It goes without saying that if you played the third-person stealth action survival horror game The Last Of Us when it came out on the PlayStation 3 last summer, there’s no reason to buy The Last Of Us Remastered on the PlayStation 4, since all it adds is upgraded graphics, minor changes to the controls, and the previously released add-ons. But for those who haven’t had the pleasure, The Last Of Us is a engrossing, challenging, and often horrific journey through a rich word fraught with danger…regardless of which version you play.
Made by Naughty Dog — y’know, the Uncharted people — The Last Of Us takes place twenty years after an aggressive fungal infection turned most people into mindless cannibalistic savages, and most of civilization into a post-apocalyptic wasteland with only pockets of humanity. Cast as a black market smuggler named Joel, you and your pal Tess have to escort a teenager named Ellie out of the militarized, quarantined city of Boston. But with the outside world overrun with zombified people, as well as healthy folk who’ve lost all sense of human decency, suffice it to say this won’t be a walk in the park.
For the most part, The Last Of Us is a very good game. Not only does it tell a compelling story with cinematic flair, but it also seamlessly meshes survival horror and stealth action. But instead of trying to get past or behind terrorists and fellow spies, you instead try to get the jump on infected humans and fellow survivors.
The Last Of Us also does a good job of mixing things up, be it with a situational problem in need of solving or a plot twist I won’t spoil. It also has Naughty Dog’s patented mix of pithy dialog and fleshed out characters. More importantly, it’s genuinely scary, and a bit freaky, but is also action-packed, since if you can’t sneak past someone, you have to beat them down or blow them away.
It’s kind of like if Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher took a vacation on Dead Island, but he forgot his backpack, so he has to scavenge for ammo, new weapons, and loose parts he can fashion into improvised explosives and bandages. And yes, it is as good as that sounds.
That said, The Last Of Us — and thus The Last Of Us Remastered — is far from perfect. As is so often the case with stealth action games, some of the human enemies aren’t terrible bright, or situationally aware, so it can be easy to sneak up behind them. Though there are also some who know enough to duck or run away. And while the infected can be a bit clueless as well, it makes more sense, narratively, that they wouldn’t be the most aware bunch of folks.
Speaking of the narrative, The Last Of Us also has some story issues. While the good people at Naughty Dog are great with dialog and characters, this game falls victim to some well-worn post-apocalyptic clichés. Though given the game’s solid action, these moments are still engaging and challenging.
Then there’s the ending, in which something happens that pushes Joel to make a choice, a choice, I think, is the wrong one. Now, this doesn’t ruin The Last Of Us, it doesn’t make it less fun. It’s not even entirely out of character. If anything, it’s a testament to the quality of the writing that we care enough about these characters, and know them so well, that we’re annoyed when they do things out of character. But no matter how many times I play this game, I still wish Joel had made a different (read: smarter) decision.
Along with the story-driven campaign, The Last Of Us also includes some multiplayer modes. But they’re fairly straight-forward, and nothing we haven’t seen countless times before.
While The Last Of Us is definitely worth playing by anyone who enjoys being scared, being sneaky, and being reminded of how easily society can collapse and how little the Earth would care, the question then becomes: To PS4 or not PS4?
Honestly? It doesn’t matter. At its core, The Last Of Us Remastered is really just a better looking version of The Last Of Us. And not even a dramatically better looking version. Sure, the differences are noticeable, especially if you do a side-by-side comparison, but the improvements aren’t as great as, say, the upgrade 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved on the original Xbox got with the 2011 remake Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary on the Xbox 360. For instance, Ellie looks as much like a young Ellen Page in Remastered as she does in the original.
Not that it matters, since the visual upgrade in The Last Of Us Remastered has no bearing on the game itself. It doesn’t, for instance, make it easier to see approaching enemies, or make it easier to figure out how to sneak past them. And once you start playing, and get caught up in the game’s action and story — which you will — it’s not like you’re going to be staring at the scenery, anyway.
It’s kind of like getting your car painted: sure, it may look like new, but it still runs like it did before.
The Last Of Us Remastered also adds some minor adjustments to the controls. You now, for instance, press the touch pad to craft items, upgrade your health and crafting skills, or to look at artifacts you’ve collected. But given that the controls in Remastered are as responsive and intuitive as they were in the original, where they were spot-on, this isn’t really an improvement, or even much of a change.
Along with the original’s main campaign, The Last Of Us Remastered also comes with the add-ons they released, most notably the campaign expanding Left Behind, which does a great job of augmenting the main story with an Ellie-centric tale. It also includes the first two map packs for the game’s multiplayer modes, though, oddly, they’ve since announced a third, and possibly a fourth. Not that it matters since adding some more detail doesn’t make the game’s multiplayer modes any less rote.
The Last Of Us Remastered also includes the supremely challenging difficulty setting “Grounded” (though this game’s higher difficultly levels are already really tough). It also has optional commentaries on the cutscene by the game’s creative director/writer Neil Druckmann and voice actors Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie). Viewable separately after you unlock them, they’re not only insightful, but also entertaining, especially since Johnson is every bit as affable as her digital counterpart. Though like the commentary on a movie, you probably won’t listen to them more than once.
Thanks to a solid mix of thrills, chills, and post-apocalyptic spills, The Last Of Us is a very good game…and The Last Of Us Remastered is just as good, it just looks better doing it. But while this means that anyone who’s already played the original edition shouldn’t bother with the superficially-upgraded version, for those who didn’t get around to it before, or who bought a PlayStation 4 after skipping the PS3, and are into the idea of trying to sneak past fungus people and other jerks while searching a decrepit wasteland for a pair of scissors and some tape, The Last Of Us is definitely recommended…regardless of which version you play.