The Last of Us: Remastered Review
+ The adventures and transformations that Joel and Ellie experience invoke all kinds of emotions.
+ The soundtrack compliments the environment with an isolated sound.
+ The multiplayer returns and brings some of the most tense and terrifying moments I've experienced in a non-horror game.
As I finish up the credits for a third time, I’ve never been so mystified by a video game. I’ve experienced these same feelings before when I completed The Last of Us on the Playstation 3 in 2013, but playing it on the Playstation 4 just feels so right. It’s as if The Last of Us: Remastered is originally what Naughty Dog intended to create. Running at a smooth 60 frames per second and rendering in native 1080P, The Last of Us: Remastered is the same adventure as the original but with all the right improvements.
You might be wondering why Naughty Dog would even release a port of a game that is only a year old. We’ve seen this earlier this year with Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. For starters, the framerate has been doubled, and the game now runs at a very solid 60 frames per second. While the frame rate might not seem too important, it has a huge effect on gameplay because it allows for quick response time, and is simply more visually appealing to the eyes. There’s no doubting that the Playstation 3 version of The Last of Us looked awesome, but adding that extra visual flair makes every environment more foreboding, and every encounter more heart-stopping. Along with the frame-rate, the resolution has been upped to native 1080P. While not exactly a deal breaker, the extra pixels help define textures and make things more crisp.
Also added to The Last of Us: Remastered is the Left Behind DLC. This small adventure reveals the origins of Ellie, and how she came to end up with the Fireflies. As with Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, a slew of multiplayer DLC is also included. Each of the new DLC multiplayer maps are included on the disc, as well as some cosmetic items. However, I was still surprised to see there are a ton of cosmetic items that still require a purchase through PSN. It just seems out of place to me that I can’t wear my country’s flag unless I pay several dollars for it.
Never Played The Last of Us?
If you haven’t played The Last of Us, then you should most definitely start with Remastered. The Last of Us: Remastered is truly the definitive edition of the game, and there is hardly ever a dull moment. From sneaking through a town filled with infected to stalking deer in a snowy forest, the single player story takes you on a wild and crazy ride. I don’t want to say too much because of potential spoilers, but the characters in The Last of Us have such convincing personalities. In many games, the characters will change and evolve into a typical, clichéd archetype. But in The Last of Us, you’ll find that it’s quite the opposite; characters demonstrate their will to survive, as well as their wants and desires.
Unfortunately for the human race, things aren’t looking too well. The world in The Last of Us is plagued by a fungus that essentially turns humans into wild, bloodthirsty monsters. A specific spore will leech onto a host and mutate them into a shell of their former self, with an appetite for blood usually rearing its ugly head within the first few days. If the host survives long enough, the infection will eventually split open their skull, blinding them yet morphing them into a formidable new foe. These creatures are called Clickers, and as you may have guessed, use echo location to find their prey.
While the infected are certainly terrifying and pose a threat, at least they are predictable. The real terror in The Last of Us comes from the people who are backed into a corner with something to fight for. Take the protagonist, for example. Joel lost his family during the infected outbreak, and now, 20 years later, he has resorted to less than legal methods to eke out a living. Having been at rock bottom, this is how he survives. Between the government quarantine zones, the rebels known as “Fireflies,” and the infected, Joel holds no allegiance except to himself.
This solidarity reflects onto the gameplay as well. When fighting other humans, the AI is generally smart enough to not charge at you like they do in other games. Enemies will often cover and try to flank you, especially if there is more than one of them. This makes every encounter with humans deadly, especially if you’re playing on harder difficulties. Fighting infected is no joke either, as it’s tough to take down several runners that are charging your direction. Clickers are a different monster altogether because if they grab Joel, they will rip his face off in a very graphic cutscene.
Due to the nature of certain enemies (such as Clickers and humans), stealth plays a huge role in surviving every attack. From the beginning of the game, you’re told that it is rarely wise to charge in with a loaded pistol because odds are you won’t survive. Enemies dish out a ton of damage, and supplies for medicine are rare so it’s best to take your time with every encounter and make it through unscathed. To help with this, Joel has what is called “Listening Mode”. This will let you see the noise patterns enemies make and gives you an idea as to who (or what) is around the corner. It also shows just how much noise you’re making.
Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. Maybe your flashlight caught the eye of a rogue infected, or a nearby guard heard you sprinting down the hall. Whatever the reason, there’s always plenty of options once bullets start flying. For starters, there are several craftable items that will let you even the odds. One of my personal favorites is the molotov cocktail, followed by a the nail bomb. However, crafting each item will use up valuable resources that you find throughout the game. Would you rather have an extra molotov, or a health pack? Both are useful in certain situations, but ultimately you will have to make a decision based on how you want to play.
As I mentioned earlier, The Last of Us looked fantastic on Playstation 3, but the visuals are much more dramatic on the Playstation 4. Using the extra horsepower, Naughty Dog really squeezed out some impressive textures onto the environment. Whereas before there were blurry newspapers littered along the ground, now there are readable headlines that give a little bit more credibility to game world. One aspect that I really love about The Last of Us is that it’s not afraid to use colors besides gray, brown, and orange. Throughout the adventure, you’ll go through a variety of different landscapes that show what the Earth might look like 20 years after the fall of man. Although there are gray cityscapes, they are infused with vibrant plant life that is slowly taking over the city. At one point, we’re treated to a changing of the seasons as snow falls on the ground. There’s even one point where you’re taken to a university campus with some really neat architecture and lore.
The audio is top-notch. Troy Baker plays a very convincing Joel, and Ashley Johnson was the perfect match for Ellie. I swear, these two characters go together like peanut butter and jam; their chemistry and acting are some of the best that the industry has ever seen in my opinion. The sound track is equally fitting, and almost reminds me of something you might hear in Fallout. The main theme’s guitar is so mysterious and isolated that it suits the whole “fall of mankind” theme rather nicely. The Last of Us was actually Gustavo Santaolalla’s first foray into video games, but I have no doubts that he was the perfect musician for the job.
Last, but certainly not least, is the multiplayer. Fortunately, the competitive modes are not shoe-horned in like in other AAA releases. The multiplayer pits two factions against each other in three different modes. Three modes might not sound like a lot, but each mode reflects on the lore told within the single player. In many ways, it reminds me of a more strategic Gears of War in that respawns are long (or non-existent) and you will be dead before you know it if you stick your head out. Many of the mechanics in single player, such as the stealth, crafting, and listening mode, translate well to the multiplayer after they are tweaked to be more balanced.
What I enjoy most about the multiplayer is that it’s so unpredictable, and how it rewards teamwork. If you collaborate with your teammates through the voice chat or parties, you will have a much higher chance of winning. One time I was stabbed in the back by a sneaky fellow, only to have to watch him sneak up behind the rest of my team and slaughter them. The multiplayer in The Last of Us: Remastered favors your ability to strike at the opportune moment. As you make more kills, you’ll gain salvage that you can use to upgrade your weapons or even purchase new ones. One of my personal favorites is called El Diablo, a pistol that will obliterate anyone that is foolish to get in front of it.
Buy, Try, or Avoid?
I don’t have anything outrightly bad to say about The Last of Us: Remastered. I bought it when it released last year, and I don’t regret buying it in 2014. Along with the few substantial improvements included in the Playstation 4 version, The Last of Us: Remastered is indeed the pinnacle of gaming narrative and storytelling. If you are a fan of video games or even mediated storytelling, then you really should experience Joel and Ellie’s journey. I highly recommend you buy The Last of Us: Remastered if you own a Playstation 4.