Though decidedly not for young kids, this remake transforms a bona fide PlayStation classic into a modern masterpiece. The Last of Us Part I (called simply The Last of Us at the time) rewrote the book on narrative game design when it originally launched in 2013. Combining state-of-the-art visuals with award-winning writing and performances, it delivered a deeply compelling story about loss, pain, and hope shared by two strangers forced to survive together in an apocalyptic landscape. All of that remains unchanged in this remake, which wisely opts instead to focus on enhancing the experience via modern graphics. The character models here emote with lifelike pain and happiness as they carefully creep through a world that is strangely beautiful in its desolation. It's filled with crumbling homes containing artifacts and possessions that tell the stories of people long gone, public spaces and malls being slowly but surely reclaimed by verdant plant life, and endless details, from a makeshift daycare set up by a small group of survivors for their kids in hopes of creating some sense of normality to weather-faded posters advertising familiar-yet-fictional brands, products, and movies, many marked by the month and year the world came to an end.
The action complements the story. Joel and Ellie must kill to survive this world, but it's never easy. On most difficulty levels, players will die instantly and in violent, flinch-inducing fashion when attacked by certain enemies (and after just a couple of hits by many others), making nearly every encounter deeply stressful. Resources are few and far between, which elicits a feeling of true excitement whenever Joel or Ellie discover a trove, and upgrading weapons and crafting items -- sometimes in real time in the heat of battle -- results in a sense of accomplishment and growth, even though the game never really becomes much easier. It all makes for an unforgettable, character-driven interactive adventure that will be a surefire hit with both returning fans and a new generation of players who have come of age to play mature games. The Last of Us Part I is that rare remake that loses nothing of the original while taking advantage of everything modern gaming technology can offer.