written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
It feels like just yesterday I reviewed The Last of Us (we reviewed it damn near a year ago). Near the launch of the PS4, the PS3 was still churning out hits, last gen was FAR from dead. The Last of Us was a seminal game for the PS3 in a banner year for last gen. We gave it a perfect 5 out of 5. The question is, does slapping on a new coat of paint make this game worth the buy for those who already played it? Stay tuned, I'll touch on that at the end.
This is the definitive TLOU package; included is the core game, multiplayer, and the Left Behind DLC that we reviewed earlier this year. Not a bad deal for $50 USD. For those who have no experience with the game at all, The Last of Us tells the story of Joel and Ellie in a post-apocalyptic United States. After a monstrous plague wipes out over half the population, turning the infected into mindless "zombie-like" creatures, whatever is left of humanity has holed themselves into the quarantine zones. Two major factions are at war with each other, the military under orders from FEDRA (the Federal Disaster Response Agency... the last remaining remnant of the US Government) and the rebellious Fireflies who are fed up with how FEDRA has policed Post Apocalyptia. Joel is tasked with smuggling Ellie out of the quarantine zone by the Marlene, the leader of the Fireflies. This sets the stage for a journey that will see both Joel and Ellie taxed to their utmost limits.
Gameplay is a mix of stealth and third-person action. The key is to be sneaky, because much like how post-apocalyptic America may be, resources are scarce and some of the most intense moments involved realizing you are low on ammo with a swarm of enemies on your tail. The infected are the primary foe of the game and require the most varied strategy depending on which type you are faced with. Stage 1 infected are called "Runners" and are the weakest of the bunch, Stage 2 the "Stalkers" are upgraded "Runners" featuring more raw strength and protective fungal plates, the stage 3 "Clickers" are the most recognizable from early concept art... though blind they are also very deadly, and finally the "Bloaters" are the final stage of infection and are hands down the deadliest of all the infected.
As terrifying as the infected are, the most terrifying are humans. While deadly, the infected are predictable. As long as you can sneak past them you can even avoid combat all together... saving precious resources. But people are a different story, as Joel and Ellie traverse the wastelands of what was once civilization, a group of cannibals called Hunters will get in your way. Armed with various types of armament, they will use strategy to try and flank you (on some of the higher difficulties especially). Since they are just as observant as you are, taking them out has to be handled very carefully. Even if you silently kill a few by strangling them or channeling your inner Katniss/Hawkeye/Robin Hood/Green Arrow/Lara Croft by means of your handy bow, if a patrol find the body they will begin to act more cautious.
Regardless of who you battle, Joel's listening mode is greatly useful. When enemies are mobile or making noise, you can concentrate and "listen" to your surroundings. A skill that allows Joel to predict where enemies are located, this is visualized with being able to see outlines of your enemies and allies, even through walls. This is a skill that will be used predominantly throughout the entire experience and one that is wonderfully... though a tad unrealistically... manifested in the core gameplay. Everything runs buttery smooth, and at a snappy 60 frames per second, everything feels that much more accurate. Even with how wonderful the game was on PS3, it did chug along at some points. Those issues are damn near nonexistent in the remastered package. Taking aim for head shots felt more fluid than it did on last gen hardware.
The brand new coat of paint is the most recognizable change from PS3 to PS4. In game character models are ramped up to better match the in game cinematics. A brand new photo mode was included as well, with the popularity of inFAMOUS: Second Son's photo mode, you can craft your own customizable scenes with the in engine graphics. While zooming in on Joel or Ellie, you can really see how beautiful the game looks. Some issues still prevail from previous generation, rare graphical glitches and the whole "Ellie-can-run-around-all-willy-nilly-but-I-sneak-a-little-too-fast-and-become-Clicker-bait" is still fairly prevalent. But it sure as hell beats having to save her every single time she's discovered.
While sporting new high(er) definition visuals, the story remains largely unchanged and the stellar performance of Troy Baker's Joel and Ashley Johnson's Ellie is still as awe-inspiring as it was last gen. Film quality direction make this game feel that much more immersive, like the best damn movie I every played.
So, should you get it? Is it really worth it? The beauty of The Last of Us is how wonderful the story is, whether the first or twenty-first play through, it's an experience that stays with you. Even though I knew what would happen, I was still genuinely intrigued with their journey. While the core game is still almost all too brief, the total package was well worth the price of admission. So whether you played it on PS3, missed it because you didn't have a PS3 last gen, or you just missed it entirely, this is an absolute must play. The Last of Us is a masterpiece, and this remastered edition is all the more better on stronger hardware.
+ Engaging story
+ Immersive ambiance
+ Gorgeous visuals
+ The entire cast
+ Fun stealth mechanics
- Some graphical glitches
- Gunplay not as refined as stealth