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Review: The Last of Us (Remastered) and its add-on, Left Behind

I only just purchased The Last of Us Part II, and I realized that not only did I never finish the first game when it came out on PS3 (I didn't get very far before moving on to something else, clickers scared me lol), I had the remastered version for PS4 sitting around too that I got on sale.

So I figured before I tackle Part II I may as well complete the first one.

Wow.

Having been a veteran of the Uncharted games, I can definitely tell instantly that this is a Naughty Dog game. Though The Last of Us definitely feels a bit less like a movie than those games and feels more precise in many ways.

There are a few things I dislike (namely the shooting, but I come from mainly PC so that's probably just because I suck at shooting on a controller. But aiming at those things on the bloater boss was difficult for me), and sometimes feeling a bit lost on what to do next. I also felt that many of the AI, especially the humans, felt very similar to one another. They do get a pass though because their flanking behavior felt pretty good and challenging. I did not like the gear upgrade mechanics much though. I felt that it was a bit unnecessary and couldn't really tell the difference most of the time, especially since ammo wasn't exactly plentiful anyway.

However, those things are nothing compared to how much I liked everything else.

First of all, my immediate impression is that the remastered edition looks phenomenal and could easily be a game released in the last couple of years. The HDR coupled with my OLED TV is glorious to behold, made even better by the game's great use of light and shadow. Going into spore-infested areas certainly gave me the creeps, and coming back into the open air gave a feeling of relief. Likewise, the forested areas were very pleasant, and the areas in blizzard conditions felt incredibly claustrophobic. The motion capture and animation were absurdly good, but I expected that from Naughty Dog regardless.

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To add to that, the soundtrack was amazing. It hit highs and lows perfectly, enhancing the emotion of whatever was happening at the moment. The audio cues that someone could see you felt great and definitely raised my blood pressure. One of my favorite audio moments was actually in the add-on content, Left Behind. There's a moment where Ellie is reading her joke book to her friend and they are just laughing and giggling and there was an almost whimsical tune to it all, allowing you to forget for just a moment that they were in some post-apocalyptic hell-scape. This made the coming scene, which I already knew was coming due to the main game, all the more gut-wrenching.

Really though, the stars of the show are the characters in this game. Yea, it's a zombie game, but it follows the trope that the real monsters are the people.

Starting off with Joel's daughter, Sarah, and then almost instantly having her ripped away made me feel horrible, similarly to how I imagine Joel felt.

Controlling Joel, and having to then deal with a kind of bratty 14-year-old in Ellie, while also realizing that she's a reminder of what he's lost. Joel isn't the best communicator out there (understatement of the century), and as you go through the story you see why this causes issues. And you see him SLOWLY open up more and more to Ellie, and finally realize that he can't do this without her, as much as she can't without him. He dislikes sentiment and emotional attachments because he keeps losing those he does get close to, over and over. Sarah, Tess, his brother (in a way), and more probably.

Regardless of Joel's actual likeability for most of the game, his relationship with Ellie feels genuine to me. It feels like an actual real-life relationship between people, and I almost never see that in video games (at least not ones I've played). Nothing was forced, and it felt like things naturally progressed over time.

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The final arc and finale, wherein we see just how much Joel is willing to sacrifice for Ellie, when in the beginning he was unwilling to put himself out there at all, shows just how much he changed.

There are also a few times you play as Ellie in the main game too. I really enjoyed these and it felt like it fleshed her out as a character very well too. For much of the game she exists as someone to help get through obstacles, but I really connected with her after the cannibal camp area. I don't exactly know what that cult guy's agenda with her was but it felt like Ellie had an idea of where it was going. She fought like hell and her desperation and trauma showed through like a beacon. The little ways Naughty Dog shows this, from her holding her arm or being less talkative, not whistling and telling her jokes, or just zoning out, are masterful.

Ellie's strength of character and willingness, even need, to push on through everything makes that last cutscene with her and Joel so much stronger. She most likely knew in her heart what her destiny was, and accepted it for the good of mankind. Despite Joel's oath, I doubt she really believed what he said about the Fireflies. But she had to pretend because knowing she was that close and then having Joel tear her away for his own selfish reasons might break her. This despite her obviously desperately wanting someone in her life that won't die and won't leave her. There's just so much going on with her and she and Joel mesh amazingly.

There are other characters, like Henry and Sam, that I liked. Sam is a good character near Ellie's age to have, but of course, it couldn't last. And Henry couldn't handle the last person in his group and his own brother succumbing, so he took "the easy way out."

I also liked the little enhancements, like using the controller to charge the flashlight, or hearing certain audio cues from the controller and not the TV. Nothing huge or game-changing but just kind of neat. The various world-building collectibles that I found were nice too and I really got to understand a bit what the collapse was like.

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A small note on the Left Behind DLC; I thought it was really good, and although it was quite short (2 hours, maybe less), I don't think it was worse because of that. The emotional kick from the obvious friendship Ellie and Riley have and them hanging out like actual teenage girls might, to the budding romance the Ellie starts showing signs of, to the ending that leaves a pit in your stomach, is so good. Couple that with interspersed scenes of Ellie trying to save Joel in current-time after his fall at the university, and I think it was well worth the playthrough.

This is a bit longer than I intended, but suffice to say I'm glad I finally got around to playing this. Part II is now installed and ready to go!

Thanks for reading.

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