PS3 title of the same name (minus the “Part” bit) has arrived after plenty of skepticism and a chorus of gamers and critics alike asking: Do we need this (again)?

The Last of Us Part I is a remake of a modern classic. When it landed on the PS3, it did so thunderously, with an impressive story, gameplay that matched its thematic tones of brutality, and the best graphics on the system (my PS3 never sounded more like a jet engine). The game also raised the prickly question of whether or not media, and especially games, ought to be valued for their “funness,” as it was sometimes hard to say that The Last of Us, with all its misery and brutality, was a “fun” game to play. A remaster that upped the resolution and framerate hit the PlayStation 4 in 2014, and a controversial sequel, The Last of Us Part II, arrived on the same console in 2019.

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As such, it’s valid to ask whether or not going back to this very familiar story is at all needed, especially when there’s a seemingly very accurate HBO television adaptation on the way as well. And reviewers are grappling with this. Beyond all the snark some meaningful conversations are occuring, and reviews are reflecting that.

The conversation seems to hover around three different topics.

First is improved visual fidelity. Is all that money you spent (or might spend) on that fancy PS5 worth it for the pixels? Such is Eurogamer’s focus, with Digital Foundry’s John Linneman providing his expert technical analysis and concluding that, yes, in fact, this remake is one hell of a technical accomplishment.

Then there’s the question of how this game, meaning the very experience of playing The Last Of Us, has aged. When it premiered, it was very unique in what it delivered. Nearly a decade later, it feels less so. Destructoid more or less suggests that, while this is the best way to play the first game, if you’ve already had your fill, and especially if you weren’t impressed, there ain’t much else here for you. If it tired you out the first time, you don’t need to go back.

Finally, there are folks who have never played The Last of Us before. I envy you. Polygon was one outlet that explored the newcomer angle, with a review that looks at the game for the first time and discusses the difficult, if not necessarily un-fun, aspects of its gameplay and story. Naughty Dog’s technical proficiency and the PS5’s power might improve the experience, but it’s still just as potentially frustrating with its gun mechanics and deadly, sometimes difficult stealth sequences.

Overall, reviewers seem to be finding The Last of Part I the best way to visit or revisit this landmark PlayStation title. The violence is gratuitous, but these memorable characters are well worth spending time with. (Also, multiple sites have singled out the remake’s comprehensive accessibility features for praise.) So, here’s what else reviewers have to say:


Destructoid

“If you’ve already experienced this story and said ‘I’m good,’ you probably don’t need to pick up Last of Us Part 1. The fanatics who played it 10 or more times already probably had this pre-ordered already. That leaves the most important group: total newcomers. While The Last of Us still has some of the same issues the original debuted with in 2013, the PS5 version (and likely the upcoming PC port, [based on Sony’s past efforts] is the best way to play it to date.”

Polygon

“Still, in 2022, the violence in The Last of Us still feels upsetting. Folks have said it before and I’ll say it again: The Last of Us isn’t exactly fun to play. It’s no Halo Infinite or Fortnite, wherein shooting and killing is just a series of numbers ticking up on a scoreboard. Holding Joel’s gun, aiming that gun, and shooting that gun is miserable, unbearable, and painful—not only because Joel is fending off other surviving humans, but because the resources are so scarce: Am I going to regret using that bullet?”

Inverse

“Unforgettable characters, sky-high stakes, nail-biting action, and impeccable pacing make The Last of Us Part I a superlative gaming experience in every possible sense. At every turn, it’s obvious that the team at Naughty Dog has loved, refined, and obsessed over this story for more than a decade. And thanks to a remarkably deep bench of accessibility features, more players can enjoy it now than ever before.”

PSU

“The danger of course, is that if you haven’t played The Last of Us, 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 [on] 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.”

Variety

“The Last of Us Part I is the definitive way to experience Joel and Ellie’s journey together. With all of its new bells and whistles, series veterans will fall in love with the gameplay, story, and characters all over again. For newcomers, Part I is an excellent entry point into the franchise as its impeccable presentation makes for an unforgettable adventure.”

IGN

“Make no mistake: The story here in both the main game and the short prequel, Left Behind (which is included in Part I, still as a separate story), remains as strong, as captivating, and as shocking as it ever was. If you’ve yet to play it, The Last of Us is a tangled bramble of themes, but Naughty Dog weaves them together expertly. It may trade in despair, selfishness, and misery, but it’s also quick to lightly breathe on the embers of hope, redemption, and love that glow within its darkness. The upshot is an unforgettable journey that I still can’t recommend highly enough.”

Eurogamer

“As for how it compares against The Last of Us Part 2, that is perhaps more difficult to answer. It’s clear that the work done on Part 1 is derived from the upgrades created for the second game but I would say it feels largely similar. Cutscenes are of comparable quality and both look exceptionally excellent. These real-time sequences are among the best-looking cutscenes I’ve seen in a video game. If you stop and look closely at the gameplay models using photo mode, however, there is definitely a sense that Part 1 has an edge in terms of detail. Joel appears weirdly older and more grizzled in the remake but there’s no doubt that his in-game model more closely resembles the real-time cutscenes now. Weapons and clothing are similar, but it’s clear that they didn’t just use the same weapon models from Part 2 in this new game.”

The Verge

“If you didn’t like TLoU in the first place, this remake won’t change your mind. It’s still gruesome and dark, a mix of a heart-rending post-apocalyptic story and a sometimes-awkward video game. The core is the same as always. What this remake does, though, is smooth the transition between the two games in the franchise. Think of it like sanding away (most of) the game’s rough edges. That will likely be important to those who played Part II before the original or the hypothetical brand-new audience that will be introduced to The Last of Us through HBO’s live-action adaptation next year or the standalone multiplayer experience that’s also coming. The Last of Us is now a franchise—and within that framework, a remake so soon actually makes a lot of sense.”

GameSpot

“The most welcome addition to The Last of Us Part I is its impressive suite of accessibility features. Like The Last of Us Part II, there are a wide range of visual, auditory, and difficulty settings that significantly lower the bar to entry and make the experience more accommodating. You can customize subtitles, tweak screenshake, enable different vision modes, and retool the controls at any time to fit your needs. Even if you don’t think you need any of these features, you might find something in there to make your experience a little smoother. I frequently played with high-contrast mode enabled to help me track down smaller collectibles that I wouldn’t normally be able to see, but for others, these newly added options might make what was previously an unplayable game into a playable one.”

Dexerto

“Naughty Dog has spent a lot of time emphasizing that this remake was built from the ground up, and it really does show. Joel and Ellie have that ‘so realistic it’s a bit creepy’ look to them, with each facial expression and gesture adding plenty of emotion to cutscenes. While out exploring, the contrast between the dilapidated city structures and the beauty of nature reclaiming the planet is starker than ever before. This visual fidelity is actually most impressive in the small things, like shimmering reflections in puddles on the street, grime that covers the walls down in the sewers, or the way each blade of grass sways and bends when you walk across them.”