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Naughty Dog have become known for crafting some of the greatest franchises in the gaming world. From the fun filled worlds of Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter, to the movie like settings of the Uncharted series, few can deny the pedigree of this studio. The Last of Us is not the colorful, comedic romp that ND have become famous for. Instead it’s probably the most affecting video game I have ever played.
The Last of Us truly was already one of the greatest triple A experience of potentially any console generation to date when it released last year. So what about the remastered PS4 version then? Well, it delivers dramatically improved visuals, fantastic gameplay, all the DLC in one package and a narrative that supersedes all its contemporaries. It’s a long, harrowing and ofttimes bleak journey but its one that will change you forever.
Joel and Tess live a hard life in the quarantined city of Boston, struggling to survive in a post apocalyptic world with threats coming from the military, a rebel group known as the fireflies and the infected Cordyceps. They get an opportunity to set themselves up for life. The catch? A simple smuggling job. The cargo – a young girl named Ellie whose role is at first unclear but becomes more transparent as the game plays out. I don’t want to give anything away as this is a game about discovery with twists and turns abound. The third act of the game in particular will leave you a shattered husk of a human being…
In terms of visuals, Naughty Dog had already pushed the bar up with the PS3 version, but the PS4 remastering benefits from a steady 60 frames per second and 1080p resolution. On top of that character models and environmental textures have all seen a boost. This makes the already stellar motion captured performances even better. For me, the biggest improvement came in the form of the ambient lighting and post processing effects. Night time sections look absolutely stunning and the mall in the Left Behind DLC highlights the improved lighting, better than probably anything else in the game.
As for the many comparisons raised between Joel and Nathan Drake, that comparison is cosmetic at best. Joel is an incredibly flawed individual but one that I resonated with. His father/daughter-esque relationship with Ellie is one of the best realised relationships in gaming filled with nuance and subtlety not generally found in video game scripts. Much like Naughty Dogs previous works, relationships are key. Jak and Daxter focused on the friendship between hero Jak and his best friend turned Ottsel, Daxter. The Uncharted series has become synonymous with character driven relationships in gaming and TLOU outdoes all three of Drakes outings in this regard.
Some have described the combat in TLOU as serviceable – I would describe it as intelligent, reactive and terrifying. This is not your typical third person shooter. It’s a survival game through and through. You will need to plan your actions thoroughly. Human opponents will flank you (much as they did in Uncharted) and infected enemies will attempt to swarm you. The most terrifying are Clickers – humans in a late stage of infection. Although Clickers are blind, they use sound to find you and can kill with a single bite. The stealth based stuff really shines in the new Grounded difficulty setting.
Luckily the player can craft items and weapons from pieces of scrap scavenged in the environment. These include devastating nail bombs, first aid kits and the ever useful shiv – one of the only weapons that can be used to stealth kill a Clicker. Of course you’ll also have access to shotguns, rifles, pistols and the ever trusty bow and arrow for those times when confronting your foes is unavoidable.
There are some slight issues with the NPC AI. They will sometimes run out of cover, seemingly at random and other times they will run right past enemies who fail to even notice them. These are slight issues that fail to damage the experience in any meaningful way but its all I could nitpick about…
The sound design is incredible with probably the best video game score in years and voice acting that wipes the floor with the competition. Sound effects have a huge amount of weight to them and with a good audio system you will feel every shot, punch and bite… Even more so now with the remastered versions lossless audio.
Multiplayer in TLOU is oft overlooked as a senseless addition, but it's actually one of the more unique online experiences out there. One of my favourite features in the multiplayer, is the fact that by linking your Facebook page to your PSN account, the survivors in your camp will be named after real life friends and family... making their demise all the more heart-wrenching - or hilarious...
There is nothing – NOTHING – out there quite like this. Regardless of your alignment in relation to wars of the console variety, you are doing yourself an immense disservice by not playing this game.
While the remastered version doesn't offer much more than a cosmetic lick of paint, improved sound and all the DLC under one roof, I still see it as a must have for owners of Sony's latest console. If you already loved it on PS3, you will love it even more now... If however, you were lucky enough to pass over last years release, you will get to experience the best version of this game for the first time on PS4.
We don’t use scores here on Player Attack but if we did this would be an easy 10 as it changes the very nature of gaming as a medium and shows that games can be a more mature medium filled with deep characters, incredible writing and Oscar worthy performances.
Interactive storytelling literally does not get better than this.
Paddy Murphy hails from a rural part of Ireland, where the men are men... and so are the women. He has released over a dozen games as a developer and wrote news and reviews for several websites including RPGamer.com and Gamepinion.org. He is a capricorn, his favourite food is Udon Noodles and his favourite beverage is... any with alcohol!