I have a strange relationship with The Last of Us.
I’ve never played Part I or II, and my first true experience with the series was watching the HBO show. Even with the award-winning accessibility features found within Part II, I was unable to play alongside my disabled peers due to the lack of accessible hardware for PlayStation systems. Now that Part I is finally on a system with mouse and keyboard functionality, I find myself quite frankly disappointed at the lack of care with certain options.
Iron Galaxy and Naughty Dog have finally brought the acclaimed PlayStation console exclusive to the PC, but fail to fully implement key accessibility features for people with motor disabilities. Traversing America while fighting infected and humans is emotionally and physically draining. Unfortunately, the limited motor accessibility features in this port do little to make that daunting task easier.
About the reviewer: At 13 months old, I was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy type II. This physical disability progressively weakens my muscles over time, meaning that I primarily critique games based on their physical accessibility offerings and design practices.
Since 2020, Naughty Dog has become synonymous with extensive accessibility menus filled with dozens of settings for deaf and hard of hearing, blind and low vision, and mobility disabilities. The Part I remake PC port is no different, even including AAA-first features, like audio descriptions for cutscenes. I could write hundreds of words alone based on the sheer size of each menu and its contents. Options like toggling for sprinting, aiming, quick-timed-events, and melee combos are all present here, and help reduce my physical exhaustion during extensive play sessions.
Unfortunately, the inability to fully customize keybinds detracted significantly from the fun and satisfaction of my playthrough.
Part I offers some freedom to change controls, including three different profiles that can be activated at any time. Unfortunately, physically disabled players are unable to place different actions on the mouse scroll wheel, and ‘Caps Lock’ cannot be bound to anything. As someone with limited reach and strength, each key within my range is vital. By not letting me bind something, I’m forced to choose between functions that drastically affect gameplay.
While it is possible to create a separate control profile that includes what I need, it’s frustrating and tiring to continuously switch profiles. Since The Last of Us regularly switches between exploration and combat, it’s cumbersome to repeatedly pause, open the menu, change my profile, and resume the action — all while trying to remember the new keybinds.
Exploring the Apocalypse
I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the broken world of The Last of Us through the eyes of Joel and Ellie. The ways in which the two characters interact with the environment – reading billboards, commenting on old films and music, and recounting the political landscape post-outbreak — helped bring this mostly dead world to life. In terms of combat scenarios, using stealth to pick apart large groups before engaging in frantic shootouts was always fun, especially as I kept cycling between guns and melee to conserve ammo.
Even so, the lack of fully customizable keybinds kept pulling me away from the experience.
When I needed to push objects to the side or shimmy across tight areas, I was forced to switch to another control profile. And while this seems trivial on paper, in practice it requires me to extend a simple three-second interaction to a chore that lasts several minutes, and forces me to exert unnecessary energy. This became especially problematic during moments that rapidly switched between stealth, combat, and frantically sprinting away from swarms of enemies.
Stealth segments were, by far, the biggest barrier I faced. This is in no small part because The Last of Us prevents more than one function from being mapped to the same key. For example, I originally placed my crouch key onto ‘1’ before unlocking my second Long Gun slot. It was only after I crafted the slot, during a combat section where I needed to sneak away, did I discover that I was now unable to stay crouched. Thankfully, the level eventually turned into a frantic chase, but until that point, I died an egregious amount of times trying to perform a basic action.
This is where I’m most frustrated with The Last of Us. The gameplay itself is incredibly smooth. Exploration is relatively straightforward, and fights don’t require rapid movements or extravagant combos to defeat enemies. If I could just rebind my keys, I wouldn’t need to exert so much energy on fundamental mechanics.
The most prominent emotion I felt during my playthrough was exhaustion – both physically and mentally. For a studio that has won multiple awards for its dedication to disabled players, it’s almost ironic that a key setting like customizing controls feels unfinished. Now that I finally have the game on a system I can use, it’s comical that my biggest obstacle is still the control scheme.
There’s no denying the incredible work that Naughty Dog has done for disabled players. Yet, The Last of Us serves as an important reminder to the entire games industry that no studio has fully “solved” accessibility. Dozens of options do not necessarily mean a game will be accessible for everyone. Quality over quantity is what the industry needs.
For all its successes, The Last of Us on PC is the perfect example of the need to fine-tune existing features before adding more.
The Last of Us Part I is available on the PlayStation 5 and PC. Inverse reviewed the Steam version.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.