The Last of Us was named one of Playstation 3’s crowning achievements and it’s easy to see why. The game has aged incredibly well and will probably continue to do so. The story is beautifully written, with deep characters rivalling those seen in some of the best films out there.
Winner of over 200 Game of the Year awards, The Last of Us was one of the biggest critically-acclaimed games to come out at the end of the Playstation 3’s life cycle. Set in a brutal post-apocalyptic world and boasting an emotionally-charged narrative rivalling that of the best cinematic blockbusters, it was almost inevitable that this incredible Playstation 3 exclusive would be remastered for Playstation 4. Along with a slight graphical upgrade, The Last of Us Remastered also comes complete with the Left Behind downloadable content, extra multiplayer maps, as well as some really insightful director’s commentary.
For those unfamiliar with Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic game, The Last of Us is a story-driven, single-player experience that sees you take control of Joel, a rugged, hardened man haunted by the ghosts of his past in a harsh, new world. A viral outbreak grips most of the population, turning them into maniacal infected simply called “Runners”. When left to grow, the fungal infection eventually evolves into dangerous creatures called “Clickers”.
With an already hostile world growing ever more chaotic as resources dwindle, caught in the middle of this is our protagonist, Joel. Hardened by years of surviving in the new world, he’s tasked with transporting a young girl named Ellie across the vast overgrown wasteland of America to a rebel group known as The Fireflies.
You’d be forgiven for thinking The Last of Us is just another apocalyptic zombie game. Under its impressively-rendered surface is an emotional story that nails both its theme and tone while effortlessly delivering on the gameplay front. With a third-person, over-the-shoulder view, most of the mechanics here are familiar to anyone who has played Uncharted or various other games in this genre. Most of the gameplay derives from walking, jumping and climbing various structures while interacting with the world to trigger conversations or items.
When you’re not admiring the beautifully-realized world or the various lighting and weather effects that show off the full power of the console, you’ll be engaging with enemies. It’s here that The Last of Us has a distinct feel to it unlike others in this genre. Guns have a weight to them and firing feels suitably awkward and clumsy. Much to the game’s credit, this actually works well given the context and backstory of Joel. Predictably, you use the shoulder buttons to aim and shoot, but the crosshair and aiming itself frequently requires concentration to nail headshots or hit specific body parts, which can be tricky, especially on the harder difficulties when swarms of infected are genuinely terrifying as they rush at you.
There’s a dynamic melee system here too which manages to break some of the monotony of bashing square or triangle in the middle of a fistfight by changing up the animations depending on where you fight. If you engage with an enemy near a bar you may pick up a bottle and smash it over an enemy’s head, or if you fight near a wall you may throw them through the window. It’s a small touch but one that’s highly effective in keeping engagement high during these moments.
Thankfully it’s not all running and gunning as The Last of Us introduced some interesting crafting mechanics too. Picking up alcohol, nails, machine parts and all manner of items littered across the landscape allows you to craft a variety of items to aid in your quest including sticky bombs, nail bombs, health kits and more. Opening the menu occurs in real-time too, just like Dead Space, and from here you can select items to mix together. Holding down the action button then crafts the item, so planning in advance is a necessity before entering firefights.
There’s a good variety of enemies here too, and when you’re not fighting humans or infected runners, you’ll come up against the clickers which can kill you in one hit. These terrifying creatures are unique and use echolocation to suss out the slightest variation in sound in the area. Throwing a glass bottle or brick in the opposite direction can aid you, as clickers run to the source of the sound, but when mixed with runners they pose a particularly terrifying threat that’s both challenging and rewarding to tackle. There’s a generous checkpoint system in place though, so even if you do choose to play this on the hardest difficulty, you won’t have to backtrack too far to be able to redo tricky segments.
The Last of Us splits its story into 4 distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. This works to break the story into manageable chunks and gives a believable excuse for changing the aesthetic and feel of the world as you progress. The different seasons showcase a different group or person and how they’ve adjusted to the new world. Whether it is recluse Bill in his bomb-littered world or inseparable brothers Harry and Sam, each chapter has a distinct mood to it and there are some genuinely shocking and gut-wrenching moments here. From the opening prologue through to the final moments with the story, The Last of Us understands the importance of building characters and the work done here is arguably some of the most impressive seen in a video game.
There’s a good 15 hours of story here if you blitz through and ignore any of the collectables. For those who enjoy exploring every nook and cranny, expect to spend some time in each of the landscapes uncovering letters, crafting items and accessing hidden areas which can easily increase this run time to around 22 hours. When you’re done with the story, there is an option to replay the game again on New Game+ which keeps the same weapons and items from before as well as the aforementioned DLC content, Left Behind, which provides another 5 or so hours of content where you take control of Ellie and plays out as an origin story of sorts.
When you’re done with all the single player content, The Last of Us boasts a surprisingly fun multiplayer mode. Although multiplayer consists of your standard array of online modes you’d expect from a game like this, the uniquely presented premise is ultimately what makes this so endearing. When you begin, you’re assigned a group of survivors on either the “Hunters” or “Fireflies” team. As you progress through multiplayer, your task is to grow your group and survive through to the end of their journey for survival. Every win in modes like Team Deathmatch or Factions grows the group, while every loss in those modes has an adverse effect. It’s a simple system but one that’s surprisingly effective, especially with the decent design of the multiplayer maps.
The Last of Us was named one of Playstation 3’s crowning achievements and it’s easy to see why. The game has aged incredibly well and will probably continue to do so. The story is beautifully written with deep characters rivalling that seen in some of the best films out there. The beautifully rendered world is an absolute joy to explore and with an array of collectables mixed in with the brutal, dynamic gameplay system, it’s really difficult to fault this epic game. If you haven’t already, you really owe it to yourself to experience this majestic piece of art.