The LasT of Us Remastered: The End Of Days Just Got A Whole Lot Prettier

Originally released in June 2013, Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us takes the same end of the world scenario that’s served as the backbone for a legion of video games over the years. But what it does, and does superbly, is mine it in a whole new  and unexpected way.

The world of The Last of Us is bold, brutal, bleak and terrifying from opening reel to closing credits. It’s a master class in game design, slow burn dread and, more significantly, storytelling. And testament to its narrative abilities are the throngs of awards the developer has picked up over the course of the 12 months since launch. With that in mind, it seems a little odd that here we are a little over a year later reviewing a rejigged edition. Still, if it means more people will be given the opportunity to experience what is quite possibly the finest game of a generation, then that suits us just fine.

If you’ve never played The Last of Us, the set-up is simple: you play as Joel, an ice cold killer with a tragic past and survivor of a fungal plague that somehow transforms its victims into flesh eating monsters. When we meet him he’s eking out an existence as a smuggler deep inside a military quarantine zone nestled on the East Coast of America, when he’s forced to set off on a cross-country journey with Ellie a 14 year old girl harbouring a secret that may or may not be able to turn the tide of survival in a world gone to shit.

Like we said, a simple set up, but it’s in the execution and the time the game and its team takes to build on these two characters and their complicated relationship that really makes The Last of Us stand head and shoulders above pretty much any other game out there trying to tell a story or elicit an emotional response from us as players.

Both characters, thanks to the astonishingly good performances from Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, are so unbelievably believable in their convictions that you’ll find it impossibly tough to peel yourself away from the screen until you find out how this bleak narrative comes to an end. And as you’ll know if you’ve played the PS3 original, what an ending it is.

For an AI partner Ellie is almost faultless. Almost. During our play through she aimlessly wandered out into the open but didn’t get spotted, despite being in an enemy’s eyeline. Moments like these and there are a few of them are sloppy and only serve to temporarily yank you out of the experience.

So, what are the big changes that Naughty Dog has implemented for the transition from PS3 to PS4? The most apparent of these is the frame rate reboot that takes the original version’s power-pushing 30 frames per second at 720p resolution and reworks it to 60 frames per second at a whopping 1080p. It’s a little odd at first, but one you’ll soon come to quickly appreciate. If you don’t, there is the option to lock it at 30 with the added bonus of improved shadows. But if you take a moment to bounce back and forth between the settings in the options menu you’ll see how significant a boost it really gives the experience both visually and in terms of the gameplay.

Remember when shootouts and dust ups in the original felt a little clunky and unwieldy? Irks like these have been smoothed over thanks to the frame rate bump. Sure, there are still moments here and there where the frame rate will stutter a little, but it’s nowhere near as obvious as before. While the game always looked incredible, this newfound graphical fidelity just seems to make everything in the game world pop that little bit more thanks to the extra power of the PlayStation 4.

Interestingly this is where the newly concocted Photo Mode brilliantly comes into play, enabling you to take control of the game’s camera and stockpile a series of snaps of The Last of Us’ breathtaking landscapes. It works much like the mode in inFamous: Second Son, only here you’re using it to capture environments reclaimed by the forces of nature rather than fancy superhero footwork and flashy neon explosions .

One alteration in particular that is as welcome as the visual overhaul is the control scheme that’s been updated for the DualShock 4. For one, the terrible triggers that made shooting on the PS3 a chore when mapped to the R1 and L1 buttons, can now be switched to R2 and L2 on the DualShock 4’s far superior trigger buttons. Or you can keep it the same if you’re comfortable picking off enemies that way.

The backpack has been configured to the touchpad, too, making it far less of a fumble to pull it up and craft on the fly. Another modification that we enjoyed was how Naughty Dog used the speaker on the controller to relay sound effects, such as the clicking of your flashlight on and off or audio diaries. Sure it may seem a little bit cheesy to some, but right now the speaker adds that little extra layer of immersion to any game that chooses to use it.

The Last of Us Remastered is a generous package, too, thanks to a wealth of extras that Naughty Dog has packed on the disc some of which you had to pay a extra coin for on PS3. The most significant of these is the Left Behind DLC that was released back in February. Clocking in at a little over two hours it takes place during the campaign and  (SPOILER ALERT!)  right after Joel is injured at the end of the second act and Ellie is left to fend for both of them during the cold of winter. It’s a flashback tale that delves into the relationship between Ellie and her friend Riley, who is briefly mentioned in the closing moments of the game.

In it Riley, hoping to mend a rift between the two, takes Ellie to an abandoned shopping mall where they explore the empty stores and even figure out a way to get a broken down merry go round up and running again. These moments flit back and forth between Ellie’s quest for medical supplies in the present day to aid Joel’s recovery, while weaving in plenty of the same style of stealth and action that made the main campaign so stunningly memorable.

There really isn’t much more at play than that and we’ve deliberately dodged the major story beats of this one to avoid spoilers for those of you that may have missed the DLC boat first time around, but suffice to say there are surprises in store including the nature of Riley and Ellie’s relationship and a nod to the 2D beat-’em-ups of yesteryear. Sitting alongside the DLC is the rather meaty multiplayer, which takes the base gameplay mechanics of the solo campaign and pits you and three friends against another team of four survivors in The Last of Us’ nature ravaged world.

In it you’ll scavenge for supplies, tag enemies for your buddies to see and enhance your character through a variety of upgrades, much like every other multiplayer mode out there. There’s also an interesting secondary mode at play, wherein you’re tasked with managing five characters; the better you do over the course of each of the matches you take part in, the more you’re able to support the survivors in your group. Naughty Dog also keeps things interesting by awarding your survivors with specific skills and items when you take on certain missions. It’s a truly interesting meta-game that adds another layer to an already jam-packed multiplayer line-up.

Other extras on offer on the Remastered disc include optional commentary throughout the game’s cut-scenes with game director Neil Druckmann and cast members, Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson. There’s a documentary on offer, too, called Grounded: The Making of The Last of Us, which, despite being available to watch on YouTube for some time now, is still a welcome addition to what is essentially a Special Edition release of a title destined to be picked apart in game design courses for eons to come.

It features a wealth of interviews with the cast and crew while touching on a variety of subjects, including the difficulty of building a new IP from the ground up and the fact that in some cases a game truly doesn’t begin to emerge until the very final weeks of development. And while it does feel a little bit too corporate for our liking at certain points, it’s still an interesting and eye-opening documentary that does its best at delving deep behind the scenes of the last great game of a great gaming generation.

The Last of Us was already a masterpiece of game design on the PlayStation 3, but with improved visuals and a reworked frame-rate that allows for smoother gunplay, as well as a whole host of DLC and extras, you’d be hard pressed to find  a reason not to want to play through this one again. Which leads us neatly to our only major gripe: The Last of Us Remastered is too expensive for a retooled edition, especially if you have played it once already. If you can get past that price tag, though, then
this is quite possibly the only game you’ll need to buy this summer on the PlayStation 4.

This is The end

[SPOILER ALERT!] At the recent live stage performance of The Last of Us in Los Angeles, game director Neil Druckmann revealed that there was an epilogue that didn’t make it into the game. In it, Joel is talking to Ellie about Tommy trying to get him to marry a woman called Esther. Ellie is acting distant and reserved until Joel pulls out a guitar and sings a song. Joel then tells Ellie a joke and leaves the guitar with Ellie as a gift. The scene ends with Ellie on her bed alone strumming her first chord on the guitar. Druckmann claims it was written as a farewell to the pair, so does that mean we will never see them again? Only time will tell.

The Last Of Our Sanity

Post a Comment