When The Last of Us was released last year, it was so incredibly good that I saw it as elevating the medium of videogames.
Sure, indie games may have been doing amazing, groundbreaking things for ages, but Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic epic was a triple-A console release that has sold more than 7 million copies. To be so successful and to be such a slow-paced story with difficult themes that was more mature than most Hollywood films last year, let alone games, and to have that story driven with gameplay that was extraordinarily thrilling, it's just amazing.
I sometimes find myself talking about the two protagonists, Joel and Ellie, almost like I do real people in my life. Loads of games have iconic characters - Mario, Lara Croft, Sonic, Master Chief, to name but a few - but it's difficult to think of any pair that I've connected with on such a strong emotional level.
You can read my full review of the original here, if you aren't too familiar with the game yet. And fear not, neither that review nor this one has story spoilers, for much of the joyous wonder that is The Last of Us is experiencing its narrative through for the first time.
The Last of Us being re-released on the PlayStation 4 means a much greater-looking game, of course. It's presented at 1080p and 60 frames per second and, surprisingly, it's the higher frame-rate that helps the game more.
The upgraded graphics are awesome, but for most of the game they don't look too much better than the PS3 version. Keep in mind that the original was one of the finer games released on that system, shortly before the launch of the PS4, but the jump in pure definition is not as big as I was anticipating.
That higher frame-rate, however, makes everything run so much smoother and appear more lifelike in what is conversely a much bigger jump than I expected. This is not just an aesthetic upgrade, either; the smoother animation somehow makes action sequences more pleasurable to play through. Aiming and movement is more responsive, making it easier to hit baddies in the head.
The increased definition and frame-rate alone, however, make it very hard to justify forking out cash for this game if you already own the original. If you don't own and didn't play the original, and you own a PS4, this package is the best use of that hardware to date, by a country mile. Go and buy it now.
If you do own the original, there is a bunch of added extras on the disc that add extra value.
The best bonus item included on the Remastered disc is Left Behind, the single-player story DLC package released earlier this year.
It's rare to get a game add-on that adds so much, but Left Behind is a really great, meaningful expansion on the main game. It builds a great deal onto Ellie's character, which is great as she is really interesting and the main game's storyline focuses much more on Joel.
But Left Behind also introduces a significant new gameplay option, which is the ability to set two types of enemies off against each other - the infected and scavengers. This adds a gratifying extra layer of strategy onto some of the bigger battles.
The new photo mode in Remastered is also really quite cool. It allows you to pause the gameplay at any point to take a snap, with the ability to adjust where the camera is, depth of field and add a range of photographic effects.
Of course, if you wanted to do really professional effects, you could export the plain photo and import it into Photoshop and get fancy as, then pop that beautiful image of Joel staring off solemnly into the distance or Ellie facing off against a clicker up on Facebook or your blog.
I have gotten used to the video replays that Call of Duty has been implementing in their multiplayer matches in recent years which are far more advanced than what The Last of Us Remastered offers, in terms of putting the camera anywhere you want.
But I do enjoy pausing things and checking out the action from different angles, discovering what the eyes of my enemies look like at each stage of the laborious strangle-deaths they suffer and so on. Oh and of course the beautiful, calming sunsets and all that stuff too.
You also get all the DLC multiplayer content released so far on the disc and some in-game commentary audio bits from the Naughty Dog team.
The one drawback with The Last of Us Remastered is that it's a full-priced game, even if you've already bought the original as a full-priced game. It's still great value and by far the best game yet released on the PS4, but if you own the original it is quite a lot of money to spend on essentially the same game.
But this is 2014 and people fork out $100 or so for a slightly different version of the game they bought last year, every year, and another $100 on DLC for that game during the year, and then another $100 on micro-transactions for that game. That's on top of their PS Plus and Xbox Live fees and broadband costs and everything else... So into this world, The Last of Us Remastered is tremendous value.
Games don't get better than this... yet.
Four-and-a-half stars if you own the original - five if you don't.
The Last of Us Remastered
:: Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
:: Developer: Naughty Dog
:: Format: PlayStation 4
:: Rating: R18
source: newshub archive