The Last of Us Remastered

Like many people who didn't own a PlayStation 3 during its time as Sony’s flagship console, I didn't have the opportunity to play The Last of Us when it was originally released last year. Obviously there was no way of steering clear of the flurry of praise that was levelled at it, and it’s one of those games I knew I’d regret not having played years down the line. Clearly I was being overly dramatic, and I should’ve known that Sony wouldn't let this formerly PS3 exclusive gem live solely on last-generation hardware, not with the throng of HD remakes and enhanced editions that older games are constantly treated to these days.

Enter The Last of Us Remastered, the definitive way to play Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic opus. For your money, you're getting enhanced visuals (running natively at 1080p and a smooth 60 frames per second although you can lock it to 30fps if you prefer), improved audio options, director commentary and more. You’re also getting all the post-launch DLC that The Last of Us received, consisting of some multiplayer stuff and the Left Behind single-player DLC. If you already played the game on PS3, tore through its DLC and experienced all that it has to offer, it’s difficult to recommend getting the Remastered edition, unless you traded in your PS3 for a PS4 and absolutely must have the game in your collection which, given how incredible this game is, wouldn't surprise us at all.

Anyway, on to the game and why anyone who hasn't played it should make every effort to do so right now. The Last of Us elevates itself above its third person action peers by virtue of its poignant narrative. Its story follows two unlikely companions, journeying across the United States. But this is no sedate road trip where the most dangerous obstacle is screaming children in the backseat, or the sudden need for a restroom when there’s no reprieve in sight. This is a deadly trek through a nightmarish future. It’s set 20 years after the world is brought to its knees by an outbreak of a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus, which infects the majority of the population and turns them into flesh hungry monsters.

The start of the game introduces us to player character Joel, a smuggler and hired gun in this miserable new world of ration cards and basic survival. Joel’s tragic past has left him a hollow shell, oblivious to any hope or beauty that may still exist in the world. That changes when he meets Ellie, a 14 year old girl who never knew the world before it went to hell. In Ellie, Joel finds a shot at redemption a chance to regain his humanity. In Joel, Ellie finds far more than just a seasoned bodyguard shielding her from the horrors surrounding them.

There’s no overstating this: The Last of Us boasts one of the strongest stories ever told by a video game. It’s utterly captivating and full of moments of charming tenderness in stark contrast with the brutal environment enveloping them. The relationship between Joel and Ellie gradually evolves into one of the most striking companionships in all of gaming. As you’d expect, there’s no way to really get into the meat of the story without spoiling it, so you’ll have to take my word for it when I say that it's a deeply personal, affectingly human tale, one that you really shouldn’t miss.

To be completely honest, sometimes I actually felt as though the “game” bits in The Last of Us are far too reliant on traditional mechanics and appealing to the masses when the narrative is so far ahead of the curve. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with it everything the game does, it does unrelentingly well, and is polished to absolute perfection. It’s a mix of quiet exploration, tense stealth segments and hard-hitting action.

The game presents a mix of human and post-human enemies (and there are some frightening ones among them), and a number of ways to dispose of them. Stealth is always a key component, because ammo for firearms is scarce and going in guns blazing is a sure-fire way to alert more foes to your presence and get your face promptly chewed off. So stealth attacks and subtle sneak ery is the way to go, throwing objects to create distractions and dispatching enemies with silent kills.

When things get out of hand and you’re faced with a seemingly endless stream of enemies, there’s a nifty contextual cover mechanic that isn’t really a cover mechanic at all, but feels organic and useful anyway. Between the guns and the melee combat, skirmishes in The Last of Us are visceral and bloody, really hammering home a sense of how ruthlessly brutal the world has become. Or how ruthlessly brutal it already is, except now there’s also a horrible fungus involved. The enemy AI is often worryingly intelligent, which makes battles even tenser. You can use melee weapons like steel pipes to dish out more melee damage, but they’ll eventually break, so you’ve got to use them sparingly. Ellie will help out in combat by throwing objects at enemies or calling out their position.

There’s also a crafting system in the game. Finding components hidden in the game world lets you craft items like shivs (for quicker, quieter silent kills), health kits and Molotov cocktails. Fiddling with your inventory is a stressful affair, because it’s all done in real time the game doesn't pause when you need to dig around in your backpack, leaving you feeling very vulnerable if you suddenly need to grab another weapon from your pack during combat. Along the way you’ll also find various collectables used for upgrading Joel’s stats, like his maximum health and his crafting speed.

The stealth and action bits are plenty exciting, but it’s the moments of quiet in between, when you’re traversing the world with Ellie and interacting with her, that are the most memorable. There are so many remarkable moments in this game that I’m sure will stay with me forever, and I’m grateful for having experienced them. It all ties back into that incredible narrative. The well-written, masterfully directed script and the expertly delivered voice acting. The stark beauty that exists between the cracks in this dark future. The reminders that, even in a future dominated by bloodthirsty, fungus fuelled mutants, other human beings are always your greatest threat. And yes, it helps that the technology driving everything is incredible, with stunning visuals powering the desolate look and feel of the carefully crafted environments, alongside brilliantly realistic animations and expressions that successfully breathe life into the characters.

The Last of Us is outstanding. The Last of Us Remastered is even better. You should play it.

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