Last of Us Remastered is How the Game was Truly Meant to Be
Game developers Naughty Dog has been well known for many Playstation exclusive hits like Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, and most notably for the Uncharted series where they shifted from the usual lighthearted adventure platformer to a more action oriented style of gaming. While Uncharted could be likened to an action film, The Last of Us was a solid combination of action and drama. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson deliver amazing performances as protagonists Joel and Ellie, pulling players in for an immersive gaming experience. Continue Reading
Release Date: 29th July 2014
Available on: PS4
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What is The Last of Us?
The Last of Us is a survival horror/action game. It is played from a third person view and allows for a combination of melee and ranged attacks using both conventional and improvised weaponry. Item gathering is a must as crafting is an integral part of survival. As the player, you are always the underdog in any given battle –you will always be outnumbered and outgunned. Success and survival depends on being able to combine stealth with offensive strength in order to effectively take down all your enemies.
The game is set in a post-apocalyptic version of the United States. The country has been overrun by the spread of the Cordyceps fungus –a bizarre infection that quickly mutates its victims and turns them into the game’s version of zombies. They are also among the most powerful threats in the game, able to instantly kill Joel or Ellie with a single grab. Defeating or even just escaping them will take some clever planning on the part of the player.
The HD Advantage
The Last of Us Remastered is pretty much the same exact story as the original version of the game. The big difference here is the fact that it is running on the PS4. The “HD” notes a given: new high resolution textures and better overall visual look. Much like the enhanced HD version of Grand Theft Auto V, TLoU benefits greatly with the new visuals. The character’s facial expressions are even more lifelike and much of the lighting and particle effects makes it feel like you are right there with them.
But the biggest advantage of the PS4 version is not just the enhanced graphics, but the incredible performance of the game. The Remastered is just so much smoother in terms of gameplay, content loading, and even when you are saving the game. The simple act of pulling up the crafting screen in the middle of a heated firefight can be done so seamlessly that it is not inconceivable to whip up another extra bottle of Molotov while hiding behind cover. Another big advantage of the Remastered set is that the Left Behind DLC is also included in the game.
The Protagonists: Joel and Ellie
Players take control of Joel, a black market smuggler for the human survivors inside a quarantine zone. While he normally smuggles items, he is tasked with a new job by the leader of an insurgent militant group known as the Fireflies. The mission: to smuggle a young girl named Ellie out of the quarantine zone and to another group of Firefly members waiting for them.
We see in the game’s introduction (set twenty years before the start of the main story) that Joel used to be a happy, lighthearted family man. That is, until the spread of the infection begins and as the military begins to establish quarantine areas, his young daughter is shot and killed right in his arms. This tragedy sets up Joel’s identity for the rest of the story –a man long hardened by his past experiences and the bleakness of the world they live in.
His character is a stark contrast to Ellie, a young girl who has been gifted with immunity to the infection (which is why she is being smuggled to the Fireflies as they have the medical expertise, tools, and personnel to formulate a potential cure). Ellie’s headstrong attitude and strong faith she might hold the key to changing the world balances Joel’s stoic character.
The character dynamic of Joel and Ellie works to the advantage of the story –while Ellie may be young, she has also seen her share of hardship and uses her sharp tongue to cope with the world around them. Joel may be cold and distant, but he also cannot help but act as a protective figure over Ellie. While the intro even makes it obvious that Joel and Ellie’s bond will eventually mirror his father-daughter relationship with his dead child, the journey getting there is written in such a unique and satisfying way. As the story progresses and the many layers of the protagonists characters shine, it is hard for players to not feel attached to them and their plight.
Dealing with the Infected
With the world overrun by infection for 20 years, everything has changed. Cities lay in ruins, humanity lives in small isolated groups –each struggling to survive and only a scant few actually succeeding. In this world, players encounter various threats ranging from infected humans, and those who are not.
