The Last of Us Remastered is a game that weighs the worth of humanity.
In a rapidly decaying world that now finds itself at the mercy of the roving undead, it’s those that remain that perhaps pose the greatest threat to our extinction. These are the scavengers, the fanatics and the downright insane; those who would gun down a man in the street just for the chance to rifle through his pockets. But for as much as the games evils are laid clear for all to see, it’s ultimately up to you to answer the question at the heart of it all; is humanity actually worth saving? Enter Ellie and Joel.
Joel has been here since the very beginning. He was there to see the fires burn and the infection run rampant through the same streets and suburbs that he used to call home. Weathered and beleaguered by it all, Joel now subsists slowly and carefully, content to see out his days earning a meagre living and by keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the ground. In The Last of Us Remastered, Joel embodies the typical survivor. He’s no mercenary, nor a senseless killer, but he has survived up until this point by doing exactly what was necessary. Joel is a product of the society anew, and it’s for that reason why it’s hard to warm up to him.
On the other end of the spectrum is Ellie, an institutionalized child of the apocalypse who has banded together with Joel in order to earn safe passage across the country. Whereas Joel has been greatly worn down by the events that have taken him this far, Ellie is fresh out of a so-called ‘safe-zone’, and thus has yet to be exposed to all of the death and destitution of the world at large. Wide-eyed with amazement at the desolation and beauty of everything slowly unfurling before her very eyes, Ellie is an undeterred, curious and downright naïve teenager whose endearing nature seems almost out of place in this blackened reality.
It’s this duality between Ellie and Joel that serves as the basis for the story of The Last of Us Remastered. In terms of the bigger picture, this is a game about overcoming the pandemic and about clinging to life by your fingernails lest it be wrestled away from you. And yet, despite their being an objective behind Ellie and Joel’s quest, it’s the journey itself that is of far more importance than the conclusion. This is the tale of Joel and Ellie, a tale you feel is but a small ripple in an ocean of stories just waiting to be told within the broken world of The Last of Us.
As I alluded to above, the objective in The Last of Us Remastered is to find a cure for the infection, with Joel, and particularly Ellie, playing a key role in doing so. Throughout their journey across a broken America, they’ll wander deserted streets, fight against ravenous bandits and even meet fellow survivors as developers Naughty Dog aim to give us the full post-pandemic experience. It’s the relationship between Joel and Ellie that characterizes The Last of Us Remastered best of all, though. As you steadily progress through the game, it’s hard not to love this duo for what they are, with every single interaction between the two, however fleeting, giving more depth to each character. Whether it’s opening a door for one another or saving each other’s lives in the heat of battle, there’s a sense of dependency between the two that, although forced at first, becomes gradually more organic and loving.
And there’ll be plenty of times when you have to rely on Ellie’s help too, with the visceral combat seeming perfectly attuned to the games bleak and gritty tone. Both melee combat and gun-fighting are both well represented in The Last of Us Remastered, with weapon crafting and scavenging further adding to the survivalist ethos. Bullets are fairly hard to come by no matter how hard you look, so you’ll get used to seeing only a single round in the chamber at every cursory glance toward your revolver. This then places more emphasis on melee combat, with Joel favouring heavy-set punches and strangulation in order to neutralize his foes. Whether or not you’re lucky enough to be in possession of a cache of bullets though is rather meaningless, as intelligent enemy AI make things incredibly difficult for you through use of patrolling, flanking and distraction. You may have your sights trained on the cranium of an enemy rifleman, only to be surprised by a steel-pipe wielding runner who starts swinging for the fences. At this point, you’ll have to fall back on your fists or, if you have one at hand, a melee weapon. But with a melee system that is such a delight, it’s hard not to crack a wry smile as you raise your fists to your assailant and respond in kind. With so much weight behind every punch and some sickeningly realistic sound effects to compliment your slaughter, it’s easy to get carried away in the swing of things as Joel boxes a couple of Hunters to death, grimacing and gasping as he goes.
