The Last of Us Remastered review
There seems to be a trend, now that the next generation of gaming has arrived, to bulk games libraries with relaunched and remastered versions of classic titles. The Last of Us Remastered on PlayStation 4 is among those to head up that list.
Not including some rehashed versions of indie downloadable titles and ports of other existing games such as Minecraft, we've also seen a remastered version of Tomb Raider as a PS4 and Xbox One next-gen release, and Grand Theft Auto V is heading to both consoles before the end of 2014.
But it's The Last of Us that's piqued our interest perhaps more than others because it's a game we adored on PlayStation 3. And on the PS4 it's like upgrading from DVD to Blu-ray with all the graphical flourishes and bonus extras that give us a hankering to play it again.
So whether you're new to the title or not, does The Last of Us still stand up to scrutiny as one of the best games of recent times?
A timeless classic
Although it's technically a re-release, The Last of Us Remastered is not like most other games, or even other classics from a slowly winding down but glorious generation of gaming. At its heart it is timeless, offering gameplay mechanics that haven't grown old. They can and will be bettered someday, but if it were released for the first time today, few would argue that there is anything better out there.
For many The Last of Us Remastered will be a brand new game. If you never played it on PS3, have made your first console investment in the PS4, or have even ventured over to the land of PlayStation from camp Xbox, then get ready for an epic all-new experience.
So regardless of sating the appetites of those hankering for another journey through the eerie landscapes of Naughty Dog's imagination, the game should be given as much respect as any other new title that crosses our desks here at Pocket-lint.
Which is almost pointless anyway, to be honest, because even when seen as a minor rehash The Last of Us still blasts the pants off all opposition on the PS4. It was essentially next-gen gaming on a current-gen console when it was first released. Now it returns and manages to be the first stand-out next-gen game to hit Sony's platform.
Running at 60 frames per second and in 1080p, The Last of Us Remastered simply looks spectacular. Fans of the original game might be excused for initially not being taken aback by the sheer wealth of changes Naughty Dog has made to the graphical presentation. Everything is familiar and much of the opening scenes and set pieces are in the dark, where the visual feast is hampered by a restricted and muted colour palette. Step out into the sun though and you will shed a tear at its beauty. Or, at least, go "wow" and then move on.
Faces are easier to be impressed by because the extra detail is much more noticeable. Remember, The Last of Us on PS3 ran at 30fps and in 720p. Aside from the extra processing power that helps lighting ambience and blooms seem much more tangible, there is a more crisp playing field to play with, while that frame rate bump enhances the smoothness of motion.
Sometimes that looks a little fake rather than cinematic - just switch on the "Motion Plus" style picture processing on your TV and you'll see what we mean - but it adds fluidity to the character animations. And gun battles and fighting sequences seem more responsive too.
Something old, something new
The plot of the game is identical of course. You still play - and spoiler alert, skip two paragraphs if you want to come at the game fresh of storyline knowledge - Joel as he treks across a post-apocalyptic US of A with Ellie, who you also play later in the game, at his side. And the action and stealth-based sequences are all in the same places.
What's new with the Remastered release is that you get all the downloadable extras bundled at no extra cost. That includes some of the multiplayer additions, but also the extended single-player side-story, Left Behind. It puts you in the shoes of Ellie as you find out some of her past and what happened to her during a pivotal gap in the main storyline.
This side mission/truncated additional game is not quite as fully realised as the main event, but still a beautiful and, at times, terrifying experience that adds even more value.
But there are new additions for PS4. Remastered includes Photo Mode which, like on Infamous: Second Son, enables you to pause the action and set-up camera angles and lighting to take in-game grabs from the position you like the most. It's an interesting way to encourage fans to post their favourite moments on social networks and little more than that, but we've certainly found it useful to get screengrabs ourselves. If only all games carried such a feature.
We also like how the PS4's DualShock 4 has been utilised to enhance the experience. Apart from using the large touchpanel at the top to open the crafting menu, there are points in both the main game and Left Behind when the speaker of the controller is used to further the interaction.
For example, we found a Dictaphone recorder and rather than play the message back through our home cinema sound system, it played through the DualShock's tinny speaker instead. It was authentic sounding and a nice touch, similar to how it's done in the latest Wolfenstein title.
The LED light on the front of the controller comes into its own too, changing colour to reflect the on-screen action. Needless to say, if you get munched by a Clicker - the scary as heck zombie-like enemies in the game - then it turns red.
Multiplayer remains perhaps a less well-known element of The Last of Us. It's not fair to say it has been tacked on, but the focus has always been on the most incredibly scripted single-player game in existence, not on how many 13-year-olds from half way around the globe you can wipe out (yes, we know it's an 18-rated game, but we're not stupid). We do like the fact that the player vs player action is more like that in the single-player game - you will do better by being cunning than simply running and gunning.
There is also an interesting meta-game that asks you to look after a camp of survivors, with multiplayer gameplay benefiting the group. You'll probably take a while to get round to it though because there's a lot of single-player game hours waiting to be played through first.
Whichever way you look at it, The Last of Us Remastered is a work of art. The PS3 version has already gone down in history as one of the finest examples of interactive storytelling the games industry has ever mustered and Naughty Dog, the game's developers, would have had to jump an almighty shark to balls this up.
But not only has it managed to take something so very near perfect and enhance it, it has found the missing elements to make it totally perfect this time around.
Even if you have little interest in the survival horror storyline, the stealth gameplay or the thoroughly engaging characters, The Last of Us Remastered is a game that you can use to finally show off your next-generation games console. Much like those that used its forebear to show off their current-gen machines.
Uncharted 4 has a lot to live up to.