Kris Wall reviews The Last of Us Remastered…
Last year, Uncharted creators Naughty Dog released The Last of Us on to the PlayStation 3. You can read my original review here, but to cut a post apocalyptic story short, I quickly crowned it the PlayStation 3’s greatest achievement and the best game of 2013, since then my love for it has only grown and has earned it a place in my all time Top 5 games.
The Last of Us Remastered initially finds itself in a tough place, having only been released last year, it’s still very fresh in PlayStation owners minds for them to not think twice about paying for what is essentially the same game. There are scant few additions here beyond the technological overhauls, which is no bad thing as on top of the main story, you’re also getting the Left Behind and multiplayer DLC in the box, all for around £39.99. Naughty Dog have said they’re looking to capture people who may not have played it first time around (I can’t imagine there would be many given its 7 million plus sales) or people who have made the console leap from Microsoft to Sony this time around, as well as bringing back the fans that know Joel & Ellie like a pair of old friends.
The Last of Us Remastered looks absolutely stunning. Unshackled from PS3’s ageing architecture, Naughty Dog have fully used the power of the PlayStation 4 to really make The Last of Us shine, all running at a silky smooth 60FPS (The original ran at 30FPS). The change up is initially quite jarring and takes a little getting used to but the extra frame rate just makes everything look that much better, everything just pops that little bit more and makes combat and aiming much more responsive. For the purists, there’s an option to lock the frame rate back to 30FPS but it feels as if it serves no more purpose than for tech heads to really study the work Naughty Dog have done here.
And work they have; this remaster is clearly a labour of love for Naughty Dog, every frame is an exercise in mind blowing detail. The engine was already impressive back on PS3 but here the characters look and feel that much more expressive, Joel’s weathered face shows the toll that the years of survival have taken on him, his eyes expressive with grim determination. The environments look fantastic too, especially the areas in which nature has reclaimed the land from humanity. Almost as if to show it all off, Naughty Dog have gone and included a comprehensive photo mode where you can freeze the game at any moment, whether it be a gorgeously rendered sunrise breaking through the trees or Ellie marvelling at woodland creatures, using the detached, free floating camera to capture the image, slap a filter over it and upload that perfect shot to your friends. As it stands, The Last of Us Remastered is easily the best looking game on the PS4 right now and you could easily argue that with it looking almost movie like now and the game already doing an incredible job of telling the story, there doesn’t seem much point in the recently announced movie adaptation.
For anyone wanting to read into the background and the combat and crafting mechanics of the game, please check out my previous review in the link above. The Last of Us Remastered’s main campaign remains unchanged, the hope tinged journey across a nightmare America gone to hell, the wonderful bluegrass soundtrack that underpins it all with shades of the best Nick Cave / Warren Ellis scores, the brilliantly desperate combat system that makes each fight feel like a tense struggle for survival and the way they game effortlessly conveys the futility of life in this world, along with one of the most satisfying endings seen in a game that bravely avoids franchise territory of setting up a sequel, in order to fully serve the story of its characters and the world they live in. And what characters they are – Joel and Ellie still have one of the greatest relationships in gaming while Ellie herself still remains an absolute marvel in digital creations. Credit must again go to actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson for their incredible work in bringing these characters to life, with Baker definitely edging out Uncharted’s Nolan North as the most prolific actor working in games today with a string of terrific performances under his belt, while Johnson makes Ellie one of the most endearing and loveable game characters of all time. The cast and creative director unite on Remastered for a really cool commentary that runs across the game which is just pure fan service.
Also in the box is the utterly superb prequel DLC, Left Behind. Left Behind focuses on Ellie’s friendship with her best friend Riley as they kick around in an abandoned mall before the main game begins. They bond, they bicker, and they fall out and make up. I won’t spoil anything for you but it’s another master class in storytelling that wonderfully complements the main game and is testament to how well Naughty Dog understands character development. Left Behind also sees some subtle changes to the combat system as Ellie doesn’t have the brawn of Joel – she’s forced to be more stealthy and the game now presents opportunities for Ellie to create diversions by setting the infected against hunters and using the ensuing chaos to sneak by. I would highly advise that you play the main game before starting Left Behind as it reveals a major part of the main story that is only hinted at. My subsequent playthrough of the main game was made even more enjoyable by Left Behind’s reveals.
The Online Factions mode now comes packaged with the Abandoned and Reclaimed Territories map packs in the box. Online is definitely aided by the 60FPS boost, making everything flow just that little bit better and combat is greatly improved thanks to the change. Faction matches play out across 12 weeks with each game representing one day as two teams of four fights to salvage from the land (and each other) to grow their clans and keep them fed and alive. Supply Raid is a more of a straight up deathmatch with each side given 20 lives to share to fight to the death. The brilliant crafting mechanics that carry over from the main game also give matches a real tense edge as someone hunts for you while you’re hunkered down desperately trying to cobble together an explosive device to save yourself. I’m hoping that the already large PS4 user base helps the online mode find an even bigger home as it’s a hell of a lot fun to play, especially with friends.
Is The Last of Us Remastered worth your time and money if you’ve already played it? It all depends on how much you enjoyed it first time around but in my opinion, absolutely yes. Whether you’ve played it to death or you’re completely new to the game, The Last of Us Remastered is the definitive version of one of the greatest games ever made, a stunning adventure that deserves a place in the collection of every PS4 owner. The great finale of last generation gaming is now an exciting opening chapter in where Naughty Dog can possibly take video games with the full power of the PlaStation 4 behind them. Make no mistake about it, after stealing 2013 in an infected heartbeat, The Last of Us Remastered could very well be the best game of 2014 too. This is perfection, remastered!