Published on September 23rd, 2014 | by Jordan King0
Review: The Last of Us: Remastered
The Last of Us is a masterpiece, fully deserving of the praise so many people have thrust upon it in the year since its initial release. Naughty Dog have crafted a brutal yet heartfelt narrative that single-handedly elevates the medium’s potential for storytelling whilst avoiding the obvious cliches that would otherwise hinder similar post-apocalyptic titles. The troubled cast of characters created by Naughty Dog feel genuine, displaying a sense of depth and humanity that we can’t help but feel engrossed by as the story unfolds. The gameplay is contextually sound when juxtaposed against the story, as each bullet and fist thrown by the player feels justified, assisting in a harrowing fight for survival in a world drowned in hostile humans and infectious monstrosities. Despite all the critical positivity standing behind it a fair amount of skepticism has surrounded such a sudden remastering, especially since The Last of Us was only first released a little over a year ago, and some of this is rightfully justified. However this PS4 iteration is a commendable improvement, with the frame rate now at a solid 60 frames per second, gameplay feels smoother and much more responsive. A host of other graphical improvements such as a higher resolution and improved textures elevate The Last of Us from being the best looking title on PS3 to one of the most visually captivating of the current generation.
It has been 20 years since a highly contagious virus known as “Cordyceps” swept across the US, infecting millions and turning them into flesh craving monsters, leading to the breakdown of society and nationwide panic. Joel, a middle-aged man has been doing whatever he can to survive in this now fractured and hostile world, his morally questionable past is left to your own interpretation most of the time. You know he has lost something incredibly dear to him, and is struggling to find something in this horrid world that is still worth fighting for, until he meets Ellie. When you first encounter Ellie she seems nothing more than an irritating teenager, but as she has no choice but to grow closer to Joel her character begins to evolve. Ellie knows nothing of the world before the infection began, believing familiar concepts such as ice cream trucks and everyday jobs to be absolutely ridiculous. This oblivious attitude means it makes sense when Ellie jams her switchblade into an unsuspecting thug’s neck. All Ellie knows is a world filled with death and violence. Joel is tasked with escorting Ellie across the country and their evolving relationship becomes the crux of the narrative, and is one of the most genuine and realistic character portrayals I’ve ever seen in a game. Fantastic performances by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson make these character possible, and the addition of motion captured cutscenes makes each respective character so much more believable. You would be forgiven for believing The Last of Us is nothing more than another cliched ridden post-apocalyptic zombie game. However that would be selling Naughty Dog far too short. The usual cliches have been embraced, taking familiar genre concepts and breathing new life into them with stellar character moments and tense yet rewarding gameplay. The single player DLC “Left Behind” is also included, and absolutely essential if you want to take on everything the narrative has to offer. Mainly revolving around Ellie and the events that took place before the games story, Left Behind is an enthralling but unfortunately short-lived study of Ellie’s character, which I would recommend playing after you have made your way through the main story.
Speaking of gameplay. The Last of Us at first feels like a more slow-paced Uncharted, with an emphasis on crafting a multitude of items and brutal and bloody melee combat. Seriously, the melee portions of the combat have to be some of the most realistically grotesque I’ve ever seen. Smashing an enemy’s face in with a brick has never felt so horrifically satisfying, and the weighty responsiveness makes each combat encounter a joy to play, even if they begin to drag out during the middle portion of the game. The meticulous integration of crafting as a core gameplay mechanic contributes hugely to the tense nature of combat encounters. Being forced to dive into your inventory to craft an item crucial to your survival whilst an enemy creeps towards you is exhilarating, especially on higher difficulty settings. As you progress through the story the majority of your arsenal can be upgraded. This adds sense of progression to Joel’s abilities that feels natural, making tackling enemies gradually easier but never underwhelming. On the highest difficulty settings a single bullet can result in death, forcing you to strategically eliminate each enemy individually by taking advantage of some simplistic but wholly responsive stealth mechanics. The use of intense set-pieces in The Last of Us is rather muted, possibly to emphasise how dangerous living has become in the game’s world, trying its best to ground the characters in a realistic and easily relatable setting.
The first time I played The Last of Us on PS3 I paid hardly any attention to the multiplayer, only after revisiting it do I realise how hugely underrated it is. You begin your time in the multiplayer by first selecting a faction to fight for. By participating in matches online you build up your population and must survive for 12 entire weeks, with each match being the equivalent of a single day. The best aspect of the multiplayer is how well it transitions the single player mechanics into an online environment. Real time crafting feels incredibly tense when a player could come from any direction, forcing you to carefully consider your actions before taking them, and it certainly pays to stick with a team member if you want to survive. A distinct lack of game modes is quite disappointing though, and the matchmaking at the time of writing is mediocre, finding matches can sometimes be a chore. With all the past DLC bundled in with this edition it’s definitely worth giving it a try, you might end up being hooked like I was.
The Last of Us: Remastered is the definitive version of an already phenomenal experience, combining excellent combat, rounded and genuine characters, and so much more to create not only the best game on PS3, but possibly the best on its little brother one year later. The inclusion of the addictive multiplayer and excellent single player content make this an essential purchase for any PS4 owner who has yet to play it, or even if you are a dedicated fan wishing to revisit the characters of Joel and Ellie. Naughty Dog should be applauded for what they have created here, and with the PS4 now being their primary platform, I can’t wait to see what they pull out of their hat next.
Summary: The definitive version of the post-apocalyptic masterpiece every gamer should experience.