'The Last of Us Part I' Review: One of the Greatest Games Ever … – Collider

After nine years, the story of Joel and Ellie’s journey is still one of the most impressive stories ever told through a video game.
The first time I played The Last of Us, I thought I was done playing video games. As the credits rolled on Joel and Ellie’s story, I realized I had never played a game quite like this before, like I had seen the pinnacle of what video games as a storytelling medium could be. As I sat in shock of the events in the game’s third act, I couldn’t fathom playing another game. What other game could move me this way? What video game could give me this type of experience again? Had Naughty Dog finally made the game that narratively, for me, simply couldn’t be beaten by any other game? Had the team who once made Crash Bandicoot ruined games for me forever?
Almost a decade later, Naughty Dog has released The Last of Us Part I, the second remaster of this already iconic game—a reminder that after all these years, nothing has been released since that comes close to the emotional impact and powerful story that was crafted with Joel and Ellie’s journey. Playing The Last of Us Part I on the PlayStation 5, it becomes even more abundantly clear that this is one of the best games of the last decade, and therefore, one of the greatest games ever made.
But if you play video games, you almost certainly already know that. You probably played The Last of Us when it first made a splash on the PlayStation 3 in 2013, or maybe played the first remaster, The Last of Us Remastered, released on the PlayStation 4 a little over a year later. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not wondering if The Last of Us is a masterpiece, you’re probably wondering if a new version of a game originally released during the Obama administration is worth spending $70 on. Simply put, if you’ve never played The Last of Us, there is no better time to experience one of the most impressive narratives in video game history. And if you’ve already played The Last of Us, well, one of the greatest games of all time is now better than ever—and that’s reason enough to shell out $70 for this adventure once again.
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For those new to this series, The Last of Us takes place in a ravaged world full of creatures known as the Infected. We see this world through the eyes of Joel, a man who lost his only daughter during the first outbreak, and twenty years later, has become a rough, closed-off smuggler just trying to get by. When he’s tasked with smuggling a teenage girl, Ellie, to a rebel militia group known as the Fireflies, Joel starts to slowly but surely that there might be something in his life worth fighting for once more.
The Last of Us was always about the tremendous performances of Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who play Joel and Ellie, respectfully, and the latest enhancement in this version highlights these roles even more. In this cross-country trek, I found myself time and time again lost in the eyes of these characters. Even more than my previous times playing through this game, I could see the frustration and exhaustion in Joel’s eyes, the worry and uncertainty in Ellie’s eyes, and how this development only made these already great performances even better. But it’s noticeable elsewhere throughout the game, as when Joel sneaks up on an enemy and chokes them, we can see the life leaving their eyes, or when Henry (Brandon Scott), one of the characters Joel and Ellie meet on their journey, has a moment of true heartbreaking panic, that unbridled fear can be felt through the eyes. And yes, The Last of Us Part I is graphically impressive and far closer to the visuals of The Last of Us Part II than the previous iterations of this game, but for me, this story is all about those performances, and in that aspect, I felt the significant changes Naughty Dog has brought to this story.
But the core of what makes The Last of Us and the included DLC, Left Behind, so powerful is the story. On paper, The Last of Us is a fairly standard post-apocalyptic story that we’ve seen before. Even the weary adult trying to protect a child through this new world has been done in stories like The Road and The Walking Dead. Yet that’s what makes The Last of Us such a remarkable experience: this is a tried and true story, but in the form of a video game that puts the player in control of these characters, this narrative has an even greater impact. We can watch Joel and Ellie grow closer to each other, slowly lowering their barriers until they are open with each other in a relationship both of these characters desperately needed. This isn’t just shown through cutscenes and larger story moments, but in the very gameplay itself. The way these characters interact shifts depending on where the relationship is at the time. How Joel and Ellie interact with this world and each other feels natural and evolves beautifully as the months pass. In The Last of Us, this isn’t a passive narrative that we’re watching unfold, we’re active participants in watching this care and compassion for one another grow, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.
Not only is this game more beautiful than it ever has been before, having been rebuilt for modern consoles, it also allows for more ways to play this story. One of the biggest additions is an incredible amount of accessibility options that will allow a much larger audience to finally experience this game. In addition to even more unlockable options, like new outfits and filters for the game, The Last of Us Part I now includes two new modes that will allow for even more ways to play through this fungus-ravaged world. A new speedrun mode will let players fly through this tale as fast as they possibly can (although who wouldn’t want to stop and soak up this story and pet a giraffe along the way), while a permanent death mode puts even greater importance on the survival of these two characters. Plus, playing the game with the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller makes the player feel the power of every bullet, every arrow, and every struggle that this pair has to face as they cross the United States.
But the pre-release discussion of The Last of Us Part I always tends to come back to whether or not this version is a cash grab, just an excuse to release a nine-year-old game with better graphics under a $70 price tag. Playing through this game that I’ve played multiple times at this point, The Last of Us Part I reminded me of a great film that gets updated based on the current technology. We don’t complain when a new remastered version of The Godfather comes out every few years, improving an existing masterpiece to be better than it ever has been before, and the same thing should be true for The Last of Us Part I. With a classic movie, the film can only look better, but with The Last of Us Part I, performances are improved, the world looks richer and more alive, and the already impeccable gameplay feels as fitting as ever. With The Last of Us Part I, Naughty Dog has taken an already classic video game and made it even more impactful and powerful than ever, a great experience made greater for years to come.
Simply put, The Last of Us Part I is one of gaming’s greatest stories heightened by modern technology in a way that simply wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago. There’s never been a better time for newcomers to experience this world, and even for those who have played this game multiple times like myself, this world has never felt this magnificent, brilliant, touching story that is better than ever before.
Rating: A+
The Last of Us Part I comes to PlayStation 5 on September 2, and a PC version is in development.
Ross Bonaime is the Senior Film Editor at Collider. He is a Virginia-based writer and editor who had written about all forms of entertainment for Paste Magazine, Brightest Young Things, Flickchart, The Free Lance-Star, and more. He has an unhealthy obsession with theme parks and the Criterion Collection and will defend the Lost finale until his dying day. More at RossBonaime.com.


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