You’ll never want to be in a situation where you’re only armed with your bloody, bandaged fists however, and that’s where the scavenging mechanic comes into play. Throughout your journey through shrubbery, cities and sewers, keep your eyes peeled for objects you can make use of, like pure alcohol, binding and blades. These will allow you to make weapons such as Molotov cocktails, nail-bombs and even shivs, whilst you can also upgrade existing armaments through finding assorted parts in a similar fashion.
The combat in The Last of Us Remastered is structured in such a consistent way that you’ll regularly need to resupply yourself with scavenged wares. You may think that a stock of bullets for each of your weapons, an upgraded melee weapon and a few smoke bombs is enough to see you through the next foray safely, but it will quickly become apparent that items in this game don’t stretch very far. Health kits will need replenishing and baseball bats will shatter, but luckily, every ceasefire affords you the chance to open your backpack and once again begin the crafting process for the inevitable fights ahead.
It’s during these breaks in the games frenetic combat that you get a better chance to explore the vastly altered landscape ahead of you. The games impressive graphical fidelity, coupled with near-perfect lighting and subtly melancholic soundtrack paint an oddly beautiful picture of the new world. Every rusted car, every hauntingly motionless city street and every building being slowly consumed by lush greenery are all recognized brilliantly, with each being a haunting reminder to how life used to be. Naughty Dog’s painstaking attention to detail only exemplifies the remnants of a now deceased society even further, as jotted letters to loved ones and decrepit children’s toys give even further reminders of a time not long since lost.
Of course, this isn’t just The Last of Us, rather it’s The Last of Us Remastered, with that moniker in question detailing the refinement of the original game specifically for the PlayStation 4. In Remastered, the game runs at a steady 60 frames per second as opposed to its predecessors 30, whilst it also outputs at a native 1080p resolution rather than the previous output of only 720p. Draw distances are also significantly increased, whilst the inclusion of an in-game camera for capturing those most idyllic moments of tranquillity makes great use of the PlayStation 4’s ‘Share’ functionality. But, if you’re looking for a reason to purchase this game again, then that may come in the form of the bundled DLC expansions. Left Behind, the Ellie-centric story DLC is included in the game, as are both multiplayer map packs, a few free multiplayer perks and even Grounded mode.
Multiplayer in The Last of Us Remastered brings with it the same aggressive combat of the main game, whilst remaining true to its survivalist nature. Matches pit two teams of four against each other on a variety of maps that you may recognize from your adventures in the story. After selecting a primary weapon, secondary weapon and a few perks that accentuate your play style, you and your team essentially need to just eliminate the others, whilst scavenging bullets and items as you go.
To add a touch of flair to proceedings, there’s also a meta-game that will drastically impact your multiplayer matches, as you take dominion over a camp of survivors and are tasked with keeping at least one of its occupants alive for a twelve week spell. The better you do in multiplayer matches, the more survivors will join your camp, whilst the worse you do, the more of your survivors will perish due to sickness and malnourishment. Although interesting at first, the task ahead of you eventually becomes untenable, as your numbers increase so greatly that you simply cannot feed all of those that you’re meant to be looking after. It’s good then that you can easily ignore the meta-game and play multiplayer unhindered, however a few other flaws such as poor team balancing, microtransaction perks, suspect hit-detection and spawning inconsistencies tend to aggravate on a fairly regular basis. Still, these problems are hard to detract from the core Last of Us multiplayer experience, which seems to have made the perfect transition from the main game without ever sacrificing its integrity.
The Last of Us Remastered is a human tale told during an inhuman time. Naughty Dog’s harrowing world abandoned at the peak of its decadence is brilliantly imagined and spectacularly realised. Ellie and Joel’s journey is one of the most thorough, well-written and impeccably crafted tales I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of, whilst the Remastered refinements and a competent multiplayer component make this game the complete package.
Arguably the best game available right now on the PlayStation 4, The Last of Us Remastered asks you whether humanity is worth saving, then provides you with a single, definitive reason as to why it most certainly is.