The “remastering” phenomenon has already reached it’s best before date, but if there’s one game that absolutely deserves the treatment it’s The Last of Us. The game already looked and felt like a PS4 game Naughty Dog somehow made work on the PS3 through the generous use of dark magic and lots of duct tape — it would have felt like a glaring omission if the game hadn’t shown up on Sony’s latest hardware.
The Last of Us Remastered isn’t full remake. In some ways it’s a fairly modest upgrade from the PS3 game, but as you play the game on the PS4 you can’t help but feel you’re finally seeing this animal in its proper habitat. On the PS3, The Last of Us was a tiger pacing its cramped zoo cage — on the PS4 the game is essentially the same beast, but now it finally has the chance to stretch its legs.
The Last of Us stretches its legs (and its trigger finger).
I’m not an expert on the technical side of video games, so it’s hard to put a finger on how, exactly, Naughty Dog improved The Last of Us’ visuals for the PS4 release. The environments and models are, for the most part, very similar, and yet the game is clearly on another level on the new system. Of course owners of 1080p TVs will notice an immediate difference, but it goes beyond that. Even at 720p the game’s crisper, more vibrant and just overall more solid feeling. The original PS3 version was amazingly detailed, but it also had a slightly grungy edge that’s been mostly scrubbed off for this re-release — in some of the darker, dingier areas the two versions of the game don’t look terribly different, but the lush, greenery packed daytime scenes are absolutely striking on the PS4. Trust me, YouTube videos and screenshots don’t do the difference justice.
Interestingly, the game gives you the option of playing the game at 60 frames-per-second, or opting for a locked 30fps with improved lighting effects. I’ve never been one to count frames, but the effect 60fps has on The Last of Us is hard to ignore — like a flip of a light switch, the world suddenly feels more convincing, more real. Also, while the 60fps technically isn’t locked, I haven’t noticed any frame rate inconsistencies. On the other hand, the razor sharp shadows of the 30fps mode are damn nice too. Don’t worry, whichever option you choose, you’re getting a very pretty game.
Aside from the visual embellishments, you’re getting more or less the exact same game that came out last year. The Last of Us has been praised to the stars by some and branded an overhyped disappointment by others, and really, both camps are right to some degree. The game’s controls retain a bit of that Resident Evil, “clunky controls make horror games scarier” flawed thinking, and some of its stealth sections can be a pain, but it was, and remains, a landmark title in so many ways. Nothing else on the market can match The Last of Us in terms of storytelling, world building, gripping setpieces and gut-punch emotional moments. Will The Last of Us hold up as an all-time classic 10-years from now? I couldn’t predict, but as of 2014 it still retains almost all of its considerable lustre.
So, is The Last of Us Remastered worth your money? Well, if you haven’t played the game yet, the answer is an unequivocal yes. If you’re a former Xbox 360 put off by the Xbox One, this game is you should begin your relationship with the PS4 with. If you have played The Last of Us before, the game is, as mentioned, a familiar beast, but now it’s where it belongs. It’s home. If you really love the game, I imagine that might mean something to you.