Review: The Last of Us Part I is the definitive version of a masterpiece, both honouring and modernising the original

Finn Hogan reviews The Last of Us Part I for Newshub.
The PS5 remake of the 2013 classic is released today. Photo credit: Naughty Dog / PlayStation

The Last of Us Part I gives one of gaming's all-time greats an impressive overhaul, adding rich new functionality, graphical fidelity and accessibility while never losing sight of what made the original so groundbreaking. 

While elements of the gameplay are showing their age, Ellie and Joel's journey through post-apocalyptic America remains gaming's gold standard for cinematic, interactive storytelling and the PS5's added power allows deeper immersion in its gut-wrenching narrative. 

The most obvious upgrade is visual, with graphics rebuilt from the ground up to bring them on par with the 2020's The Last of Us Part II. Every haggard line in Joel's face now pops at full native 4K at 30FPS or dynamic 4K at 60FPS. 

But the upgrade is not skin deep: updated animations, advanced enemy AI, haptic support and a host of other changes make The Last of Us Part I feel like the game Naughty Dog would have made in 2013 if technology had allowed it. 

The updated animations in particular add texture which the original lacked, with the weapon upgrade benches being a highlight. Now when Joel approaches a workbench there is a lovingly crafted animation for every tiny action he takes and an insanely detailed model for each gun. Dismantling each pistol, adding a stock to a rifle or even a literal new string to your bow - it's all given new weight and impressive visual flair. 

With the game's core gameplay focused on scrounging every scrap of ammunition and resource you can, this visceral sense of each piece of equipment you collect makes the game world feel tangible in a way it wasn't back in 2013. 

Haptic support of the PS5's DualSense takes the tactile element a step further. You now feel the kick of your weapons, the patter of rain, or even the breath of a majestic creature you've stumbled across in the centre of a city (veterans will know exactly the moment I mean).  

The updates are sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious, but they're all impactful and serve to draw you more deeply into the world and its characters. The remake's changes feel tightly focused on enriching the story while leaving it perfectly intact; nothing narrative has been altered or added, it's only brought into sharper focus. 

The Last of Us Part One PS5 remake screenshot.
Photo credit: Naughty Dog / PlayStation

Another welcome addition is widely improved accessibility features, which Naughty Dog expanded heavily in The Last of Us Part II and now make a return here. The full suite of features shows an exceptional level of care, with examples including the ability to alter haptic feedback to convey tone and emotion of dialogue delivery for deaf players. 

The fact that some players who were previously physically unable to experience this game now can seems like a worthy reason for this remake alone, even setting aside the host of other improvements. But it must be said, some players may baulk at the game costing $140 from some outlets - particularly if they already bought the 2014 remaster on top of the 2013 original. 

And no matter how beautiful the visuals, rich the animations and heartbreaking the story, the gameplay foundation is creaking with age. Even back in 2013, there were aspects which felt dated - particularly in puzzle design - and that's only grown more pronounced with time. 

There are only so many times you can find a conveniently sized ladder to cross a gap between buildings or drag a packing crate for Ellie to perch on while swimming before it drags the pace down. While the quiet moments are often welcome breaks to soak up the scenery, they occasionally feel a little too much like thinly disguised filler between set pieces. 

And in combat too, while the new visuals, animations and enemy AI are welcome; the lack of movement options, enemy types and environment variety found in Part II may feel jarring to players returning to the original. 

However, those gripes are minor compared to what Part I gets right: this is unquestionably the definitive version of one of the greatest games ever made. It's also the best way to experience one of the most powerful stories available in any medium. 

Ellie and Joel in the car in The Last of Us Part 1.
Photo credit: Naughty Dog / PlayStation

The Last of Us Part I was obviously crafted with love and reverence for a game which means so much to so many. If you're wondering if this version makes it worth playing again, the answer is yes. 

And if you've never played and are wondering what the hype is about, you owe it to yourself to find out.

Four-and-a-half stars. 

The Last of Us Part One is out now for PlayStation 5. Newshub was provided a code for the purposes of this review.