The Last of Us was an undeniable hit when it landed a year ago on PS3, both with PS3 owners and critics. The game received perfect scores galore (including from me) and over 200 Game of the Year awards (again, including mine). For me, it was one of the swan songs for the PS3.
It was no surprise then earlier this year when The Last of Us Remastered was announced for PS4. After all, the system has been selling very well, and a lot of PS4 owners never owned a PS3. With the updated and more powerful hardware, a remastered or definitive version of 2013’s Game of the Year just made a lot of sense.
The Last of Us was probably the best looking game on PS3. Naughty Dog squeezed everything they could get out of that system. When you consider the amount of problems other developers had working the PS3 system, it’s downright amazing that Naughty Dog was able to do what they did.
For as good as it looked a year ago on PS3, Remastered looks so much better. Of course why wouldn’t it? The new hardware allowed the game to run at native 1080p and a mostly smooth 60fps versus 720p and 30fps with occasional noticeable dips. And the Remastered version features more texture. It is, in a word, beautiful in action.
That’s not to say that some parts that look horrible on PS3 look better on PS4. The part in the subway with all the spores is still an ugly mess. I get it, the area is blanketed by spores, but it always bugged me on the PS3 version. It looks a tiny bit better on PS4, but I still end up diving under the water for as long as I can just to be able to see anything. The flip side to that I guess is that leaving that area, walking up the steps and seeing the sunlight coming down on you with the trees is really a sight to behold.
On the frame-rate issue, I’m a believer now. Look, I play games on consoles, not on a gaming PC. I’ve been fine with 30fps. I would look at gifs on 60 vs. 30 sites and couldn’t tell the difference between them. I had zero issues with The Last of Us on PS3 at 30fps. I could always tell the big dips (if it dropped to 29, I’d never notice it), but 30fps always played smoothly for me.
By default, The Last of Us Remastered is set to an unlocked 60fps. For the most part, it maintains that, although it does dip sometimes. It is mostly silky smooth and almost jarring (I had been playing the PS3 version in preparation for Remastered). Remastered also contains an option where you can lock the framerate at 30. This allows for much improved shadow qualities (shadows look great when playing in 30fps versus the pixelated jaggie mess they can be at 60fps).
For giggles, I turned on the 30fps lock and even on the menu, you could see a visual improvement in the game in the background. But when I returned to the game, and panned around, I was stunned at just how sluggish it was. Ignorance was truly bliss I guess. It’s like thinking your vision is great, putting on someone else corrective lenses, and then seeing clearly. After playing through the game on hard on 60fps, and halfway through a Grounded run, there’s simply no way I would ever want to return to this game at 30fps. The difference is staggering.
I didn’t experience too many issues on my hard playthrough; just small things like objects popping in noticeably at a distance. So far my in grounded playthrough, I’ve had issues with my melee weapon being ineffective (missing right at someone) and Ellie (and other companions) blocking paths that I actually resulted in a death since Bill was blocking a door while I a Clicker was coming at me when I had no ammo. On the multiplayer side, there’s some matchmaking issues currently ongoing.
The only changes between this PS4 version and PS3 version are visual or related to responsiveness. There’s no story changes or anything like that, which is great because The Last of Us tells one of the best stories that I’ve seen in a video game and is way more engaging than the majority of stories told in movies over the past couple of decades. So there really isn’t anything I can say about the story that I didn’t already say in my review of the PS3 version, which you can read here.
This remastered version does include all the DLC that was included in the Season Pass of the PS3 version; all the multiplayer maps, customization bundles, and the single player story Left Behind.
Left Behind is a half prequel where you play as Ellie. If you were a fan of Ellie in the main game (and how could you not be? She’s awesome!), then you’ll love Left Behind. The prequel parts are very well done, exploration based and touching as Ellie makes her way through a mall with her best friend Riley. Some of the stuff mentioned in the main game (although you could easily miss them) get expanded upon here.
Left Behind was really a great piece of DLC, and for those who didn’t experience it on PS3 it’s great to have it remastered as well on PS4 as part of the complete package. It’s unlocked from the beginning, but if you’ve never played The Last of Us to completion, then you should hold off on Left Behind until you beat the main game. It’s only a half prequel (flashbacks), so there is no reason to spoil parts of the main game if you haven’t played it yet by playing Left Behind first.
