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The Last of Us Part I is exciting, but not for the reason you think

The Last of Us Part I, Naughty Dog’s from-the-ground-up rebuild of the PS3 classic, might initially sound like one of the most unnecessary remakes ever because a fairly modern remaster of the game is available for PS4 and backward compatible with the PS5. But this remake does have some important merits that go far beyond its noticeable, but not overwhelmingly impressive visual upgrade. Namely, The Last of Us Part 1 is shaping up to be more approachable and accessible to all types of players. 

A PlayStation Blog post that followed the game’s Summer Game Fest debut proclaimed that Naughty Dog “modernized gameplay, improved controls, and expanded accessibility options.” Although the remake might seem unnecessary for a lot of players, those improvements will help ensure that more people than ever can experience an all-time classic for the first time. 

Approachable and accessible 

As the accessibility focused website Can I Play That? pointed out in an editorial when the remake’s existence first leaked, one of the best potential aspects of a The Last of Us remake is that it would make the classic accessible to more people than ever before. 

“But I’m thinking that this could be an incredible opportunity for Naughty Dog to remake the original game while carrying the accessibility features in The Last of Us Part 2 over,” Ben Bayliss wrote. “That way, disabled players who were excluded from enjoying the original game, due to it being inaccessible, will be able to experience it without those concerns of it being unplayable.”

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"…this could be an incredible opportunity for Naughty Dog to remake the original game while carrying the accessibility features in The Last of Us Part 2 over."https://t.co/B9dPjklSsi

— Can I Play That? (@CanIPlayThat) June 9, 2022

The Last of Us is a truly fantastic experience, and we agree that it’s only a good thing if more people than ever can play and connect with one of the best games of the last decade. The Last of Us Part I can expand upon the great visual, auditory, and gameplay-focused accessibility options from The Last of Us Part IIenabling disabled people to enjoy its predecessor in a way that was simply impossible with the 2013 original. 

For example, a high-contrast display mode renders the game in a way that makes it easier for people with visual impairments to make out what objects are. Traversal and combat audio cues and highly customizable subtitles ensure that Deaf people can still have a clear idea of everything that’s happening in the game. Players could even customize how much damage they take, how aware enemies are during stealth, how scarce or common resources are, and more to make the game as easy or as tough as they needed it to be. 

Giving players the tools to make these tweaks means the whole experience will be easier to digest for players of all skill levels. These changes will redefine The Last of Us’ experience more than any story and narrative changes will. If The Last Us Part I follows through with these changes, then it can show developers that accessibility options are just as, if not even more, important than vast visual changes in remakes of more modern games.

The most important changes

The Last of Us’ story is so well done that the remake doesn’t really need to change or expand upon it much to still be amazing. The visuals were also already great on PS3 and PS4, so the remake’s glow-up isn’t as impressive as something like Final Fantasy VII Remake. Because of that, The Last of Us is an odd game to remake, but will also make it a great case study that shows how adding accessibility options benefits remakes. 

Normally, remasters and remakes are judged on how significant the visual improvements are. But we’re now at the point that PS3 and PS4 games that already looked great are being remade, and visual changes aren’t as awe-inspiring as they once were when leaps in power between console generations were more significant. As such, more focus will be put on their gameplay tweaks.

Ellie and Riley look at each other in The Last of Us Part 1's version of Left Behind.

This isn’t a completely foreign concept for video game remasters and remakes. Many difficult retro games get rewind or save state features when rereleased on modern systems. These are accessibility options that ensure more people can experience the classics. The more in-depth visual, auditory, and difficulty-focused The Last of Us Part II accessibility options that we want to see in The Last of Us Part I are simply a more thorough version of this. 

Many games from the PS3 and PS4 generations lack helpful accessibility options. It’s an extremely beneficial area to improve in, so it’s something developers should be paying attention to as they remake games from those generations.  Accessibility options will always be something that expand the reach of a video game’s audience and enable more people to enjoy fantastic games. As such, The Last of Us Part I provides the game industry with a moment to rethink what remaking games really means.

The Last of Us Part I will be released for PS5 on September 2.

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