I was never one to replay games after finishing them. restarting? Yup. The Witcher 3 and Divinity: Original Sin are just some of the victims of my ADHD brain, abandoned and returned. My pile of shame is pretty much the entirety of my game library. That’s why it’s almost a miracle that I’ve seen the credits roll on every Naughty Dog title I’ve played.
Whether Uncharted or The Last of Us, the cinematic narrative is perfectly paced to hold my attention. These are games for people who love movies. Uncharted is your action-adventure summer blockbuster with a charismatic protagonist and a cast of memorable characters. The Last of Us has its fair share of action, but on the other hand, its post-apocalyptic setting is home to tragedy, despair, and sadness.
And while I loved The Last of Us Part 1 when I played it on PS3, that book closed as soon as I let go of the controller. Revisiting old games – even for a quick, innovative game – always leaves those pink glasses with a few cracks. If you’re lucky. Sometimes the lenses fall out completely. The Last of Us PS4 remaster did nothing to change that conviction. Even ardent game replayers would have been hard-pressed to pick any significant upgrades that would warrant buying it a second time. As for me: I was there, I did it, I got the spore-sprinkled shirt.
So he just lived in the damp recesses of my memory, amid a small pile of games, labeled with a tattered post-it that reads ‘GOAT’.
You can understand, then, why I was indifferent when The Last of Us Part 1 PS5 remake announced. ‘Not for me,’ was my immediate reaction. It’s for the obsessives out there buying GTA 5 every time they get a new release. You know, people are already thinking about their pre-orders for PS6 and Xone Box X (Microsoft’s naming system remains a mystery).
If a classic game isn’t being tarnished because the nostalgic glow has been ripped off by a new pair of eyes, a remake could switch the other way – sparking outrage in its fanbase with misconceptions and misconceptions. But somehow, Naughty Dog deftly navigated these waters, charting a careful, narrow course and docking in harbor with a masterpiece intact.
It’s been almost a decade since I played the original. And when revisiting this brilliant and expensive remake, it felt like absolutely nothing had changed. This is not an accusation; That’s the highest compliment I can pay him.
Sony has shredded (opens in new tab) a list of the enhancements and improvements intended to bring this remake in line with the developer’s original vision – while taking advantage of new technologies. Of course, DualSense features were built in, using the PS5’s haptic feedback and trigger effects. And there are two performance modes to choose from, because we’re not animals: native 4K targeting 30 fps and dynamic 4K targeting 60 fps.
Deeper than that are completely rebuilt character models and animations, as well as updated AI. And the PS5 allows for in-game physics that will make things a little more difficult now that bullets can rip through the environment. But for me, it’s how I remember the game always being, like a perfect restoration of an old painting – not so tarnished. Jesus meme (opens in new tab) we all know.
Lead Film Animator Eric Baldwin summed up (opens in new tab) the conundrum Naughty Dog tackled perfectly: “No matter what we were doing, it would be compared – not to the original. It would be compared to the memory of the original.” And the developer nailed it. Everything is as I remember it was the first time. Which is obviously not the case. There is a spell in the works that has improved everything, preserving the essence to the point where these improvements are almost invisible. It’s as if a video game remake was developed by the kindly experts in restoration of the repair shop (opens in new tab).
The only discernible difference in my experience between the original and the remake is the combat. And that’s just because I downloaded a lot. There are four difficulty options in the PS5 remake, not counting the Survivor mode unlocked upon completion. Easy, Normal and Hard gave way to Very Light, Light, Moderate and Hard. In other words, there’s a new low and I happily dove into it. In Very Light, ammo is plentiful, human enemies are practically blind, and the infected are still terrifying – but the terror was toned down a bit, knowing I could almost rub shoulders with them without being attacked to death.
The Last of Us Part 1 is full of memorable moments, in combat and out – but as a proven secret, it’s the heart-wrenching ones that have left their mark on my heart. And man, hello, the revamped intro qualifies for that and then some.
I know, I know – I was just this week giving the The Last of Us remake launch trailer for releasing 10 year spoilers. But the death of Joel’s daughter at the beginning is a pass, I think. Right? It’s a zombie apocalypse – or close to it. People died en masse. Joel has a mourning beard that didn’t come out of nowhere. And a teenage daughter-shaped hole in her heart that Ellie helps heal.
Suffice it to say I got snarky and snobbish, just like I was in 2013. Possibly even more snobby, and it’s no doubt because of the subtleties offered by the PS5 hardware, new development tools, and the fact that everything was rebuilt from the ground up.
There are a few moments when we helplessly watch Joel in his panic and despair, cradling his daughter, Sarah, in his arms. You see the shock of getting shot in the face, and the pain in her little body as she’s bleeding, unable to understand. As Joel hugs her, her faces touch, the life drains from her eyes and a tear runs down the side of her face. He realizes she’s gone. I was fully prepared for this scene. And still got me.
I couldn’t tell which of these details were present in the original game and which were added in the remake; doesn’t matter, ultimately. Every beat, every moment – be it tragic, hopeful, scary or adrenaline-fueled panic – is exactly how I remember it.
Our minds tend to pick up our memories, smooth the edges and polish the impurities, without deforming the core of whatever is expensive. Naughty Dog took The Last of Us Part 1 apart and rebuilt it with a delicacy and subtlety that matches even that romantic and unreal bar. It really honors the original game and the fans. And it’s done in such a way that you won’t even notice.