On store shelves.
I’d be reluctant to say that arguments against The Last of Us are immediately invalidated just because I thought the original PlayStation 3 release was a fantastic piece of software with a ton of emotion, blood, sweat, and tears in every corner of its design. I think people both on the consumer and business side of the games industry lose sight of the fact that it takes hundreds to thousands of people to create new experiences and keeping that in mind added weight both in my initial playthrough last year and in barreling through the game’s narrative again through The Last of Us Remastered, a new PS4 update of the title available now.
Remastered’s approach to updating the original game from PS3 to PS4 fidelity goes for the no-frills approach. The menus, user interface, and overall game design remain unchanged and in doing so provide a sense that this release will please new PlayStation owners who’ve made the switch in-between generations. That said, you might not want to pay a full $50 rather on top of the price of a PlayStation 4 if The Last of Us Remastered is the only game you want to play at this point in the new hardware’s lifecycle.
It’s not unlike a pair of clickers trying to nibble on you while Joel struggles to manipulate a puzzle element or craft a new weapon. The price nagged at me the entire time I followed Joel and Ellie across America, but The Last of Us is one of those unique video games that blend media in a way I just love, love, love. Many games feel more like movies while my favorites often unfold slowly over dozens of hours of play like an incredibly gripping novel. The experience manages to blend the two with all your favorite gaming tropes.
In Remastered, I found the camera a little more jarring having navigated the entirety of the experience previously. Sure, I could slow down and soak it all in and direct the experience as I liked, but knowing where I was going and hunting for supplies often made the more game-specific aspects apparent in a way that broke me out of Joel’s character. Still, I love Naughty Dog's expositional moments and emotional tethers between the characters especially as they add focus to parts of life that you’d never get in a taut two-hour zombie-thriller film.
Funnily enough, I was keenly aware of Sony’s plans for a film adaptation as I started to get more and more out of freezing the in-game action to take a picture with photo mode. I wouldn’t want to play the entire game hoping for the perfect shot given how much of the value in this package will still come from a steady increase in difficulty and how players react to different combat scenarios. You’ll find plenty of photos and opportunities to create drama in Naughty Dog’s world. Every inch of its design exudes that kind of season-finale, cliffhanger-to-resolution thinking and that doesn’t even come from the writing at times.
Technically speaking, The Last of Us is still one of the more incredible feats of engineering given how beautiful its animations, textures, and sound design come together. One of my favorite moments in the entire game comes fairly late and precedes another spoiler (which was given away well-ahead of launch and feels so personal that it actually pisses me off. Some individuals won’t get the experience completely by surprise.).
In this sequence, Joel and Ellie are about to meet up with the rebel Fireflies and Ellie needs to climb somewhere to retrieve a ladder. You do this several times in the game and each time I’m impressed by the way Joel hunkers down to lift his companion up, but in this particular moment Ellie spaced out and Joel was left standing by a wall with a confused look on his face. It’s a beautiful turn of pacing and of the player’s expectations that I’m practically begging more games to take advantage of such self-awareness.
Even if you don’t want to blast, chop, and skewer dozens of enemies, you could stand to watch The Last of Us Remastered as if it were a film. Sharing games like that might open the hobby you love with another person, and The Last of Us rests somewhere between PG-13 and R, depending on your stance on parenting. In fact, enjoying the game with your kid might allow The Last of Us to bring up some difficult questions about what it means to be a family or what it means to be without family. While I’d rather not see a sequel, you should know that this Remastered version basically puts a T-ball stand in Sony’s living room where they’ve now started selling bats. Depending on how broken the company's biggest Bravia display could become given that scenario, I'd say the brand is worth a lot of money at the moment.
If the film does come together, The Last of Us presents a serious, visually-stunning, and intelligent world to explore, but I actually liked leaving it behind after my first playthrough. There was a reluctance on my part to play through it again. Ellie, Joel, the people they meet on their journey, the people they lose… each stick with you in a way that stings over time.
I like to think I’d go into a scenario as horrifying and gory as the vicious fungal outbreak that wipes most of civilization in The Last of Us with a sense of preparedness. I’d have a checklist for that kind of situation, so I’ll conclude this review with a checklist of my own for whether you should buy The Last of Us Remastered or not. People love scores, the score here isn’t changing. Enjoy this instead:
- Do you have $60?
- Do you have a little more than that? There’s tax.
- Okay, get in the car let’s go.
- HOLY SHIT, THERE ARE ZOMBIES EVERYWHERE.
- What?! You don’t even have a PlayStation 4?
Review based on PlayStation 4 version. Copy provided by publisher. PlayStation 3 review available here. Left Behind DLC review available here.