Still the best at what it does.
The Last of Us Part I is not a fun video game. It contains heavy themes that are thoroughly explored over its fifteen-hour runtime. Sure you can turn on some modifiers for unlimited health and blaze through or you can skip all the cutscenes and focus on killing infected enemies, but you would be missing the point. Heavily inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, The Last of Us Part I gives players control of Joel as he navigates a post-apocalyptic American wasteland with an undesired mission and an even more unwanted companion.
Harrowing, heartfelt, and heavy, Santaolalla’s score is incredible and entwined perfectly into every aspect of The Last of Us Part I. From the end of the game’s first sequence until the last lines are delivered, Santaolalla provides music that gets under your skin and becomes as much of the game as the characters themselves. I get chills thinking about the moment the credits roll and the soundtrack begins.
Speaking of enemies, Clickers have become synonymous with The Last of Us franchise, even briefly appearing in the trailer for HBO’s upcoming show. These enemies inspire a sense of dread when playing on a difficulty that matches the player’s skill level. Their creepy clicking noises act as sonar, forcing the player to move slowly to avoid activating them. When combined with the Runners who can see the player, combat situations can quickly turn from stealth to all-out assault as a swarm of enemies chases you, moaning and screeching. If a Runner gets to you, they slow you down, but if a Clicker gets to you, it’s instant death for the player. The quick cutscene that follows the player’s death is gruesome but cuts away before the final damage is done, leaving some to the player’s imagination. It creates a terrifying effect that would be lessened with a more gratuitous finisher.
Nine years ago I started a game that I was unsure about. The game was heavy, depressing, and sometimes frightening. But over time, the characters grew on me, the music transfixed me, and the setting sucked me in. When the last line was uttered and the credits rolled, I thought, “Was that the end?” And though I played it a few more times over the years, I would constantly think about the characters I’d come to love, their motivations, and the intent of the game’s final spoken line. One word, and yet, many ways to interpret it. It wasn't until The Last of Us Part II that any of my questions were answered. But for a game to have such a profound impact on me was an incredible awakening. I considered the actions I had been forced to take during my time with the game, challenged the protagonist’s motivations, and put myself in his shoes. Would I do what he did? Was that the right choice? The Last of Us Part I isn’t a fun game. It’s a game about reflection, and more than a game—it’s an experience. This remake is undoubtedly the best way to play this cinematic masterpiece. The Last of Us Part I isn't just Naughty Dog’s best title, it’s one of the best examples of what storytelling in a video game can achieve.
Objective Assessment: 10/10
Bonus: +1 for its best-in-class storytelling. +1 for living, breathing characters. +1 for one of the best video game soundtracks. +1 for incredibly inclusive accessibility options.
Penalties: -1 for lack of Factions mode.
Nerd Coefficient: 10/10
Posted by: Joe DelFranco - Fiction writer and lover of most things video games. On most days you can find him writing at his favorite spot in the little state of Rhode Island.