GAME NAME: The Last of Us Remastered
DEVELOPER(S): Naughty Dog
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment
GENRE(S): Action-Adventure, Survival Horror
RELEASE DATE(S): July 30th, 2014
What can be said about The Last of Us that hasn’t been said before? As a winner of over 200 game of the year awards, it’s not only considered one of the best games of last generation, but one of the best games ever made. So if for some reason you haven’t played it yet, go and get it. Go and get it right after you finish reading this review. The question is not to buy or not to buy, but rather whether to get it on PS3 or on PS4. Also, if you’ve played it before and are wondering whether it’s worth upgrading to the PS4 version, this review is for you.
It should be obvious by now that the most prominent differences between the two versions are resolution and frame rate. When the game was originally released on the PS3, it ran in 720p/30fps – not that you would notice. The game looked gorgeous. In fact, no other console game could even come close to the level of environmental detail portrayed in the game. The characters received similar attention and their portrayal of emotions are unrivalled thanks to state-of-the-art facial muscle simulation.
The Last of Us Remastered, on the other hand, received the full HD treatment and runs in an eyeball caressing 1080p/60fps – with an option to lock the frame rate at 30 fps – which greatly benefits textures, shadows and draw distance. The most important feature benefitting from the graphics upgrade is the lighting – enhancing the mood of the game greatly. The end result is an absolutely gorgeous game showcasing the differences between last generation’s hardware and this generation. Granted, the previous game was already so gorgeous that the improvements aren’t mind blowing, but it is definitely noticeable from the moment you start the game. It’s worth noting that Remastered is not the best looking game on the PS4. That title still belongs to InFAMOUS: Second Son, but Remastered comes pretty close. If this is what Naught Dog can achieve without building the game from the ground up, we can’t wait to see what Uncharted: A Thief’s End looks like.
The other graphical upgrade is, of course, the frame rate. The original version pushed the PS3 to its limits to pull off a rather consistent 30 fps and it is evident that Naughty Dog did their best to do the same on the PS4. The result is somewhat jarring at first, but after a while you really start to appreciate the result. It is really hard to explain just how much of a difference the 30-60 frames transition really makes, but thanks to flipping the 30 fps-lock switch back and forth, one can really see the contrast. Despite a lot of internet speculation, the inclusion of this lock mode is solely for purists and the game has no trouble maintaining 60 fps. That said, the 30 fps-lock increases the shadow quality, so there might be a benefit in enabling it. The doubling of the frame rate is not only for aesthetic purposes, but enhances gameplay too. As gamers, we know 60 fps makes any action orientated game a lot better, The Last of Us Remastered is no exception (despite primarily being a stealth game). As the frame rate increased, the shooting became more fluid, responsive and accurate.
Speaking of frames, the beauty of The Last of Us Remastered can really be appreciated with its newly included Photo Mode. This mode allows you to take control of the camera and capture the glorious environments on camera. We know that most of the time the Photo Mode will be used to capture the violent brutality that is The Last of Us. Bringing up the photo mode is done using the L3 button, after enabling it in the main menu. This pauses the gameplay and lets you adjust the camera angle and focus points. This allows you to capture the perfect moment.
Another quite notable change between the two versions is a change in controls. When Naughty Dog designed The Last of Us, they knew that the DualShock 3’s triggers were one of its weaknesses. As a result, the shooting was unconventionally mapped to R1 and L1. The DualShock 4 doesn’t suffer from the same problem and the shooting was remapped to R2 and L2, with an option to change it back. The centre button of the controller is used to bring up the backpack and crafting menu. This feels intuitive and a lot easier than having to constantly reach for the select button. The controller’s speaker can now be used to play audio diaries and sound effects, like the on/off click of the flashlight – but this can be turned off if you find it annoying. The controller’s light bar is also used to indicate health and changes colour when you initiate Joel’s listening mode.
For the masochists among you, Remastered also includes the Grounded difficulty from the get-go, so no need for multiple playthroughs before you can start punishing yourself. For the uninformed, Grounded only exists to make the game a serious challenge. Supplies become extremely rare, forcing you to play stealthily. Additionally, game hints, listening mode, prompts and HUD are disabled. The AI are also more aware than in other modes and do 300% damage. Grounded is a great for providing a challenge and prolonging the game.
This brings us back to the original question, should you buy The Last of Us on the PS4 or settle for the PS3 version? If you don’t have the game already, The Last of Us Remastered currently sells for R549 on the PlayStation Store, compared to the R499 for the PS3 version. Considering that Remastered also includes the Left Behind DLC, selling for R218, as well as both Abandoned Territories and Reclaimed Territories map packs, it is real value for money.
Whether to upgrade from the PS3 version depends on how big of a fan you are and if you want to replay the game in the way Naughty Dog originally intended. For those fans (and possible new fans playing it for the first time on PS4), Remastered also includes in-game commentary which can be accessed via the gallery area. This allows you to re-watch the cutscenes while creative director Neil Druckmann and the voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson talk about the game and its development. If you do decide to upgrade from the PS3 version, your weapons, items and survival skills purchased is transferable. Unfortunately, multiplayer progress is reset.
At the risk of sounding like thousands of games journalists have already stated, The Last of Us was the best game of last generation and The Last of Us Remastered just improves upon it. Just like its predecessor, it’s not flawless – but it doesn’t have to be. A great game is not necessarily flawless. A great game hides its flaws behind brilliant character design, beautiful environments, fun gameplay and a memorable story. The Last of Us: Remastered is all that and more – in glorious 1080p/60fps.