Remastered does add one feature that isn’t present in the PS3 version, and that’s Photo Mode. Like InFamous Second Son, the game includes a way for you to pause it and maneuver the camera around to take the perfect screenshot. Operating as a mini photo editor, not only can you move the camera, change the tilt, zoom, and change the field of view, but you can also add film grain, vignette, borders, and color filters to your shots. Once you get the perfect shot, you simply hide the UI by pressing X and hold down the Share button (to save) or press the share button once to tweet it out.
Photo mode has to be enable from the options menu. Once enabled, you just click L3 and you’re in photo mode. It’s really easy, and it won’t be long before you’re producing great shots. When playing on Survivor or Grounded, there can a tactical (probably more cheating) use of photo mode. Zoom out, orbit the camera up or around, and you may be able to see where enemies at (keep in mind that you can’t orbit through a wall, so this “cheating” in the no listen mode modes works best outdoors). Just don’t do it at the beginning of the game while running beside an ambulance to try and see how close the infected actually are. They’re actually really close and if you do it in that spot, you’re going to die as soon as you exit. So learn from my mistake and don’t do it. Nothing like starting off Grounded mode with a death in the prologue because of a curiosity born from the photo mode.
Photo mode is a really great addition and it really can be addicting. I have over 400 screenshots now from photomode. I have an idea of doing an original short The Last of Us story for the site using pictures taken in photo mode with the Noir filter applied. We’ll see how it turns out. This really does need to become a standard feature for games.
I beat The Last of Us on PS3 probably seven or eight times. I really enjoy the game’s story, and so I like replaying through it, but it’s by far the gameplay that brought me back. This is a real stealth game. It’s really satisfying to go through an area and either kill everyone silently or without killing anyone at all (sadly there are plenty of times where you have to kill everyone in an area to be able to move on). So far, just for this review, I’ve beaten the game three times: Hard, Grounded, and Grounded +.
I really recommend new players start on hard. Yes, the game will be a challenge, but you’ll get the best experience on hard while also having the hand-holding “listen mode” feature that allows you to hold down R1 and see enemies through walls. I know a lot of folks hate that such a feature is included, but I like it because not everyone plays with headphones, and there are deaf gamers. If you can hear and play with headphones, then you don’t really need listen mode; you’ll hear infected, and you’ll hear hunter’s talking, coughing, and walking. But play it on hard to start with, because at least then supplies will be a lot more limited than they are on normal or easy.
The lack of supplies is why I really, really love Grounded mode. Yes, it would make more sense if you were able to pick up ammo from hunter’s that you kill. Would that make it too easy? Probably, but why can’t I pick up the ammo from guys who would have shot at me had I not choked them out? There are some sections where you’re going to have to use weapons, and it may take all of your supplies. Then you’re left with nothing, and you have to rely on stealth. In the video below, I’m at what could be a challenging part of the game. I have two revolver bullets, one arrow, a steel pipe with a couple of hits left on it, and enough supplies to craft one smoke bomb. Because of the previous battle, I’m also one punch away from death.
The Last of Us Remastered is a game that I’ll probably beat several more times, before finally moving on and really digging into the multiplayer (which is still having some matchmaking issues despite a couple of patches). From a pure gameplay perspective, the game features enough variety in its combat sections that it makes it fun to come back and experiment. I enjoy going through the harder areas on Grounded and trying different things.
Once you see the pattern of the enemies before they spot you (if they spot you, all bets are off), you begin to get a better idea of what you can do and get away with. That creates a fun challenge for yourself to see if you can totally sneak past all of the enemies, see if you can clear it killing all enemies and never alerting them that you’re there, and even see how fast you can get through. I think a lot of folks would be surprised at some really difficult areas that you can basically get past in a minute by running.
This Remastered version is every bit the masterpiece that the PS3 version was. And how could it not be? It’s the same amazing story, the same superb gameplay, and even better looking visuals. Add in 60fps, an addictive photo mode, all of the DLC including the single player story Left Behind, and one of the more unique and challenging competitive multiplayer experiences around, and you have a game that should be in every PS4 owners collection. If you have the PS3 version, you should definitely upgrade. Because this a game that is worth playing through multiple times, and now it looks better and thanks to the framerate, even plays better.
The Last of Us Remastered gets a five out of five: EXCELLENT.
* A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.