Every once in a while, a game comes along that is so impactful, so enjoyable, and so engrossing, that you develop a familiar feeling while playing it. Back in 2013 when I first played The Last Of Us, that’s exactly what formed, though I didn’t know it.
Replaying the game just under seven years later as The Last Of Us Remastered takes me right back to that first playthrough. The mechanics of every scene, the movements of the infected, the way that Joel crouches, all came flooding back.
Nothing much has changed between the original game and the remaster, but I can tell you now that even if I’d been replaying the game with PlayStation 3 visuals, it wouldn’t have felt any different.
The remaster packs in the original game, as well as Left Behind, its DLC. Unlike many other titles on the market, The Last Of Us stands the test of time, and I’m sure it will do for the next seven years too for the following reasons.
The Last Of Us Remastered
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Release Date: July 29, 2014
The highlight of The Last Of Us Remastered is and always will be the story. It tells the tale of a global pandemic that has left the world in ruins. Pockets of civilization eke out an existence where they can, but it really isn’t much of a life.
Players first meet protagonist Joel as a young father. Though after an introduction that has only become more harrowing over time to me, the bulk of the game then takes place 20 years after the initial outbreak.
Joel is a smuggler, and there are constant hints throughout the world and story that he is not a good man. Unfortunately this is the only man who can take Ellie, a teenage girl who acts much older than she is, across the country to the safe haven of the fireflies; a rebel group looking for a cure in this infested world.
The game’s opening sets up the pair to be nothing more than acquaintances, but following the grueling 14 or so hour campaign, they’re more than bonded, they’re family. I really don’t want to spoil this story for anyone who wants to enjoy it for themselves before the sequel releases, so I’ll just say this.
The story starts with a heart-wrenching moment, particularly for fathers, and ends with a scene that’s just as emotionally destructive. It will make you question yourself in that situation, and if you have children, it will make you question yourself every day.
If there’s a secondary protagonist in The Last Of Us Remastered, it’s the game’s world. Naughty Dog has done a brilliant job of imagining this post-pandemic world, and the best part is that it’s mostly a slow, natural disintegration.
Parts of North America were bombed in an effort to kill off the infection, but after a good few years, the world’s buildings just began falling apart as nature reclaimed what humanity had stolen.
The music adds to the environment, combining every instrument imaginable with sounds from the real world, such as feet crunching on an old gravel road. It’s a much more visceral soundtrack than you’d find in other games, and it feels like an integral part of it as a result.
The story covers a wide variety of environments. From the grimy, crumbling interiors of skyscrapers, to the wide open spaces that are overgrown without human influence. Even small settlements, where it appears as though humanity is fighting just to maintain their presence against the encroaching grass and trees.
The infection is also still interesting and new. A strain of cordyceps somehow made the jump to humans, and does exactly what it does to insects. To begin with, the host is simply driven mad by the fungal growth in their brain. Then the growth starts to become visible, with parts of it emerging out of every orifice.
Soon a person’s face is gone, and a mess of fungal growth is all that is left, before that person sits down to quietly die, and spread more infection.
Naughty Dog kept the different types of infected to a minimum, which I think is one of the game’s strengths. Since you quickly get to know each type of infected fairly well, and the various sounds that accompany them, you feel confident whenever you’re faced with groups of them to sneak around or kill.
However, this is the player’s downfall, because the constantly new combinations of infected enemies make it harder to predict just how they’ll behave in certain situations. Later in the story, you can be facing off against both humans and infected within the same breath, and it never gets easy.
Enemy encounters are meticulously planned in The Last Of Us Remastered. Enemies can react in a number of ways to any given circumstance, and working around these reactions is hard. Joel is able to move quickly and quietly when needed, but even that sometimes isn’t enough to trick a Clicker.
If you’ve played things right, you might just be able to get away with going loud where no one can hear you, but if they do, then you need to rethink how you’re going to get out.
While the quieter moments in the game are great, allowing Joel and Ellie to bond naturally without the aid of cutscenes, it’s the intense fights and adrenaline-filled moments that you’ll remember. You never feel like you’re on top of a situation, and if you ever do then it usually changes quite quickly.
The pacing between both the story, stealth, and combat is all so well done that playing the game feels more like living it.
Once again, the soundtrack helps to keep up the intensity in combat, and let you know when you have some breathing space. It’s far from subtle, and will have your heart pounding whenever a foe is near, but you’ll love every second of it.
What makes The Last Of Us Remastered enjoyable to play all these years later isn’t just the looming sequel launching next month, it’s the fact that it makes you feel smart. This is a game that values your time, and in return you’re willing to put more into it, even when you constantly fail.
You’ll never see a gory death animation because of a glitch, or an enemy walking through a wall, it will always be your fault somehow.
