Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Last of Us Remastered

Last year saw the release of The Last of Us, Naughty Dog's answer to the post-apocalyptic genre. However, while many of this generation primarily know Naughty Dog as the masterminds behind the Uncharted series, my love for them stretches back into the 90's, and at the height of the original PlayStation era. I am of course talking about the Crash Bandicoot series, a franchise that propelled them from normal game studio to quite literally one of the main reasons to buy a PlayStation. Blending cartoon-like graphics, excellent smooth gameplay, wonderful levels and a terrific sense of humour, the Crash Bandicoot series, while completely different from their later work, contained the usual expected level of perfection that Naughty Dog strive to achieve in their games. Now, one year after the release of The Last of Us for PS3, Naughty Dog has decided to bring it to the PS4. However, it goes without saying that it's worth the money for people who haven't played it yet, but what about gamers who have already played it? Is this new release worth picking up?

Developed by Naughty Dog and out now on PlayStation 4 comes The Last of Us Remastered, a visually updated version of last years showstopper. Though it has been hailed as a ground-breaking story everywhere, the story and premise of The Last of Us is nothing new. The game opens in 2013 and focuses on Joel, the protagonist of the game. This opening prologue depicts the initial human struggle against a fungal infection that is sweeping across America. Now, I know what you're thinking; you're thinking, “But Denis, I've gotten Athlete's Foot before, it's not that bad!” This isn't just any kind of fungal infection, it's a mutant form of Cordyceps; a fungal infection that previously only affected insects. In the confusion following the outbreak, non-infected are running for cover, while the infected have turned into Zombie-like creatures, hell bent on attacking anything that comes near them. With this infection in full swing, the world is literally falling to pieces. After Joel's daughter is shot and killed, The Last of Us jumps 20 years into the future, and shows us a human civilisation that is barely holding itself together, constantly fighting off infected and human scavengers alike. But everything changes when Joel comes across Ellie, a young girl who may be the key to creating a cure. But life isn't exactly pretty in post-apocalyptic Boston, as Joel and Ellie's journey to find out if they can make a cure is an intense tale of human survival.

The Last of Us is very much in the vein of the Uncharted series when it comes to gameplay. Much like the story has been revered worldwide, many have seen the gameplay as the second coming too. At the risk of alienating readers and fellow journalists as friends, The Last of Us isn't perfect, folks. Following the very typical third-person genre archetype, the game doesn't really do anything revolutionary and usually comes down to exploring, third-person cover based shooting and rather dull puzzle solving. I'm not bashing the game, but the colossal praise it gets across the board is quite confusing to me. That said, what The Last of Us does it does extremely well, aside from the crappy puzzles. Exploring Boston in all its overgrown and ravaged goodness is truly breath-taking, while the gun battles and hand-to-hand fights you'll find yourself in are deadly, fierce, extremely violent and staggeringly heart pounding. This is a game that doesn't pull any punches, and usually comes across like Cormac McCarthy's The Road in its unapologetic depiction of the darker sides of humanity. While I may fault some peoples over reaction on how good this game may be, it would be a lie to say it wasn't a truly great title.

Now you're thinking, “Denis, we get it, it's good. But we already know that! What upgrades does the PS4 version have?” Good question, reader! The answer is not a lot, but enough.

Here's what The Last of Us Remastered has on the disc outside of the main game:
  • Previously released single player “Left Behind” DLC.
  • Previously released Multiplayer maps “Abandoned” and “Territories Reclaimed Territories” DLC.
  • Optional commentary with Neil Druckmann (writer) as well as actors Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie).
  • 1080p resolution, upgraded from the PS3's previous 720p release.
  • 60 frames per second, as opposed to the PS3's previous 30 frames per second release.

So sadly there's nothing new in terms of gameplay, but the three stand out aspects of this release are the optional commentaries, and the 60 frames per second and 1080p visual upgrades. I've always loved hearing a director's commentary of a film on Blu-Ray, and The Last of Us Remastered falls in line with this. Commentary is nothing new in gaming however, as this is something Half Life 2 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution did before. But hearing Drickmann talk about his motivations when creating a character, and then hearing the actors themselves talk about how they personally approached their respective characters is incredibly eye opening. It'll give you a new found appreciation for the game.

Visually The Last of Us Remastered is absolutely incredible. Though it was a spectacular looking PS3 title, it now arguably puts most PS4 titles to shame. Thanks to the higher resolution on offer here, everything is crisper, more vibrant and absolutely beautiful. This visual brilliance is only helped along even further by the choice to bring The Last of Us Remastered into the realm of 60 frames per second. While this can be rather jarring at first, every animation, movement and particle effect now looks insanely fluid. This visual fidelity isn't just a veneer though, as through this newfound level of clarity comes better gameplay, and more of a reason to enjoy this year old release. You've never seen the post-apocalyptic world of Boston like this before.

Overall The Last of Us Remastered is stunning. As far as if it's worth it, here's what I'll say. If you've never played The Last of Us before, this release is a must-buy. However, if you've already bought and played it before, think about what exactly you're buying here. There are enough reasons to buy it again, but just realise that unless you're a die-hard fan, there may not be enough new content to justify a second purchase.

The Last of Us Remastered makes us fall in love with fungus-infested Boston all over again, and gets a 4/5. 


Denis Murphy

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