The Last of Us - Take Two

So I reviewed The Last of Us when it first came out. If you want to see my thoughts on the storyline, and the game’s efforts to emotionally invest the player, then you can have a look at the original article here. Long story short, I thought it was awesome, and still do. It’s easily one of the best games I’ve ever played.

With the release of the remastered version, I thought I’d give the game another go. So I upped the difficulty, played through the story again, and played the Left Behind DLC for the first time, and these are my thoughts:

The Replay and the Graphics

Naturally, the remastered version has been advertised as being full 1080p, with improved shaders, lighting, etc., and a frame rate of 60fps. And yes, the visuals are stunning.

The frame rate increase really does make a lot of details much smoother than they were before. When I first played through the game on PS3, I was slightly taken aback by the level of detail. Lots of modern games are visually stunning; when we play FPS or racing games, we take the detail levels for granted, but they’re some of the most visually detailed games in existence!

The Last of Us however added this level of detail, in a stunning environment, and actually gave the player the time (and the circumstances) to appreciate it. That being said, it meant that the lesser refined details were a little more noticeable. Things like characters’ breathing animations in the cold and the water animations by the power plant just didn’t feel as smooth as they could be. Something that the frame rate bump definitely dealt with. It also somehow made the combat feel a bit faster and more brutal (though that’s almost certainly due to me playing it on a higher difficulty…).

the last of us detail

Although the graphical improvements are impressive, these are the sort of details that would only be noticed by someone that’s really looking for them! To be honest, I only noticed them because I was actively trying to compare the two versions of the game.

That being said, although I played the game through again with that slightly in mind, for the most part, it had no impact on how much I enjoyed it. I hadn’t played it again since I first completed it. Knowing what scenarios were awaiting me was useful (especially as I’d upped the difficulty), but it barely detracted from my enjoyment of the game at all. For a game with a set-in-stone storyline, that’s really impressive, and a testament to how good the gameplay is.

I will say though, on the higher difficulty levels, some scenarios simply can’t be prepared for! Throughout most of the game, caution and stealth is the answer. But at some points, when there are an onslaught of enemies, playing at a high difficulty can be really infuriating! That winter scene where Ellie and David have to fend off an onslaught of enemies… I failed at that one countless times!

Left Behind

So, the DLC. Is it good? Yes. Does it add much to the game? Debatable.

Firstly, the DLC somewhat assumes that you’ve already played through the main storyline. So I’m going to assume the same thing…

In Left Behind, you play out two different scenarios as Ellie. One where Ellie and her friend Riley are exploring in the Quarantine Zone (before the events of the main game). And the other is set during the main storyline, after Joel is injured and Ellie is trying to take care of him.

For anyone who paid attention to the dialogue between Joel and Ellie in the main game, you may recall that her friend Riley gets a mention. Personally, I found it kind of nice to put some context to Ellie’s story about Riley, and how Ellie managed to get bitten.

the last of us - Ellie and Riley

In terms of gameplay, Left Behind has everything you became familiar with in the main game - lots of infected, lots of chances to be stealthy (or get killed), a section where you pretty much have no choice but to defend yourself against an onslaught of enemies, and plenty of relationship-building scenes between Ellie and Riley.

In terms of structure, Left Behind alternates between the scene in the Quarantine Zone and where Ellie is trying to help Joel. This allows for a good balance between story telling and action elements. It can be a bit frustrating if you’re finding the slow-paced relationship-building between Ellie and Riley a little tedious and would prefer to just get stuck into some stealth and killing, but I think alternating between the scenarios was a good call. And both end in fairly climactic ways. So there’s a good build up of action.

It would have been nice though to have an option in this Remastered version of the game where the events in Left Behind were incorporated into the main storyline, playing through the Ellie and Riley scenes shortly after she mentions how she was bitten (or at a more opportune point), and playing the scene where she’s trying to look after Joel at the correct point chronologically.

I only suggest this because, for me, the main storyline was great, and a very good length. But I finished playing Left Behind feeling unsatisfied. I wanted it to be longer, and richer. The fact that you could only play it as an independent entity from the main game felt like a disadvantage to me, whereas an option to include it directly in the main storyline for the Remastered version would have been a great opportunity to enrich the main game, and perhaps a good selling point as well.

Despite that, my points in my original review still stand… it’s a damn good game!

Posted: August 5th, 2014
Categories: video games, reviews