REVIEW: The Last Of Us Part I remains an absolute modern masterpiece
The game has been rebuilt from the ground up for its big PlayStation 5 debut.
When it was initially released on the PlayStation 3 way back in 2013 (yep, it has been nearly a full decade), The Last of Us received universal praise from critics, endless awards, sold in the millions and changed the course of storytelling in video games as we know it.
Since then, we've had the equally successful but weirdly controversial sequel in 2020, HBO is about to release a TV series adaptation, and there are constant whispers that Part III is in the works.
But Sony and developers Naughty Dog have decided to go back to that original well, rebuilding the first game from the ground up, and establishing its place in gaming history with a slight title tweak: The Last Of Us Part I.
As is probably to be expected for a game that has been broken down and reformed to run on PS5 – a full two generations on from the console it originally debuted on – it looks absolutely gorgeous. The ruined American cities are both detailed down to the tiniest speck of infectious fungal spore, all the way up to the gargantuan shattered skyscrapers that you are forced to traverse through.
While it is hard to compliment the aesthetics of a game that felt as modern as possible when it was released initially, there is also an obvious improvement on the sound design (especially if you're playing with a decent pair of gaming headphones – every distant shriek from a clicker will send chills down your spine). Plus, the clever integration of the haptic feedback gives that next-gen oomph some gamers will be looking for.
Additional improvements and features include the prequel chapter Left Behind, which fills in some important backstory for the main characters, and post-game modes including Speedrun and Permadeath.
But these are all just icing – very delicious icing, to be fair – on a product that remains one of the best narrative-driven projects of recent years.
For all the glorious visuals and sumptuous sounds and perfected gameplay, it still comes down to that god-damned perfect central narrative.
Years after the outbreak of a vicious pandemic, which turns infected humans into mushroom-headed killing machines, a man by the name of Joel is still recovering from the death of his young daughter. A top-tier smuggler in what is left of America, he is tasked with getting something vital safely out of the city, to a destination on the other side of the country.
Except it turns out not to be a something, but a someone: Ellie, a young girl who is immune to the infection, and she might be key to developing a vaccine to help save the rest of humanity. Over the course of their incredibly dangerous journey together, the walls that Joel has built up over the years begin to crumble down, while the naive Ellie is exposed to the full threat of a world she doesn't fully understand.
Taking twists and unexpected turns at regular intervals, interspersed with properly nail-bitting set-pieces, as well as unforgettable emotional sequences (the giraffes!), anyone who might be questioning whether or not a graphically upgraded version of a decade-old game is worth the full price tag... yes, yes it is. To re-experience this world, to revisit a story this good, to feel that unique mix of horror and hope, it is absolutely worth it.
The Last Of Us Part I will be available for the PS5 from Friday, 2 September.
Clips via PlayStation