A man once said “Games are not just art, they are the most revolutionary form of art mankind has ever known about,” a phrase that seems so fitting for what I felt while playing The Last of Us Remastered. The Last Of Us is ambitious, bold, and emotional interactive beauty a story-line of depth and emotional. It’s rare that a game or any entertainment media makes you think, much less effortlessly play on your emotions as a whole – something that captivates you. Within seconds of playing that’s exactly what happened to me.
Almost immediately in TLOU, we’re confronted with a zombie-like infection that ends the world. It’s there we meet our first protagonist Joel, with the world burning around him. Flash-foward a few years after the infection where government rule is steadily collapsing, with ‘containment zones’ and where a new politically militant group, The Fireflies, have formed with the belief that mankind can be saved and that there is a cure. In between these zones we see the remnants of how things used to be before the infection. Littered with lone survivors and collectives of bandits known as Hunters, these people reside alongside the Infected themselves, who pose a real threat beyond the confinement of the containment walls.
TLOU does an incredible job of painting the picture and explaining the situation around us, so much so that in a way I was forming my own political standing on the issues of the fallen society, debating if I agreed with the Fireflies and how I felt about the infected world around us.
In the midst of all of this we have Joel, a man simply getting by doing odd jobs in one of these zones. I was actually startled when first introduced to Joel – I anticipated a caring sort of man. Instead, we’re greeted with a broken man who’s been surviving for years, that was the first interpretation I got wrong. During his ventures with his companion Tess (a woman who runs most of the goings-on within the walls), they cross the Firefly leader who proposes another odd job for an amounting reward of weaponry supplies and more. In this world that’s almost irrefutable. The task? To smuggle a little girl from one city to a university occupied by Firefly forces. The little girl? Our second protagonist, Ellie, a young, fierce girl. This is where I made my second misinterpretation.
When I was told I was playing a game about a fourteen year old girl and a man travelling together, I anticipated a story of a man protecting this little girl and for her to be scared, even sad. How wrong I was. Truth is Ellie is essentially a badass, it creates for an interesting combination of a young girl who has never seen the world for what it previously was, somewhat lost and someone who is hardened raised by fighters. She swears like a sailor, kills like a road warrior, and still possesses the attitude of a 14-year-old girl.
The story sees you smuggling of Ellie and the game presents a number of equally complex challenges. You’ll stack up to hordes of Infected, some more fierce than others and with their own traits. You may encounter Hunters and fight them off but regardless of the enemy, each field of combat is dictated by the difficulty of the task and the supplies you have available. I often found myself avoiding all-guns-blazing due to lack of ammo or necessary equipment to take on that kind of fight. Ammo, equipment and tools to craft are also a rarity dependant on the difficulty you play. These moments where supplies are low and you have no where to run creates immense tension.
I recall being in a tunnel with 10+ Infected grasping my controller like a little girl, jumping at the even slightest look at an Infected. This was amplified even more so by some handy features the game brought out from the Dualshock 4, such as I’d have to shake my controller if my torch battery began flickering or listen to back stories about the outbreak through the speaker of it.
Despite being a gimmick, these additions built a strong backend to the environment and overall feel of the infectious disease and it’s consequences, bringing more depth to the characters. I played the story through on Hard, attempted Survivor and Grounded (higher difficulties) and it was nigh on impossible for me to do. I was pleased with this, there was no directions or scripted way to play, you were given an encounter and they basically said “deal with it.” This derivative in gaming is general is lacking, TLOU though aced it.
As you push through the story, you learn more of Joel and Ellie, their past, and the details of their journey to find a cure for the infection. They seem a perfect fit: Ellie an orphan and Joel being what he is, but it’s not that simple. Joel’s a cold character, forming no attachments and always reminding himself that this is just a ‘job’. As they work together, those attachments do form and Joel finds it hard to accept that Ellie is practically like his own daughter. Usually when you’re given two main leads, chances are you will only like one of the protagonists, but here, you just might.
The authenticity and emotion of the story, coupled with the complexity of people you come by, makes you accept this story as if it were your own. The depth and thought process of the campaign is staggering. I found it beyond difficult to feel passionate or emotional about any form of entertainment. It’s all incredibly sad and touching – this is the kind of game that can make the biggest men whimper. There are particular moments that literally define the game for the work of art that it is and just how deep it feels, that’s never something I’ll underestimate about it.
Something was really potent and intuitive about the story for me as well: it was progressive. Moments weren’t a blur, you weren’t constantly fighting, or exploring, or listen to exposition – there was just a nice blend of it all. One thing’s for sure: each and every moment was just staggeringly beautiful. TLOU Remastered uses the quality of the cutscene characters from the PS3 version and throughout the game, everything from the smallest blade of grass to the motion to colour of Ellie’s eyes is incredible to look at. Its most profound feature was its facial expressions and the genuine emotion they express that makes the game all that more surreal.
Even more impressive is regardless of where you are in the game, main story, side story or even Factions multiplayer, you get the same graphical power. Most campaigns in-game feature pre-rendered clips and the other parts of it, especially multiplayer, never stack up to the same visuals (*cough* BATTLEFIELD 4…), yet TLOU holds true on all fronts. If 1080p, 60fps is something that should be ‘applauded’ on consoles now, TLOU should get a trophy from even the most elite PC cabinets.
Once you finish the masterpiece that is the campaign, you can move on to some of the other options packaged with TLOU: Remastered. First is multiplayer, something that most campaign-centric games get terribly wrong (looking at you Tomb Raider and Assassins Creed). For once, I actually feel as though I’ve been given a multiplayer that I quite enjoy. You’re given a choice of faction: the Fireflies or Hunters, both of which you can customize – like making yourself look like a total badass. You’re then thrown into three modes which, despite their quantity, are quite good in their own ways. You have Supply Raid, a 20 Life Team Deathmatch; Interrogation, which is a bit like capture the flag with interrogations; and Survivors, which is a round based game where once your entire team is down, you lose the round.
All three modes have a nice tension to them. With only 20 lives, you don’t want to lose a round on survivors. You can’t run-‘n-gun, Rambo-style like in Call Of Duty. You have to hang back gather supplies and roll tactically, even stealthily in groups. The multiplayer’s way more fun with friends and encourages team-play across the board. I’ve had some enjoyably tense action moments in multiplayer, but I hope that Naughty Dog introduces a few more modes so it doesn’t fall stagnant too fast.
Finally there’s the DLC expansion of Left Behind, included with Remastered. It follows the side story of a younger Ellie and her endeavours, shedding a great light on her as a person and bringing with it even greater depth to the main campaign plot-line. You learn of Ellie’s past, including her relationship with her young Firefly friend named Riley and all the more it makes the game a hell of a lot more interesting, which is pretty hard to do considering just how damn good it is.
The Last Of Us Remastered’s extraordinary – words cannot describe just how good it is. I’ve never played a game as stunning and captivating as The Last Of Us, it’s given me a truly memorable experience and a game that can shame a good 90% of Hollywood. Do yourself a favour, play this game. It deserves the title of “Game of the Generation.”