Review: The Last of Us Remastered Makes a Great Game Even Better
Platform: PlayStation 4
Naughty Dog was saddled with a daunting task last year. Along with developing the fourth chapter in the Uncharted trilogy, the developer was also queried by Sony to produce a special edition of its PlayStation 3 triumph The Last of Us for PlayStation 4. Considering all the detail and hard work that went into that game, remastering it for a new console sounds next-to-impossible, doesn't it? We're not just talking a "quickie" port here – it's The Last of Us, after all.
Still, after being delayed for a short while and hearing about the trials and tribulations about its development, Remastered has finally arrived in both retail and digital form, allowing players for a whole new console generation to experience one of the greatest games from the previous console era. And, for good measure, it may have just become one of the favorites of this era too.
Hard Times For Joel
The story follows a grizzled man by the name of Joel, who finds himself going through personal hardships after a leeching fungus manages to clean out a good portion of humanity in the game's beginning. Soon after, America is changed to a more militant state, in the hopes of keeping the remaining survivors from getting out of line or, worse yet, infected.
Joel runs through the day-to-day motions with a gunrunning business, trying to hide away the tragedy that has befallen him so many years ago. (We don't spoil it here, but you'll find out in the game's introduction). But things take a startling turn when he's asked to hand deliver a 14-year old girl named Ellie to a group of awaiting renegades at the other end of the city. Not only is he tired and beat, but also quite hesitant, worried about the dangers that could come from the road ahead.
What makes The Last of Us such a compelling experience is its storytelling. It doesn't hold back on the hard stuff in the very least, but it doesn't make it a complete tale of woe, as there are numerous human moments throughout where you can sense what Joel's going through, and how well he really means. Ellie is an ideal companion for him, and not just a "useless heroine" that simply runs by his side. There are times throughout the game where her role is just as crucial as his. And by the end, you feel just how great a team they really are.
The Gameplay Is Better Than Ever
With The Last of Us, you can't hope to rampage into every situation and come back out alive. This is a game where stealth can be your best ally, as you sneak up and incapacitate enemies, while conserving bullets and other projectile weaponry for the tougher battles ahead. While some who prefer the more action-packed style of Uncharted may prefer that route, The Last of Us offers better rewards over time, as you learn the truth of what it takes to survive in this post-apocalyptic world.
How you approach the game is totally your call, as it was before. You can either take out soldiers with brutal force (Joel is good at melee striking, but hardly as invincible as, say, Master Chief) or simply sneak your way around danger in the hopes of keeping safe. Either way you play, the game is raw and vivid in its presentation of what it takes to stay alive, and you feel those survival elements better than most games that have come before. Naughty Dog has really worked its magic here, just as it did with last year's game.
The difference maker is the PS4 controller set-up. Somehow, the game feels even better with a DualShock 4, and there were hardly any instances where something didn't go our way because of faulty gameplay. Sure, there are tense scenarios where Joel could wind up full of bullets, but that's just part of the territory, thanks to the concentrated AI. It's really something, and a nice change of pace from the usual "stupid guard" syndrome.
The magic's in the graphics
Where Remastered really makes its leap onto the next-gen is in the visuals. Naughty Dog put a strenuous effort into making sure every bit of detail inside the desecrated city remained intact with the game, from its cruddy sewers to its distractingly grassy settings above ground. It all looks fantastic here, utilizing the PS4's processing power in the best way possible.
The speedier frame rate is noticeable, too. The game moves at a consistent 60 frames per second (you can change it back to 30, if you want), with barely any noticeable glitches whatsoever, and plenty of outstanding detail around every corner. This is quite the showpiece for the PS4, even if the game itself wasn't really intended for it in the first place.
As for audio, it's still rich and rewarding. Gustavo Santaolalla's simple yet elegant music themes are perfect for the game's dreary themes, and the voice acting, with Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson leading the charge, is among the best around. It's nice to see Naughty Dog put as much work into the audio side of things as it did the visuals. Nothing's changed here, and that's good.
The other stuff
In addition to the outstanding single player mode, there's also a multiplayer Factions mode, where you can fight against rival players and rank up as a result. This is an interesting side mode, and even though it doesn't have as clear a point as the single player campaign, it's still fun to play, especially if you get your friends involved.
It's also great to see the DLC included on the disc. Left Behind is a terrific side tale that ties into the main story, and it's made all the more heartbreaking as you learn what happens later on. No further spoilers, but fans know exactly what we're talking about. Be sure to check it out.
Best of all, the game is priced at $50, a smart move considering it is, in technicality, "just a port." This is sure to be a best seller for the system, even to those that beat it last summer with ease.
Here are the criteria I consider most important for judging The Last of Us Remastered.
Whether you prefer sneakiness or taking out someone with punches or bullets, this game has an exceptional amount to offer.
Naughty Dog has retouched the visuals in all the right ways, and the faster frame rate makes a splendid difference.
Between the music score and the quality voice acting, it gets no better.
Good fun, although it doesn't quite feel as necessary as the main part of the game.
Easily one of the best releases last year, The Last of Us Remastered has a good chance of winning even more Game of the Year honors with this exceptional improvement. The visuals, sound, gameplay and extras all come together to make this a worthwhile package. Even if you've seen everything it has to offer, you should experience it again.
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