Luckily you can prevent yourself from feeling dumb by making use of the intuitive systems available to you. Joel has a ‘listen’ mode which allows you to sort of see enemies through walls, but not over great distances. There is also a very well-built UI for crafting various weapons out of scrapped items from the world, many of which you’ll be crafting in the heat of battle.
The game also presents you with a payoff regarding these items. You could choose to use a shiv to open an area and potentially get more supplies, or you could save it in case you come up against a Clicker. It’s small, but the choice you make will have direct consequences within the next hour of playing.
You might come to regret not getting more bomb supplies when you see five infected sprinting towards you. I could honestly write about The Last Of Us Remastered for thousands more words.
I could tell you, in detail, about how the AI is so sophisticated that it presents character development through something as small as shining a torch in someone’s eye. I would also love to point out that it’s possible to sneak through every encounter if you’re willing to try hard enough, and for long enough, and that they payoff is akin to murdering an impossible Dark Souls boss.
The Last Of Us Remastered really is more than a game, it’s an interactive narrative that you feel like you’re having an impact on. There’s a story here, but you’re the one controlling the protagonist. Ultimately each decision and twist feels real, because it was caused by you.
This is emphasized even more in Grounded Mode, a game mode that removes Joel’s ‘listen’ ability, but you don’t need to play that to get the full experience on offer here.
Left Behind is the DLC that nobody was really looking for from The Last Of Us. It tells part of the story of how Ellie ended up getting infected, setting up the main story, but it also delves a lot deeper into her character. The backstory sees Ellie and her close friend Riley head out to explore a dilapidated mall just outside of the quarantine zone that they live in.
Over the course of the short story it’s revealed that the pair are more than friends, making the conclusion even more tragic.
This backstory is framed by a new section that takes place during the main game. After Joel is injured, Ellie somehow ends up getting him to a safe location, having stitched up a wound and saved him from the people that were after them. Left Behind fills in the gap, and shows Ellie being thrust into the driver’s seat.
Ellie isn’t sure of herself to start with, actively screaming at Joel to tell her what to do, but by the end she comes into her own. In many ways, this section of story feels like it should show Ellie ultimately heading off on her own as Joel succumbs to his injury, but that obviously doesn’t happen.
Gameplay in Left Behind is exactly the same as in The Last Of Us. However, the backstory sections are much quieter, and have you playing around and joking with Riley more than avoiding and killing infected. It’s a nice change of pace, but there’s still enough action in the framing parts of the story to keep you interested.
Left Behind is definitely a love letter to The Last Of Us from its developer. You can feel that this is a story that those who worked on the game wanted to tell, and are passionate about. It won’t appeal to everyone, but that’s okay. If you enjoy the story of The Last Of Us though, this is a must play.
The music in this DLC is easily the best in the franchise. There are the same moody notes of the base game, but also playful tunes and tracks that play into the innocence and naivety of the characters you’re seeing on screen.
At just over two hours long, this DLC can be played through in a single session, and should be. It’s an experience that shows you just how different Ellie has become over the course of travelling with Joel. Anyone who has seen or read The Road will understand what I say when it mirrors the evolution of the main characters, showing that Joel hasn’t just cared for Ellie all this time, he’s acted like a father to her.
The final part of The Last Of Us Remastered is the fantastic multiplayer element, Factions. When the game first launched, the multiplayer was barely touched upon, making it seem like more of a tacked on team-based mode. the game did launch at a time when every game seemed to have some sort of multiplayer element, no matter how forced, but here it exploded with popularity.
Even today there are still enough people playing Factions that I found a full match within seconds. The game mode takes the core combat and crafting of The Last Of Us, and puts it into a place where everything is accelerated. There are three core game modes, each of which fits in the lore of the world, and with the mechanics available.
Most matches boil down to searching for supplies, killing enemies, crafting items for your own protection, and sneaking around in order to stay alive. Outside of each match there’s larger game at play.
You have a camp of survivors that you need to gather supplies for. You earn supplies by finding items in each match, or killing enemies. But the more survivors you gain, the more supplies you need to gather in each match.
A nice touch with this part of the multiplayer is that you can link up your Facebook profile so that the names of your friends will appear with short messages. There’s nothing better than seeing a prompt informing you that your best friend has dysentery.
The Last Of Us Remastered is a fantastic package, and it’s dirt cheap for what you get. There are plenty of achievements/trophies for all game modes to make multiple playthroughs worthwhile, even though you’ll probably replay the campaign more for fun.
If you like games, then The Last Of Us Remastered is for you. It doesn’t necessarily fit into any one genre, but it is a must play for anyone who has a PlayStation 4. The sequel looks to double down on the elements that Naughty Dog started with here, and I can’t imagine how they’re going to top it.