As mentioned, all combat puts the player at a disadvantaged position. The game forces you to think before you act –planning which weapons to use and what approach to make with each combat sequence. With resources being scarce (especially at higher difficulties), you must efficiently avoid or defeat all enemies in an area while ensuring that you would still have enough firepower to deal with whatever may come next.
Joel and Ellie are also given a special ability to use: the skill to focus their listening skills for detecting enemies. When using this, players move at a slow crawl and the visuals turn black and white. In this mode, players will be able to see the outline of all nearby enemies through walls and barriers. This is a very effective technique –though there is something quite unsettling at seeing the whole world in black and while seeing the outlines of the infected.
The infected act and behave like animals, they use no tools, no strategy, no technique. They move about in their territory and attack any living thing they encounter. Reading about them is one thing, but actually encountering these infected is a whole other matter. In some ways, the infected are scarier than zombies there is a primal and brutal approach to them. Worst of all, they can work together as a group –alerting a single infected will cause the others to also be aware of your presence.
In the game, you will learn to differentiate between the different kinds of infected such as the blind echo-locating clickers (which are among the most dangerous enemies in the game as they can kill you instantly if you let them grab you). There are also the stalkers and the bloaters, and more often than not, players will encounter mixed formations of these enemies waiting for them.
The Living are the Worst
One undying troupe of post-apocalyptic stories is that other human survivors can even be more malicious than whatever it is that ended society. The same is true of many zombie stories, and the same is true in The Last of Us. Raiders, cannibals, self-righteous armed groups, gangs, and other hostile groups populate this decimated world, and it is up to Joel and Ellie to get past them.
Fighting against other humans is a lot different than dealing with the infected –they coordinate their attacks, they make use of various tracking and searching techniques, and of course, they also use weapons. Firefights are incredibly dangerous in this game. Being flanked by multiple shooters makes it hard to maneuver and fight back. Plenty of emphasis is put into making the player use stealth in order to tip the scales; by defeating an enemy without alerting the others, you can avoid dealing with a larger force at once.
One great advantage about fighting human opponents is that they are likely to be carrying weapons and ammunition that can be looted.
Combat: Endure and Survive
While the game does allow you to make use of Joel’s listening skill and stealth in order to avoid combat. More often than not, it is often a good idea to wipe out all the enemies in a single location in order to be able to scavenge more resources. If you use your ammo and weapons carefully, it is possible to not only recuperate what resources you have used, but also gain even just a little more than what you started with.
For the most part of the game, you get to control Joel. Having lived a smuggler in an infected world for 20 years has given him a lot of survival skills. You can craft a wide range of items and weapons, equip all sorts of firearms, and if worst comes to worst, use your fists to incapacitate your targets. Against normal humans, Joel can either use stealth to strangle them quietly or hit them with his fists until they die –this also works on the stalker and runner type infected too (but not on clickers or bloaters). Joel’s biggest advantage is his ability to equip blunt weapons. While these weapons have a limited durability, they can be used to beat up almost all enemies (except the bloater) to death.
When playing as Joel, the computer AI controlling Ellie will move her automatically. At times, she will automatically assist you in combat by attacking enemies flanking you. Another advantage to having Ellie as an AI partner is that she is pretty much immune to anything except being grabbed (in which case, you will have to help her). And when you are sneaking, no enemy can detect Ellie. Later in the game, when Elie is able to use a firearm, she will play a more active role in live battles.
Not surprisingly, Ellie is also a playable character. While she can use all the same firearms and craft the same things as Joel, she has a much lower health (that cannot be increased), and her listening range is much smaller. She also cannot pick up blunt weapons. Instead, Ellie has an unbreakable knife that she can use to kill enemies with. Since she lacks physical force, Ellie’s melee combo can be interrupted easily. Aside from her unbreakable weapon Ellie’s use of the bow is also more advantageous –it is easier to execute one-hit kills for her than for Joel. When playing as her, it is recommended that players concentrate on using stealth in order to avoid direct confrontation with enemies.
