I'm sure many of us would have at least heard of Naughty Dog's already work of genius survival horror The Last Of Us due to it's critical acclaim alone from the Playstation 3. I had an odd experience with it however. After becoming addicted to it for a whole week upon release, I played through the main storyline and after it's emotional climax decided to move my copy on as I didn't feel I could carry on with it, like when you reach a certain point in any relationship.
But then, I had an itch.
An itch that grew into a hunger, then a yearning. I missed my Last Of Us. It's not that surprising since this was the game to make me fall in love with video gaming again. I waited patiently on the news that new bonus content would be released on top of the inevitable 'Game Of The Year' edition which seems to be for all titles nowadays. When this re-release was announced as a Playstation 4 exclusive, I made the effort and made the jump to the next gen of consoles just for The Last Of Us: Remastered alone - and I am not disappointed. In fact, I'm stunned.
In the definition of 'boxset gaming', TLOU:R brings to life the feeling that you're playing through an epic journey as you guide two survivors through a post-apocalyptic scenario on a psychologically draining yet satisfying path. The storytelling is so vivid that you will not want to stop playing as you want to find out what happens to these characters as their story arcs are basic but totally satisfying. For the most part, you play as Joel, an emotionally broken man who survives as a smuggler in a quarantine zones in Boston, as the world has been consumed by a floral & fungus infection turning humans into zombie like creatures. Upon running into a member of the Fireflies (a rebel group fighting the Government run quarantine zone authority), he is charged with taking a teenage girl called Ellie on a cross-country journey as she may hold the key to stopping the infection as she is immune to it. Despite the two initially on odds, the two develop a bond which grows through each near-death experience with the infected and ruthless human characters they meet.
The characterisation is really what sold TLOU:R on me the first time. Joel is a brutally damaged guy just aimlessly living day to day with no meaning after the infection takes everything he had away from him. Sure he's got an on and off romance with a supporting character but she is only a square peg in a round hole in his life. Ellie on the other hand is a kid bred and raised in this post-apocalypse, taught only what's needed to get by at military school. She has only seen the world outside of her quarantine safe zone through books and what other people have told her. The many moments of the game when she stops and marvels at something as simple as a run down arcade games machine had me with mixed emotions; sympathy, pity, wonder. She can't comprehend how pre-apocalypse kids had so little to worry about compared to the situation they're in. Two uniquely broken characters who come together and bond through the power of video game storytelling - if you ever have someone question the validity of whether games can be art, show them this. Quite possibly one of the best double act relationships of any medium.
Gameplay wise, it's fairly original for a survival horror as it really plays up both the horror and survival aspects. For the most part, you'll be going around linear paths of urban and countryside locales during different seasons in a year, picking up supplies to craft weapons and healing items to fend off the infected. Depending on your difficulty setting, supplies become even more scarce as the infected evolve into bigger and harder enemies. Starting off with 28 Days Later-esque 'fast zombies', we're soon introduced to Clickers who only hunt by sound and the behemoth-sized bloaters. Usually encounters are dealt with sort of like the Predator rooms in the Batman: Arkham series as you reach for cover to cover to stay out of the gaze or hearing distance of both infected and human enemies. The listening mode where the screen greys out and distant or close by enemies are highlighted when they make sound is a nice touch and helps you think up strategies to get through the game. How you proceed is up to you - do you have the necessary resources to make an effort in taking out enemies or can successfully get to the exit via hurling bottles and bricks in the opposite direction to create a distraction? Is it worth you shiving your way through a room of clickers when there could be a more varied encounter down the track or a unlockable door even? The resource management is worth trying to keep a balance but at the same time there's always a fear of whatever you've used went to waste when a situation is too easy or vice-versa, which is the real horror of the game. There are guns but you are by no means an expert and for once they're not overpowering. You can level up your guns and own personal skills through hard to find parts and pills. It's worth supping up your characters as quick as you can since you will need them to get through the imbalanced difficulty of encounters.
I'm not one for too much hyperbole when it comes to describing an aspect of any medium I cover, but believe me when I say this - This is probably the best video game graphically I've ever played. For taking an already breathtaking looking game and somehow make it even better, I can not place into words at how much of an achievement it is for Naughty Dog to accomplish. Bare in mind, Last Of Us is just over a year old and running at the full power of the Playstation 3. It's the really small touches that make this so mind-blowing; Joel now has fine, individual grey hairs coming out creating light and dark patches to add to his aging mane for example. There are realistic looking sun hues shining through when you play through sections of the game set at sunset. Those forest sequences look somehow even more untamed & wild and calmingly beautiful. The cityscapes you traverse has a enriching detail to them to absorb you into the LOS world even more, with readable signs in the distance. The graphics are so immersive now that even iconic scenes from the game you maybe familiar leap out at you with new meaning in near-cinematic quality. If it was just this graphical upgrade which you're getting for your money, I'd say it would be worth it as no other game as impressed me on Playstation 4 and showed it's true power as TLOU:R.
In fact, the only real negative I can throw at Naughty Dog is that they had an opportunity to go back and tidy up the ally A.I. when it comes to sneaking around the infected and human enemies and from what I've seen, didn't bother. It's actually a double edged sword in the sense that Ellie and others will be fairly panicked from the approaching enemy and attempt to get out of the way of getting caught. This is great - it adds to the panic of the situation and brings yourself onto their level of freaking out as you're scared that a clicker is about to grab you. But then there are times where they run right round a crate you're hiding behind in full gaze of a solider, not being spotted, to reposition themselves. Whilst you can give the admittedly respected excuse of that these character models are so well developed and fleshed out they must be fairly complex to program into situations where they do not influence gameplay (it's Joel's actions that determine if you're found or not), it removes you right out of the game and atmosphere by your ally completely spazzing out with such a completely random bug when it's put under pressure to perform. It's not game breaking but there was an opportunity to get rid or make amends by the developers but no, it's still there. There's enough in the gameplay that usually you'll be thrown into a situation to deal with straight away to get over the ally A.I. bugging out quickly, but it's still annoying and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
As it is a re-release version of the original, there's some sweet extras to keep you engrossed even if you own the original. The single player side story Left Behind is in the right environment to be brought now, as part of a complete package since the $15 price tag for two hours of game is criminal. There's some more DLC included in some of the online multiplayer maps packages but not all. You can also busy yourself with the Grounded difficulty setting for those truly wanting a real challenge. Throw in the newly enhanced graphics & full 1080p display at a constant 60 frames per second on top of the enhanced audio options, director's commentary and taking advantage of the PS4's in-game content capturing and sharing in Photo Mode and The Last Of Us: Remastered is certainly a package for new and old fans alike to consider picking up for sheer value for money alone.
The 411: I've been a Playstation fan ever since my parents got me my PSOne one Christmas with Crash Bandicoot 2 and Final Fantasy 7 but I was considering not bothering with PS4 until this was announced. I still had an itch to scratch. Like a junkie I needed my Last Of Us. Despite it being a re-release of a last generation game, The Last Of Us: Remastered is the best game out there on Playstation 4. Naughty Dog have taken their masterpiece and made it transcend it's art form with this state of the art reworking. The scores below are not ones to think little of some fan's opinion - BELIEVE THE HYPE.