I’ve often let loose my particularly unpopular opinion that Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is an overrated game. That revelation’s generally met with gasps and dropped jaws, though what many seem unable to grasp is that overrated doesn’t mean bad. The Last of Us is one of the best games available for the PlayStation 3, and now, with its remastered version available just over a year later, it’s one of the best games available on the PlayStation 4.
There’s little point in re-analysing the story, the game’s mechanics or its much lauded characterisation. If you want all of that, you can read our original review here. There’s need really, because it’s all exactly the same, right down to the things that annoyed me so much the first time around.
Magically re-appearing bottles; poor enemy and companion AI; convenient pallets whenever there’s water; a gun that becomes mystically able to fire unlimited bullets when the situation calls for it. There were many admittedly minor irritations in the game that brought me out of the realistic world that Naughty Dog sought to create. Minor yes, but they all niggled away at the back of my brain, removing me from the action. Unfortunately, every one of them returns.
The Last of Us tells a wonderfully crafted story better than very nearly all other games, and it’s probably because of its narrative competence that its actual gameplay doesn’t hold up as well. The humanity the characters show off crumbles the second they flop about like digital puppets blocking your path as you try move from cover.
And yet, I found myself enjoying the game far more on this run. I think part of it is because I know precisely what to expect, making those irritations less pervasive. I’m loathe to admit that it could even be because of the new graphical fidelity and the game’s doubled frame rate. There’s a toggle to switch between 30 and 60fps, so purists can stick with 30fps if they so desire; it makes a rather marked difference, with 60 feeling decidedly smoother and more fluid. 30fps adds a certain gravitas that’s missing when played at 60fps and gives shadows a smoothing out, where they seem a tad more jagged at 60.
It is, of course, not the only bit of polish the game’s been afforded. Assets have mostly been given a higher resolution, making small details like the wrinkles in Joel’s face and his ashen hair stand out more. Rare smiles penetrate more, strained faces demonstrate their pain. It all adds weight to the game’s lofty emotional themes and contexts.
It’s not all good; The Last of US remastered doesn’t put the PlayStation 4 to work quite as hard as you’d expect, and as good as it looks it’s still very much a PlayStation 3 game with a new coat of paint on it. It becomes even more apparent when juxtaposed against the newly rendered cut-scenes, which now do seem to be worlds apart from the game itself. Where the PlayStation 3’s version blended nearly seamlessly between gameplay and cinematic, the supremely polished visuals of the cut-scenes take on an otherworldly tone.
Aside from the increase in visual fidelity, The Last of Us Remastered gathers and coagulates all of the game’s existing DLC in to one handy package. Most of it is multiplayer stuff; maps, skins and weapons but it also includes the rather wonderful Left Behind, which pokes in to Ellie’s character in further detail. The multiplayer itself is even more responsive thanks to the increase in frames. It could well be all in my imagination, but it seems that the latency issues that affected the PlayStation 3 game are less severe.
There are commentary tracks on in-game cinematics featuring the creative director and principal actors, making it a bit of a special edition or director’s cut of the game.
The final major addition to Remastered is a photo mode similar to the one in inFamous: Second Son. It allows players to pause the action and swing about the scene and take artistic screenshots, fiddling with the brightness, colour settings and overall graininess. It’s activated with a menu option that allows players to access Photo Mode by pressing L3. If you’re versed in console controls, that’s typically used for things like running, and during some of the more panic-laden moments I found myself pausing and panning instead of running in the opposite direction of clickers.
If you play games for the stories alone and have played the game and its DLC, there’s little reason to purchase it anew unless you get off on counting pixels. If you have, but love the multiplayer, or want the full, shinier package, it’s worth the money. If you’ve never played the game, there’s really very little reason not to get the game – even if it is just to see what the fuss is about.
Last Updated: August 1, 2014