Real-time cutscenes improve gameplay (for the most part)
Gameplay changes are not very significant
Main story isn’t expanded upon
Improvements promised by developers, such as better AI companions, are not present
When the Last of Us Part 1 remake was first announced for the PS5, reactions were mixed. The developers declared that the remake would be true to the original – with no changes to the story – but with enhancements to the gameplay and graphics that promised to deliver a heightened experience.
One group of fans asked if a remake was even needed, considering that the original version was released less than a decade ago in 2013 for the PS3 (and still holds up quite well, I would say). A remastered version of the game was released a year later in 2014, further adding weight to the position that a remake was as necessary as an appendix.
On the other side of the fence were fans looking forward to it, excited to see how this beloved game would turn out with the powerful capabilities of the PS5.
Having played the remake, I will say this – it looks beautiful.
Saying that the graphics have gotten an upgrade would be putting it mildly. The developers have taken great care to rebuild every area of the game from the ground up. The game feels more alive now, immersing you in every forest, building, and even sewer you come across.
The aesthetic enhancements don’t end with the settings. Character models and facial animations have seen significant updates, making the original look almost cartoonish by comparison. Emotional scenes – which received high praise in the original – pack even more of a punch now thanks to the nuances in facial expressions.
Graphic enhancements can only do so much to make a remake, however. While gameplay has seen a few tweaks, they are conservative at best – and here’s where the remake falls apart for me.
There are some positives of course. The game borrows improvements seen in Last of Us Part 2. Enemies are a little smarter and communicate with each other when you’re in stealth mode, attempting to flank you and creating an added level of challenge. The number of destructible objects in the game also allows for more dynamic environments – a machine gun sending bits of plaster from a wall flying everywhere was quite the sight.
Cutscenes are now rendered in real-time as well, removing the need for loading screens – which is probably the biggest improvement for me. There are issues here, however.
In the original game, loading screens helped to mark the passage of time. There’s a part in the game where the sky is still pretty dark and Joel, Ellie and Tess are about to climb down a ladder. After they’ve climbed down said ladder, the sky is light blue and it’s daytime.
The sudden shift is extremely jarring – and something the developers clearly didn’t pay attention to when they were removing the loading screens. This unfortunately happened on more than one occasion.
There are a few gameplay enhancements in Part 2 I really wanted that were not present here – most noticeably, actions like crawl and dodge. These went a long way in adding dynamism to the fights that were missing from the first game. Quite a letdown to be honest.
In their promotional interviews, the developers also mentioned that AI buddies would be smarter about avoiding enemies. One issue with the original was that your AI companions could walk in front of enemies and still appear unnoticed, taking quite a bit of realism out of the game. This has NOT changed with the remake despite claims saying otherwise, with Ellie quite frequently walking within an enemy’s sights and being largely ignored.
Besides the Left Behind DLC (which was also a standalone scenario in the original), there isn’t a whole of additional content for you to sink your teeth into. A model viewer allows you to appreciate the character models and monsters in greater detail, while there are some unlockables like new skins and a speedrun mode – pretty standard fare.
When I play a remake of a game, I want it to stay true to the original source material while expanding and improving on it to create a distinctly new experience. Having played this remake, I can’t say that the experience was that much different from when I played the original game. Perhaps the developers should have taken a page out of the playbook of Last of Us’ survival horror cousin, Resident Evil, on how to remake a game.
Yes, Last of Us Part 1 has never looked so good. But once I got past my initial awe with the graphics, the lack of changes to the gameplay or adding on to the story became extremely glaring.
People who are experiencing Last of Us for the first time with this remake will most likely find it an excellent game. If you’ve played the original, however, I wouldn’t set my expectations too high.