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The Last of Us Remastered PS4 Review

The Last of Us needs no introduction here at DarkZero HQ. Naughty Dog’s last title was awarded the full 10 out of 10 in our review and also went on to win one of the most celebrated awards on the planet – DarkZero’s Game of the Year 2013. Before releasing The Last of Us, Naughty Dog had just come off finishing Nathan Drake’s trilogy of adventures in the Uncharted series, but The Last of Us was a completely different beast compared to Uncharted. It’s a more serious game built around a dark theme, where most people have turned into zombie-esque mushroom walkers. It’s a take on a zombie story, but Naughty Dog keeps it interesting by having these “zombies” look different and act in interesting ways to make the gameplay incredibly tense, while delivering a fantastic story and some of the best characters to grace the video game medium.

This doesn’t change for the PlayStation 4’s remastered edition of the game. This is still the same amazing game from last year, along with the fantastic Left Behind downloadable content that released earlier this year, plus all the multiplayer DLC so far. Of course, the difference is that now it’s running on a system that is much more powerful than the PlayStation 3, which translates to the game running at native 1080p and at a steady 60 frames per second for almost all of the game.

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The Last of Us already looked fantastic on PS3, but this extra power has allowed the developers to use the higher detailed models from the cutscenes and put them into the gameplay segments. The textures are clearer, making them more detailed. The lighting is improved and shadows have also been given a boost, even more so if you want to lock the game to 30FPS, which is something I didn’t do for long, as the difference in 60 and 30 made the game feel choppier. The increase to 60FPS also helps the gun combat – aiming and movement comes off more responsive, making it easier to hit those vicious enemies in the head. The image quality is also drastically improved, with edges smoothed out and jaggies keeping their nasty sharp edges away. This isn’t a game that showcases what the PS4 can do, but a title to show you how damn good the original game looks when it’s got the power behind it to clean up the image quality.

Mapping the controls to the PS4 controller is perfectly fine, although, now you can use the R2/L2 buttons as trigger and aiming without issue. The speaker in the controller is only used to do the sound effect of the flashlight when it needs shaking to restart the juice flowing in the batteries. One last new feature is the inclusion of Photo Mode, which allows the player to freeze the action and take natural snapshots or add various filters and effects to spice up the scene. It’s great for capturing the game’s amazing environmental art design or saving that moment of joy when Joel and Ellie have a  session of friendly banter with a high five or pulling a funny face. Just check out this thread on NeoGaf for some outstanding shots that fans of the game have produced – it’s beautiful. Of course, there are some spoilers there, so make sure you have played the game or are okay with seeing some spoiler scenes.

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As there isn’t any more differences with the rest of the game, the following paragraphs are taken from the original review to give you an idea why I believe The Last of Us (and of course this remastered take) makes for one excellent game.

Unquestionably, one of the main reasons why I cared so much for the game’s two main survivalists is due to their  fantastic character and their development throughout the game. Joel is the adult – the old experienced man – who has toughed out 20 years of this disastrous infection to still be living to talk about it. He knows how to survive and will do what must be done to make sure he and the people close to him will stay alive. Even though the player hasn’t experienced such situations as Joel finds himself in, he’s a character that players can connect to rather easily. His true feelings are always showing, and it’s easy to understand his actions.

We must not forget about Ellie, though, who is just as important and is arguably better-developed than Joel. Ellie is a 14-year-old girl who has grown up and adapted to this rough world. She has no concept of what the world was like before the infection, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t detached from a young teenage personality. She’s spunky, cheeky, straightforward, and wants to know more about the world prior to its current state. This supplies lighthearted and comical moments that crop up when the game is kind enough to shed some sunlight into the grim storytelling. Both Joel and Ellie grow together into a father-daughter-like relationship and the chemistry between the two is exceptional. The fine work from Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson must be mentioned, as this makes everything that happens in the game all the more convincing.

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When I sit down and think about the gameplay of The Last of Us, it amazes me that Naughty Dog has managed to blend concepts popular in survivor horror so well with this action-adventure title. For instance, ammo is scarce, so mechanically, players cannot act as if The Last of Us was a pure shooter, because you will soon find yourself out of bullets. Enemies don’t drop much when taken down, and if they do, it’s a measly bullet or two. The game secretly is telling you to approach situations in a different manner – and the tools are there to do such a thing. Joel can crouch and hide behind cover to stay out of sight of both human survivors and the nasty infected. Multiple sections of the game allow for scenarios where you can get by a section without even attacking anyone. For areas where you can’t, Joel still has the skills to sneak behind someone to choke them out, or if you have the shiv in your arsenal, you can kill them for a faster death.

