The Last of Us Remastered review

The Last of Us Remastered is the same great game it was in 2013, but Naughty Dog’s upgrade could have used more time to bake.
The Last of Us Remastered is the same great game it was in 2013, but Naughty Dog’s upgrade could have used more time to bake.
The Last of Us Remastered is the same great game it was in 2013, but Naughty Dog’s upgrade could have used more time to bake.

Highs

  • Exceptional work of storytelling
  • Complex cast of characters
  • Remastered visuals, pack-in content make this a definitive version of

Lows

  • Shaky AI too frequently breaks the illusion

DT Editors' Rating

You’ve killed someone, so you’re the villain. Though he was trying to kill the young girl you promised to protect, so you’re really the hero. Except he was only defending himself from a perceived threat while he was out scavenging for a few morsels of food to feed his family with. So, what the hell are you now?

The Last of Us is a game about committing horrible crimes in the name of a noble cause. It’s a journey of self-preservation at any cost. Of the two main characters, Joel and Ellie, there’s only one true protagonist. How Joel’s actions read by the time the credits roll is wide open to interpretation – that’s the genius of this story, really – but he is not what many would call a “good” man. He’s simply a survivor.

The Last of Us is a game about committing horrible crimes in the name of a noble cause.

The story follows Joel as he takes on the job of escorting Ellie to a secret medical laboratory. It all plays out against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world that’s been overrun by the flesh-eating, zombie-like “Infected.” Ellie is a special girl, and the thing that makes her special may prove to be the key to saving humankind.

At its heart, The Last of Us is a stealth-focused action game that puts a premium on resource management. There are a handful of simple environmental puzzles to be solved, but much of the play time is spent sneaking around groups of enemies, either to dispatch them quietly, one at a time, or to circumvent them completely. None of that changes in The Last of Us Remastered, which brings Naughty Dog’s 2013 masterpiece to PlayStation 4.

The most noticeable change in Remastered is, not surprisingly, the visual upgrade. The Last of Us looked great on PlayStation 3, but the level of newfound fidelity in the game’s textures and visual effects is immediately noticeable on PS4. The facial animations don’t always measure up, as the new textures are simply “painted” on top of existing character models, but the visual boost in The Last of Us Remastered is significant.

The re-release also takes advantage of the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller in a variety of ways. Aiming and shooting are now automatically mapped to the L2/R2 buttons, to take better advantage of the newer controller’s trigger-style grips. The DualShock 4’s built-in speaker is also put to occasional use, for flashlight sound effects and audio from collectible voice recorders.

Then, there’s a whole host of additional content: the full, multiplayer Factions mode, complete with its two, previously released downloadable content packs; the story-driven Left Behind add-on; optional commentary tracks on the in-game cinematics; and, compliments of a day-one update, the same Photo Mode that proved to be so popular in Infamous: Second Son.

What’s unfortunately not improved on is the quality of the play in The Last of Us. Naughty Dog crafted a tremendous story and built very satisfying gameplay to complement it, but it’s not enough to sustain the roughly 15-hour completion time. It’s a credit to the writing that you want to keep on pushing through, but the slow pace and demanding stealth-driven action start feeling repetitive far too quickly.

For all the improvements, The Last of Us Remastered is not quite as spruced up as it could have been.

Sharper AI might have helped in this remastered PS4 release, but all of Naughty Dog’s development efforts appear to have gone into improving the presentation. Even at higher difficulties, enemies flip wildly between stone dumb and preternaturally aware of their surroundings. You might load your last checkpoint to find a swarm of baddies zeroing in on your position… or you might see them simply frozen in place.

Some of these issues appear to stem from basic performance issues, things that could be addressed in a patch. Seeing Joel suddenly start running at a 45-degree angle to the ground is jarring, sure, but it’s an obvious glitch. Other problems are more likely the product of a self-empowered AI occasionally going rogue. Enemies move freely through The Last of Us’ huge environments, and sometimes their signals cross. That’s where it would have been nice to see some improvements.

At its best moments, enemies in The Last of Us behave intelligently-yet-convincingly; they’ll work in groups and fan out to take flanking positions, but they can also be fooled if you slip away unseen. But at worst, they’re an unpredictable mess, either making a beeline for Joel’s seemingly safe, out-of-the-way hiding spot or getting caught in comical AI loops that cause them to run around in circles or repeatedly teabag the ground beneath their feet.

The Last of Us screenshot 4

Those aren’t the only breaks in the game’s illusion. Joel is joined for most of his adventure by one or more companions. Naughty Dog worked to ensure that The Last of Us didn’t turn into a giant escort mission, but the big cheat for accomplishing that appears to have been making all allies invisible to enemies until Joel is actually spotted. More than once, you’ll see Ellie run directly into a patrolling baddie, only to be ignored.

These are frustrating breaks that capably illustrate where the boundaries lie for this “remaster.” Naughty Dog’s grand post-apocalyptic road trip looks better than it ever has before, but the code beneath the visuals is as creaky as any late-era console release that strains the limits of its home machine’s processing power.

For all the improvements, The Last of Us Remastered is not quite as spruced up as it could have been. The gameplay falters more frequently than it should around frustrating technical hiccups that are all the more glaring alongside Naughty Dog’s bountiful upgrades to the presentation. We can forgive what must have been a truncated development schedule for this port, but we still have to point out the shortcomings where we see them.

Let’s be clear though: The Last of Us won scores of “Game of the Year” awards in 2013 for good reason. It’s got a believably drawn cast of complex characters and one of the sharpest narratives in all of video games. Joel and Ellie’s journey is an experience that no one should miss, and The Last of Us Remastered is the version to get if you’ve got the hardware for it.

Highs

  • Exceptional work of storytelling
  • Complex cast of characters
  • Remastered visuals, pack-in content make this a definitive version of

Lows

  • Shaky AI too frequently breaks the illusion
Computing

You could be gaming on AMD’s Navi graphics card before the end of the summer

If you're waiting for a new graphics card from AMD that doesn't cost $700, you may have to wait for Navi. But that card may not be far away, with new rumors suggesting we could see a July launch.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.
Gaming

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.
Gaming

These are the best indie games you can get on PC right now

Though many indie games now come to consoles as well, there's still a much larger selection on PC. With that in mind, we've created a list of the best indie games for PC, with an emphasis on games that are only available on PC.
Gaming

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially-popular League of Legends.
Gaming

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.
Gaming

Blizzard’s latest hiring spree is likely for the unannounced ‘Diablo 4’

Activision Blizzard is hiring for more than a dozen positions on unannounced Diablo projects. Some of the roles are likely for the unannounced Diablo 4, the next mainline entry in the series.
Gaming

Everything we know about 'Red Dead Online', including the new mode Gun Rush

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.
Gaming

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.
Gaming

Fortnite V-Bucks being used by criminals for money laundering on dark web

Criminals are using Fortnite's V-Bucks for money laundering schemes on the dark web. Epic Games, apparently, is not doing enough to prevent the game from being used for the illegal activity.
Gaming

Relive the 8-bit gaming era with the best NES emulators for Android and PC

For years prior to the release of the NES Classic, emulators have offered a means to every NES game ever created without needing the console. Here are the best NES emulators for Android and PC.
Gaming

Mortal Kombat 11 Kollector’s Edition comes with a life-size Scorpion mask

The Mortal Kombat 11 Kollector's Edition will come with a human-sized replica of the mask of Scorpion, one of the most iconic fighters of the series. NetherRealm Studios has also announced the game's preorder bonuses.
Gaming

Xbox app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox allows you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!