Disclaimer: this is a spoiler-free review (i.e. there are no specific references to a plot point or event in the game).
First things first: ‘The Last of Us’ on PS3 was my game of a generation. Therefore, when the rumours of a remastered edition on PS4 were confirmed earlier this year, I was very excited. Excited not only to play the game again, but also to try out the multiplayer and DLC I never got round to playing on the PS3.
The first thing I did as soon as I booted up The Last of Us: Remastered on my PS4 was begin a new story… obviously. Initially, the improved frame-rate (it now runs at 60fps) is jarring and distracting, but within a minute it seemed more natural. Fortunately, for those of you out there who would just like to play it in 30fps (why?), there is an option in the settings where you can lock the game at 30fps. This is also useful if you want to compare the two to see what the difference is like (hint: it’s extremely noticeable). The same applies to the controls. In the original version on PS3, due to the triggers of the DualShock 3 being shocking (pun intended), aiming, shooting and reloading were mapped to the bumpers (L1 and R1). On the PS4, the triggers are much improved; meaning aiming, shooting and reloading are now mapped to the triggers (L2 and R2). However, if you so wish, you can change it back to the original control scheme (again, why?).
Anyway, onto the reason most people bought the game: the story. Is it any good? There’s not yet been a word or phrase created to describe how mind-blowingly good The Last of Us’ story is, so I’m afraid I’ll just have to say yes, it is. Whilst the story itself isn’t exactly original (having said that, it’s not clichéd either), the way it’s told and the way characters are developed is revolutionary, and not just in the games industry. It sets very high standards across the entire entertainment industry. For example, without detailing or spoiling anything, the game was already plucking at my heart strings within the first 15 minutes of it starting. Fifteen minutes! Whilst this in large part down to the brilliant script, it is also down to the phenomenal voice- acting which keeps up with the standard it sets in the game’s introduction all the way to the game’s conclusion. Furthermore, literally every character feels needed, rather than just filler. Of course, characters like Joel and Ellie (voiced by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, respectively) are far more important and developed than others, but even minor characters like ‘man who guards secret entrance’ feels like he has a backstory.
These backstories mean that when an unpredictable and emotional event occurs (trust me, there’s plenty), it has more of an impact on you because each character feels like a person and just another bullet sponge. Immediately after each emotional event, the game moves on to the next season. At first, I felt this technique was a lazy way of not showing how the characters coped with the situation and how they managed to move on. However, I soon realised that this allowed the game to keep up its pace, as well as letting you see how the event has changed/shaped the characters.
The story, in case you didn’t know, follows Joel as he escorts a young girl, called Ellie, across a overgrown and infection-riddled America. This infection, which is actually inspired by a real-life infection most commonly found in ants, known as cordyceps, turns people into running killing machines, intent on spreading the fungal disease. Ironically, the infection has also turned those not infected into running killing machines, intent on killing those who oppose them.
For the infected and human enemies, Naughty Dog had to program two, different AI patterns. Whilst the majority of the infected (with the exception of stalkers) simply run at you, the human enemies are the most unpredictable, forcing you to plan out each attack carefully using cover, supplies and your handy ‘Listen’ mode (activated by holding R1, this allows the player to hear where enemies are behind cover and through walls. This can be turned off). However, AI can occasionally slip up. For example, there were multiple occasions when I had quickly dashed from one cover to the next whilst a guard’s back was turned, only for Ellie to follow me by walking right across the very same guard. Also, there are numerous sections when the game encourages you to bypass the infected using stealth. As I do so, NPCs (Non-Playable Characters) can shout something to Joel. Whilst this doesn’t alert the infected (somehow), it doesn’t make any sense.
One thing that makes The Last of Us stand-out from crowd is the fact that ammo and supplies are rare, forcing you to, for instance, melee someone rather than shoot and risk a possibly fatal miss. This also means you must think carefully about what to craft (did I forget to mention this game includes an awesome and tense crafting system?). This is because multiple items require the same supplies in order to craft. For example, a Molotov cocktail needs the same supplies as a medical kit to craft, meaning you have to decide what you want more. Also, you are forced to craft any items in real-time (i.e. the game doesn’t pause), so it’s also really, bloody tense.
The remastered edition also comes bundled with arguably one of the best pieces of DLC to have ever released: ‘Left Behind’. Left Behind has you play exclusively as Ellie for its duration, and covers a blind spot in the story as well as a crucial event in her past. Unfortunately for some like me (i.e. someone who enjoyed the action-packed parts of The Last of Us), this piece of DLC is much slower in terms of its build-up. This translates into less action and more character development. Also, the game’s climax features yet another heart-string plucking moment… or at least that’s the way it was created. Regrettably, this event was already referenced in the original game, meaning it lost its emotional impact (at least for me) as I already knew what was going to happen. Having said that, if you go into this DLC with that in mind, I think you’ll have a much better time with it.
Oh, you think that’s it? Nope! The game also includes a great multiplayer experience that ties in nicely to The Last of Us. Like the main game, ammo and supplies are scarce, as each team fights for control of the map by killing the enemy team using tactics and clever use of ammunition and supplies. There are three modes: ‘Supply Raid’ (where each team’s tasked with killing off the enemy team by wearing down the number of their respawns); ‘Survivors’ (similar to Supply Raid, but each player has no respawns for each round); and ‘Interrogation’ (where each team must down members of the enemy team, allowing them to be interrogated before killing them. Once each team has interrogated an enemy player four times, the location of the other team’s lockbox is revealed. The first team to unlock the enemy’s lockbox wins). In similar fashion to other multiplayer games, new unlocks (weapons, perks, one-time boosters, etc.) are earned by playing more matches and collecting more parts. However, unlike any other multiplayer game, once you select your side (either Firefly or Hunter) you set-up your own camp. The more successful you are, the more supplies and parts you get, allowing more people to join your camp. On the other hand, the less successful you are, the more hungry and sick the people in your camp become.
In other words, if you’ve never played it before, get it! And, if you have played it before, get it!