Scavenging the surrounding environments for items, such as alcohol, blades and sugar, is a must to keep Joel equipped with gear, though there aren’t many items to pick up. Each one fits into one of six types, and from these items you can craft health packs, bombs, and even attach tools to melee weapons for an instant kill. Crafting and scavenging is a very simple mechanic, but it keeps with the game’s theme of survival. Another part of scavenging is looking for pills and cogs, which act as the title’s point system to increase Joel’s stats and the weapons he carries. These points can be spent in gaining more health, faster recovery and improved hearing (Joel’s way of spotting enemies behind walls). Cogs do the same, but for weapons, meaning you can increase the ammo capacity for the shotgun or increase the reload speed of a rifle. Increasing Joel’s own stats can be done on the fly, but weapons have to be done at a workbench, similar to the combination mechanic in the Dead Rising series prior to Dead Rising 3.

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Combat is more diverse than, say, something like Uncharted. You can use your various shotguns, pistols and rifles to shoot people from behind cover; set down traps using your gear; sneak up on them; or you can run at them and use one of the melee weapons found in the environment, like the metal pipes, which can be used to aggressively take down hostile opponents. Yes, it’s violent, but it never feels out-of-context for the game, nor does it display the violence as a “trophy” to say “Look, we’re one gory-ass game!” It’s a brutal world where people do the most awful things to keep breathing that bit more, so when you’re using the context-sensitive surroundings during melee combat and you see Joel take a guy’s head and ram it into the wall, it doesn’t feel far-fetched from the reality and mind-set of the characters placed in such dreadful circumstances.

One thing I liked about participating in the gun fights is that none of the humans felt like bullet sponges, and what is even more surprising is that Joel himself isn’t one either. Both enemies and Joel have stun animations when getting hit by a bullet. Get shot by a shotgun up-close? You get pushed down to the ground. Get popped by a pistol? You’ll crumble to your knee. This stops the player from being able to spam bullets when getting hit and puts more emphasis on staying out of sight and being careful about how you approach combat scenarios. The Last of Us is a linear game, but the game’s environment feels more open than Uncharted’s, and this helps in such fire-fights, as you can use this openness to plan attacking the most efficient way.

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There is a nice balance between fighting against the humans and surviving against the infected. The Last of Us, while not necessarily scary, creates astonishing levels of tense atmosphere with its encounters. You could be walking through a darkened, collapsed building, using your torch to light the way, but then you hear the distinguished sound of a Clicker as it uses its bat-like sonar to detect movement (I should note that these Clickers also kill in one hit). You crawl, turn off your light and creep slowly towards the dangerous section. Surveying is very important, as infected can be often “hidden” in dark areas. Just experiencing this is nerve-wracking, because Joel is your average guy. For example, if he gets swamped with infected, he is pushed to cower and protect himself from the beating, and the only way to push them off is to press the sprint button to try and leap away. The experience – the “story” that you’ll speak to your friends about – with The Last of Us is less about the setpieces created by cinematic-style gameplay and more about the minute-to-minute advancements you make through the game’s level design and its hazardous occupants.

In general, the AI is good. Ellie and other partners you meet never get stuck or do game-breaking things, but what I did find is that they can break the engagement of the atmosphere between the player and the infected. This really is about one type of infected: the Clickers. They see by sound, and so when Ellie decides to come out of cover, get up and start sprinting towards another piece of cover – which involves running directly past a Clicker and said Clicker completely ignores her actions – it can be a real deal-breaker on the atmosphere. It’s not a rare thing, either, as this must have happened at least a dozen times. This matter is the only negative I have for the whole game. Some people will be fine with it; for me, I felt it threw me out of “the zone” – the experience and setting I was getting so wrapped up in was slightly shattered in front of me.

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By now, you should know that The Last of Us Remastered is a very special game that takes one of the best games on the PlayStation 3 and improves the image quality and frame rate to bring the best experience possible. If you have yet to play The Last of Us, and you own a PlayStation 4, I can fully whole heartily say go buy this game, because you’re in for a memorable time. For fans, this is one you might want to pick up if you want to play the game at its best. Either way, no matter which version of The Last of Us you play, it still remains one of the best exclusive titles for Sony and one of – if not THE – greatest games of the last generation.

10 out of 10