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  • Writer's pictureWill Boddy

Quick Fire Review: The Last of Us [Remastered]

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

In a world ravaged by infection, the irony and storytelling behind The Last of Us emanate a lot stronger than it did upon release all the way back in 2013 – nonetheless, this fictional journey through post-pandemic America is both mesmerising and heartbreaking.

Yes, with the sequel just around the corner, what better time to refresh the memory and prepare your heartstrings, than going all out in another desperate attempt at surviving in the treacherous landscape that is The Last of Us.

With multiple perfect scores when it released nearly a decade ago and countless video game awards, this masterpiece truly excels in gameplay, storytelling, immersion and voice acting. Developed by Naughty Dog (the team behind the Uncharted series) and published by Sony, director and writer Neil Druckmann should be immortalised for the effort him and his team have put into this video game, as it plays out more like a movie than a game.

Life as We Know It

The story follows Joel, voiced by none other than Troy Baker (Bioshock Infinite, Death Stranding and Uncharted), a simple man from Austin, Texas who, after 20 years of running from the tragic events of a disastrous infectious outbreak, finds himself living under authoritative rule in a quarantined zone in Boston.

Rebel Fireflies make the military occupation of North End Boston tough going. Image: captured in-game.

Leaving the outer walls of the military zone behind, Joel and his companion Tess (Annie Wersching) are tasked with moving precious cargo, a teenage girl, Ellie (voiced brilliantly by Ashley Johnson), to a rebel outpost run by the Fireflies. Obviously so much shit happens along the way; additional companions are either killed or succumb to the infection; bandits ruthlessly massacring innocent people; the infected swarming and overwhelming our characters; but also, a lot of really heartfelt moments that juxtapose the horrific environments.

As the story spans from Boston to Pittsburgh, onto Jackson County and Salt Lake City, the amount of ground covered across all the four seasons really accentuates the changing gameplay environments. And it’s mid-way through the game itself – coming into winter – when a pivotal moment in the story sees you finally play as Ellie.

Gameplay mirrors that of Naughty Dog’s previous Uncharted titles, in that it’s third-person, stealth plays a significant role, you acquire weapons as you progress, and combat scenarios are nicely broken up by quality downtime; this allows you to explore and also acquire valuable resources and collectables.

You usually stumble into combat by opening a door or hopping over an obstacle and depending on the surrounding environment – be it underground, inside large buildings or out in the open – you’ll face off against either bandits or the infected. Both are unique but also rather basic in their combat style. Still, I’d much rather go up against humans than infected, because although humans have lethal weapons like rifles and bombs, they are easier to sneak around and silently dispatch than the unpredictable infected who are just straight-up fucking psycho.

Some humans can have body armour, and either wield melee weapons or guns, but the infected are where it’s at. There are “Runners”, which is rather self-explanatory, and they attack you in an absolute flurry, “Clickers”, which, again, isn’t too hard to determine what they do – they’re blinded from extensive periods of infection and look and sound terrifying – and finally, the “Bloater”, the mother-of-all-infected, think Michelin Man but with coral-like growth covering and protecting its body.

At your disposal, you start off with a pistol, and as you progress further, littered throughout the world, you find more advanced weapons like rifles, bows and shotguns. You can craft a number of throwables from precious resources scattered throughout, like a Molotov cocktail or a shrapnel bomb, a shiv for silent kills, while also carrying the all-important wooden board or baseball bat to absolutely decimate the skull of any adversary.

Most of these items can either be upgraded at a workbench using collected scrap or acquired Training Manuals that help to enhance your skills and weaponry. As far as progression goes, there’s no XP or gigantic skill tree, just incredibly infrequent medicinal capsules that have to be searched high and low for. These allow you the upgrade a handful of essential skills like healing speed, weapon sway and basically “wallhacks distance…”

Search Everything!

The game excels in making you feel hopeless and constantly thinking about every action you take – resource management is the absolute key to survival. You always feel like you’re at a deficit; counting every shot and grimacing as it misses its target. Stealth becomes all the more reliant when you have barely any ammo, and this just adds to the overall immersion as you struggle your way through combat, and literally hold your breath as you either choose to pick hostiles off one by one, or simply pass right by them.

Now there isn’t much I don’t like about this game – which is pretty rare nowadays – and with the more recent remastered edition, the graphics hold up exceptionally well and the load times are minimal, while voice acting and facial motion capture are absolutely in-sync. However, during combat and times when silence and precision are crucial, your companions (mostly Ellie) get in the way a little. They clearly walk in front of enemies and even knock over chairs and other noisy implements. Oddly enough, the game doesn’t consider this as a player-induced violation, and the game continues as normal.

The banter between Ellie and the at-times grouchy Joel is a true highlight. Image: captured in-game.

Overall, I mean this game is absolutely, without a doubt, one of the best games ever made! The story ropes you in and induces emotions not typically felt from a video game. The sheer brutality and violence, the will to survive at any cost and keeping Ellie safe (as if she were his daughter…) are perfectly complimented by how beautiful some aspects of the world have become. Seeing the blossoming relationship between Joel and Ellie keeps you tethered to their final outcomes – be them righteous or not.

The Last of Us is a timely classic, and a title all PlayStation users should experience and definitely get their hands on before playing the sequel that’s arriving very, very soon. I feel if you want to invest 30 to 40 hours into a video game, this is certainly the one to go for.

Copyright © Will Boddy 2020

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