Why The Last of Us Part 1 Has The Most Effective Opening In Gaming

Published: September 1, 2022 11:00 AM /


The Last of Us Part 1 Opening PS5

It's the dead of night. The cinema is glaring down the street with its bright neon lights, the gas station picks up the random straggler looking for fuel, and many are still awake from the threat of a possible outbreak. Many fond memories have been shared in this small town, but in a blink of an eye, the streets are filled with terror as an explosion initiates the terrifying ordeal. Friends and family turn infested and neighbors begin to kill each other for survival as each of them changes to clickers. As you play The Last of Us Part 1 opening, it pulls you in as you’re invested in the storyline, the world, and how it breaks your heart when Joel loses the one thing that’s most dear to him. That is why it is one of the best (if not, the greatest) video-game openings ever.

This post contains spoilers for The Last of Us.

The Last of Us Part 1 Sarah
Screenshot captured in Performance Mode

The Last of Us Part 1 Opening Has Memorable Visuals

As soon as you boot up the2022 remake of The Last of Us, you’ll notice it is drop-dead gorgeous from the very first frame. It's the same game, but the visuals truly add dimension to the original context. As Sarah sleeps on the couch, you can see every strand of hair cradled on the leather. As you look at her face, you can see some white lighting reflecting off her freckly skin.

As Joel arrives at the house and turns on the lamp, the lighting drastically changes to a more yellowish/orange glow, adding a sense of realism to the world around Sarah. With the amount of textural detail on the faces, the upscaled 4K resolution looks absolutely stunning, even in Performance Mode. The remake gives The Last of Us so much respect and elevates it in elegant ways.

You can tell immediately that there’s a strong father-daughter bond between the two. Joel works hard at his job, getting back home late at night and paying for his mortgage, while Sarah is genuinely thrilled to see him during his birthday. The facial animation is incredible as they show their emotions in a natural way. For example, you can see the look of grand disappointment on Sarah’s face when Joel says the watch she fixed for him doesn’t work. 

But some of the natural storytelling is beautifully told through the environment as well. Her room is brandished with rock band posters, and as she reads her birthday card to her father, you can tell that he’s not a fan of the stuff she likes. However, the note itself shows how much she cares for Joel, despite their differences. 

The Last of Us Part 1 Birthday Card
Screenshot captured in Performance Mode

The visuals in The Last of Us Part 1 also do an incredible job of building the world up. In the washroom, a newspaper is placed by the sink, eerily setting the backdrop of the beginnings of the pandemic. It gives a sharp reminder of how COVID began in 2020 when vague rumors spread across the world before it truly became a nightmare. After that, when a news report on TV cuts out in Joel’s bedroom, it sets a stage of tension within you. 

As you venture through the house, the lighting provides an almost haunted atmosphere as you can see light flickering in the hallways, and the darkness within the shadows creates a sense of ambiguity as Sarah searches for her father.

The Last of Us Part 1 Story
Screenshot captured in Performance Mode

The Last of Us Part 1 Storytelling Is Unmatched

However, it's not just the visuals that pull us in; that's only part of the equation. The writing is grounded and features natural dialogue that comes across as charming, scary, and above all, realistic. When Joel asks his daughter how she paid for the watch, she jokingly says it's from hard drugs. She’s not the average kid with a heart of gold, and she has been exposed to more mature topics, which is honestly refreshing and charming. With such a short time to introduce Sarah and how important she is to Joel, Naughty Dog does an impressive job at establishing that strong father-daughter bond in minutes. 

Another interesting factor is how it sets the seeds of how Joel would treat fellow humans 20 years later. Joel is driving the car to escape the city, but as a family calls for help, his brother encourages him to not pick them up. This disappoints Sarah, but it establishes Joel’s fight-for-himself attitude later on as he becomes a smuggler. 

After the town gets attacked by the clickers and our protagonist crash the car, the Joel and Sarah approach a borderline between the police and the infected city. The tension, after many interactions with the infected, has built to its highest level. A soldier, from a military barricade, points his gun at both Joel and Sarah, apprehensive, but as an effective foreshadowing of the cutthroat post-apocalyptic world Joel will face, he shoots Sarah before the soldier gets killed himself.

The Last of Us Part 1 Joel Sarah
Screenshot captured in Performance Mode

We're Heartbroken in Just 15 Minutes of The Last of Us Part 1

The reaction by Joel is immense, and he clutches Sarah tightly, crying. He doesn’t believe what happened at first, due to the terrible reality of the situation, and then it crashes into him like a truck hitting him dead on  He’s crushed, and Troy Baker, the voice of Joel, shows his acting chops as he flails and trembles at the loss of his character's daughter. He rocks her to and fro as you see Sarah's shocked, still eyes.

Hana Hayes as Sarah also helps strike that dramatic dagger into the player as she gasps for breath in absolute hysterics. It's a heartbreaking end to the prologue, and after this shot, it immediately draws the opening credits, creating a powerful shot to the heart for anyone who plays The Last of Us Part 1. In just minutes, we get so invested in this father-daughter connection, and then it's gone just like that. That's powerful storytelling in such a slither of time. 

That father-daughter relationship at the beginning of this game establishes why Joel struggles to connect with Ellie 20 years later. He worked day-to-night and likely feels regret over barely seeing Sarah. And after Joel begins to get to know Ellie, he's so afraid of losing this newfound paternal connection and tries to reject it. This opening is so effective in letting us know why he cares so much, and if it wasn't in the game, that connection between Joel and Ellie wouldn't be as strong. 

In addition, these violent and dramatic scenes establish the hellish post-apocalyptic landscape of The Last of Us Part 1. Similar to games like TellTale’s The Walking Dead series, it shows how threatening fellow humans can be, possibly even scarier than the monsters themselves. 

The sharply quick and effective way that Naughty Dog implemented the prologue is a masterclass of storytelling. The Last of Us Part 1 with the PS5’s enhancements, in addition to the excellent script, make for a video game opening that has been and will be remembered for many years to come. Thankfully, more people can experience it with The Last of Us Part 1's accessibility options.

A review code was provided to the writer by PlayStation Canada.


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