Exploring the World
The Last of Us is not just about fighting and combat. The game also allows you to see and explore the ironic beauty that is the ruins of post apocalyptic America. Vehicles are littered across roads, buildings lay in shambles, houses wear years of neglect, and nature, as it is always wont to do, manages to find a way. Grass and shrubs are slowly taking back the realm of the once concrete jungles. Through cracks in the pavement, new life is spreading –the world of the Last of Us shows that even without (or despite of) humans, the Earth will continue to live on.
This is not an open world game, while stages do provide branching paths, but all lead to the same end goal. This makes exploring so much more satisfying and meaningful as venturing to the different paths no longer feels like you are mindlessly wasting time on over-detailed open maps. Completionists and RPG fans will enjoy the little things that the developers have scattered throughout the game. From the Uncharted boardgames in the long abandoned toystore to the various other Naughty Dog and Playstation related easter eggs scattered throughout.
Even more interesting are the little ‘notes’ that you can find and read. A few are story related –giving you further insight to the events surrounding Joel and the people around you. The other notes are tales of other survivors, while these ones do not directly affect the main story, they make for incredible reads (one of our favorites are the ones from the survivor camp in the water tunnels –the story culminates with notes in the outside town relating to Ish).
From the start of the game the very final scene before the credits, The Last of Us is a high-tension, emotionally charged, and thought provoking game. It deals with loss of family and of friends. It tackles questions of morality, of what is truly right in a world without rules, and what the true price of survival really costs for people on all sides of the conflict.
While the world is bleak and dangerous, you will not always be alone. Players will encounter a wide range of characters in the story. Tess is Joel’s partner in smuggling and is also the main reason why he ended up with the job of taking care of Ellie. There’s Marlene, the woman in charge of the militant Fireflies and is always dealing with the role of having to make all the hard and painful decisions for the good of the many. There’s Tommy, who, after we meet in the game’s introductory sequence, we would later learn has become estranged from Joel sometime during the 20 years that has passed.
The Verdict: A Well Deserved Awesome
It is all too easy to say that The Last of Us is one of the ‘best games ever’ simply because that is what a lot of other players already say about it. Heck, that’s what a lot of players have already said about the original PS3 version too. But more than the accolades and awards, The Last of Us delivers a fresh and well made game experience that makes it unforgettable for anyone who has every played it.
It is not the most ‘enjoyable’ or ‘fun’ game you will ever play. The bleak and hopelessness that persists in the world that Joel and Ellie live in permeates past the screen and into the person playing it. It is this level of immersive strength, that feeling that you are there with them, trying to survive an ambush by raiders or sneaking past a group of clickers that makes the tension real and palpable.
The storytelling is also deserving of all the praise it is getting, not only are the characters well depicted, but the growth of both Joel and Ellie feel natural and complete. The way they handled the different challenges that they face makes them individuals who will leave a strong impression upon the players controlling them. None of the writing feels forced, and the amazing motion capture work and voice acting lend greater realism to the events of the game.
Overall, there is no mistaking the fact that The Last of Us is an incredibly well polished game. It delivers in terms of bringing great action sequences and challenging combat scenarios to the players –allowing for a balance in the use of both stealth and live battles to bring a play experience that ever feels repetitive or overdone. The clever crafting system makes inventory management a strategy game all by itself –will you make a med-kit or a Molotov? There is an undeniable level of satisfaction to be felt whenever a game is able to make the players feel clever –and TLoU offers plenty of chances for that.
But most important of all is that this is a complete game. Even without the multiplayer features or the additional DLC storyline. Simply completing the main story campaign from beginning to end will have the player feel fulfilled in many ways. And that, for us, is the best thing that a game can ever do for a player. With that, The Last of Us Remastered gets full marks on all counts.
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The Last of Us Remastered is developed by Naughty Dog.