The news that Naughty Dog would be releasing a "remastered" version of The Last of Us on the PS4 was initially met with some skepticism in the gaming community. The announcement was somewhat of a shock considering the mind-blowing visual caliber of the original. Some wondered what improvements, if any, could be made with the PS4's new technology that would justify re-releasing a game that was hardly a year old. The same conversation came up earlier this year when Square Enix followed up their release of Tomb Raider with a "Definitive Edition" that was aimed at the next generation consoles. Not only were PS3 and Xbox 360 owners frustrated to learn that an improved version of a game they had just purchased would soon be available on the new systems, but it added fuel to the ongoing debate that PC gaming is superior to consoles. Many are now saying that "re-releasing" titles is nothing more than an attempt to cash in again on a game's success. But regardless of consumer backlash, re-releases have seemingly become a trend for popular titles that were caught in the middle of development cycles when the new platforms launched. Rockstar has even followed suit and will be offering a revamped version of GTA V for the PS4 and Xbox One later this year. But unlike The Last of Us, both Tomb Raider and GTA V will also be available on PC. So is it really worth it for PlayStation owners to spend their hard earned cash to buy Naughty Dog's latest offering on the PS4?
If you're new to the PlayStation universe and bought a PS4 without previously owning a PS3 (welcome Xbox refugees), then your answer is simple: buy The Last of Us Remastered.
If you're a longtime PS3 owner and have already played through The Last of Us upwards of five times, then your answer is also simple: buy The Last of Us Remastered.
Unlike Tomb Raider and GTA V, which are both phenomenal titles, The Last of Us is arguably the most accomplished video game ever created. So why wouldn't you want to play an even better version of the best game available? It's sort of like restoring the Mona Lisa. Sure you've seen the painting before, but seeing it after it's been cleaned can present a whole new experience. (I'd like to point out the fact that I am aware I've just compared da Vinci's masterpiece to a video game, but I did attend art school and am quite familiar with the classic works. Thusly, I'd also like to point out that I think it's a fair assessment.)
The updates made in The Last of US Remastered certainly don't change the story, but they do altar the game's overall feel. The most noticeable modification is the jump from the game's native 720p resolution rendered at 30 FPS to the now 1080p at 60 FPS. The environments are more stunning than ever and the animations, while somewhat jarring at first, are substantially more fluid once you get used to them. Another significant contribution is the improvements made to the character models. Not only are they more detailed, but the new range of facial expressions for Joel and Ellie is staggering. Their brows furrow and crease during dialogue and their faces contort in disturbingly realistic anguish when being attacked. The realism and complexity of their expressions adds even more to the game's overwhelmingly emotional tone, making it that much easier for players to connect with them.
In addition to the revised graphics, Remastered also takes advantage of the new DualShock 4 controller. With the more functional design of the trigger buttons, L2/R2 now aim and fire. Pressing the center touchpad also opens your pack giving players easier access to their inventory. The DualShock 4's built in speaker is utilized as well. Audio recordings and flashlight sound effects play through the handset rather than your TV. This might seem subtle, but when you're in a dark room surrounded by the terrifying sounds of the infected, hearing the flashlight "click" on in your hands adds immensely to the creepy ambiance. Another welcomed feature is the ability to enter a camera mode which allows players to take pictures of their surroundings. The tool is extremely versatile and offers users the ability to edit things like depth of field and apply various filters. The "photos" can then be saved onto a USB device or posted to Facebook and Twitter using the PS4's Share function.
If all the aforementioned items weren't worth the reduced MSRP of $49.99, The Last of Us Remastered also ships with all the current DLC. This includes the incredible side story, Left Behind. For those who aren't already familiar with it, Left Behind was released in February as add-on content for the game's single player campaign. Player's assume the role of Ellie and embark on a side quest that occurs during the game's original timeline. While the gameplay that's set during the events of the main narrative are where the majority of the action takes place, it's the flashback sequences that are the most compelling. Through a series of interspersed scenes we learn about Ellie's somewhat curious backstory and how she became infected with the virus. Left Behind is a remarkable achievement in both the game's overall narrative and as a standalone offering. The superb acting brings the characters to life in an almost unsettling way. While playing through Left Behind I found myself becoming even more emotionally invested in Ellie's character, which is something I didn't think was possible after playing through the main campaign. And to get that kind of reaction from a video game is truly remarkable (plus it doesn't require a trip to the Louvre).
So in closing, if the Last of Us is truly a modern masterpiece then the same thing can only be said for Remastered. It's an experience that honestly shouldn't be missed by anyone. And making it available on the PS4 it a great way to get it in the hands of a wider audience. It's also a great reason for fans to play through the game one more time and remember just what it is that makes The Last of Us so extraordinary.