The Last of Us is Naughty Dog’s Summer 2013 hit game, often quoted as the game of the generation – the must-have game for the PlayStation 3. 14 months down the line, we see The Last of Us Remastered released – barely enough time for the game to pick up dust. It’s incredibly rare to see a game being remastered so soon after the original – however, The Last of Us is not only Naughty Dog’s most successful game to date, but is very quickly becoming a cash cow which will hold The Last of Us in front of the public for years to come. While we don’t have word on a sequel, we do have the upcoming movie to look forward to. How many games can you name which get a tie-in movie before they get a sequel? Jumanji doesn’t count. Then there’s the comics, collectibles, an art book, and stationary. Yes, stationary. You can now buy a The Last of Us branded journal.
Despite this, it’s important to remember that The Last of Us is a great game; we previously scored it 10/10 for its solid game play, gripping soundtrack and exceptional tackling of adult themes such as life in a post-apocalyptic world where the protagonist is devastated by survivor’s guilt, and must do horrific things to survive. This review, as a result, is not a straight up ‘We love The Last of Us, this game is perfect, rah rah rah’ rant. (The 10/10 was one man’s opinion, and it isn’t mine, for the record). Considering The Last of Us Remastered‘s increased price, it needs to be significantly better, particularly at this price, and selling something new and unique in order to justify its existence so soon after the original’s release.
The first thing to note is the most obvious difference between the two: the graphics. The Remastered edition runs at that coveted 1080p resolution and generally keeps to its stated 60fps framerate, allowing for a much prettier, much smoother game. Couple this with the improved rendering capabilities of the PS4 hardware, and you get The Last of Us as you have never seen it before. Simply put, what was previously a gorgeous game is now both stunning and breathtaking. The textures have been improved, the way shadows are cast has been improved, and in general The Last of Us is now eerily realistic. That being said, there are occasional framerate dips, and for those who can’t stand even the slightest stutter, there is a 30fps lock, but it’s a notably less smooth look overall. If you are paying for The Last of Us Remastered, you are paying for the graphics above all else. Don’t mug yourself – play at 1080p60 as the developers intended.
Sadly, as pretty as Remastered is, there are still plenty of graphical bugs with this game; since this is a Remastered edition, it should be judged more harshly for that. There are a lot of clipping problems which are frankly unacceptable. Objects will often move through each other, though none are quite so jarring as when Ellie runs through a low wall or chair, or even runs straight through Joel or his gun. Joel is not a ghost. He is supposed to be solid. By direct comparison, Ellie is far too solid, and will simply forget that you’re trying to escape from the infected and simply block the exit, staring at the wall for no reason. For all the graphical improvements, this is where the game shoots itself in the foot.
There is no real difference between the original and the Remastered editions in terms of gameplay. There was the opportunity here to make this a Directors Cut, adding more dialogue or adding to the environment, but Naughty Dog didn’t take advantage of it. Remastered is identical to the original (though it does come with all of the DLC straight out of the box), and any problems you had before will still exist. Joel still struggles to line up a floating raft with the game engine’s “optimal” place for Ellie to climb aboard. The fighting and crafting systems are still there in the same sluggish manner as the original. There is one exception in that the controls are much better this time around: aim and shoot have been moved from L1 and R1 to L2 and R2 – which is where they should have been to begin with. Similarly, reload is now a simple tap of R2 when not aiming. This change is most welcome, because the original control scheme was nothing if not clumsy.
The graphics aren’t the only thing making use of the PlayStation 4 hardware – the DualShock 4 controller also makes the most of what’s on offer. There are no touchpad gimmicks, but tapping it will open Joel’s rucksack. This isn’t a huge difference, but it’s slightly easier than tapping Select on the DualShock 3. The DualShock 4’s strip light also represents Joel’s health, blinding you with red light when it’s time for Joel to heal. On top of all this, the controller even uses the inbuilt speaker when you click your flashlight on and off, when you shake your flashlight to recharge it, and when you eventually start picking up audiologs, similar to Killzone: Shadow Fall.
A Photo Mode has also been included, riffing on yet another PS4 exclusive, InFamous: Second Son. Tapping L3 will pause the game to let you take photos of your screen with far more fidelity than the Share button (which is pretty crap, let’s be honest). You don’t get that awful lag between hitting the button and taking the screenshot, and there is a number of filters which the denizens of Instagram will be thrilled to hear. Most people won’t be bothering with this mode, but it’s nice that it’s there.
Finally for the single player mode, there’s the DLC expansion, Left Behind. The Last of Us Remastered also comes with in-game commentary during the cutscenes, Remote Play (which actually works on the PlayStation 4, unlike the PS3 version), and Grounded Difficulty, which was available on the PS3 with the release of Left Behind. Grounded is not for the faint hearted, however, as it removes the HUD screen, and makes enemies much more difficult. This mode is straight up evil.
The inclusion of the DLC extends as far as the multiplayer modes too, with the Abandoned Territories and Reclaimed Territories multiplayer map packs included for free, though extra skins and hats (what is it with hats these days?) are still at a premium. It’s with the multiplayer where The Last of Us Remastered really comes into its own. Anyone who has played The Last of Us’ multiplayer will tell you that frame rate issues were the Achilles’ Heel of the experience. This time around, the 60fps frame rate stays mostly solid through both the single player and multiplayer experiences, making for a much more playable experience across the board. The tightened controls also add a lot here, making the multiplayer much more worth your time.
But in the end, The Last of Us Remastered is little more than a facelift. It’s stunningly gorgeous, but the rest of the game – the gameplay, soundtrack, maps and everything else is identical. It may be the definitive edition of the game, but if you have conquered the original, then it probably isn’t worth your time. However, if you own a PS4 and somehow managed to avoid playing the original on the PS3, you should definitely pick it up. But if you don’t own a PS4, and want to play The Last of Us, the original is still perfectly serviceable, and will probably be cheaper, Left Behind DLC included. Naughty Dog may have taken a beautiful game and made it prettier, but they haven’t made it any more than what it already was. If you’re looking for something more substantial than just the chance to play the same game with improved graphics, I’m afraid that this is not the game for you.