A spectacular game called The Last of Us, which I reviewed on February 14, 2014, here at BaDoink is back! And it’s better, although ‘better’ is, of course, a relative term at approximately $50 a crack. No doubt game manufacturers are simply out to maximize profits. Fans of any narrative want continuity, not closure. For those of you out there who need a reminder, Naughty Dog‘s brilliant apocalyptic masterpiece begins after that fateful day when humanity is collectively exposed and struck down by a parasitic fungal infection. Yet its two protagonists, the jaded, sarcastic and remorseful Joel, alone together with the young, chirpy, naïve and brave Ellie, reached conclusions that were logical to the themes of the game. The ending that came was harrowing; it was awful. It was controversial and it was as devastating as the deserted urban landscapes that formed the game’s ghoulish backdrop. Not my favorite ending ever, but it was an ending.
And yet now we have The Last of Us: Remastered. Converted from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4, with up-scaled visual fidelity and an improved frame rate, the commercial objective is obvious. Sony needs high-profile familiar releases for its new console. So as developers are still working on showcase titles, here is one made earlier… but tweaked. Any notion that this is somehow The Last of Us for people who missed the PS3 version is slightly disingenuous. I mean, come on, Naughty Dog. There are already 6 million copies out there. If you let the PR people shmooze you, they’ll smile and tell you that PS4 has picked up a lot of people who are disenchanted by Microsoft’s perceived lack of respect for its old customers and deserted XBoxOne for PS4. These people are discovering titles like The Last of Us: Remastered for the first time.
So, yes, you can call me dubious, but like folks who keep buying ‘new’ studio versions of classic Jimi Hendrix recordings, this is a must have for ‘completists.’ For those of us who ever felt ripped off by a ‘brand-new’ version of Red House that turns out to have been recorded during the sound check at the Isle of Wight, it usually won’t happen again. Yet every time I’m in New Orleans trolling the French Market, I’ll always find some cheap-ass, non-branded cassette recorded by Hendrix at some obscure gig in Dusseldorf featuring Hermann Brood sitting in on vocals with that conga player Juma. “Oh my God. I gotta have it!” And there I go pissing away another $30. I am, I confess, a completist!
So don’t be embarrassed, this is indeed an issue for completists! One definitely cool set of additions adds truly fantastic Left Behind downloadable content. Here we get Ellie’s back-story. Included are new multiplayer maps and a voice-over commentary from the director, as if it were a movie. There’s also a photo mode for narrative junkies, which allows you to pause the action and take photos from angles, so you yourself can choose to make a sort of scrapbook of the post-apocalyptic world. Again, if you’re really into becoming a sort of mole and digging deeply into the psyche of your protagonists, this just helps a lot.
But, look, game makers are only doing their jobs, like privates in the S.S. Plots are set to propagate doubt; to sew seeds and promise more. Here in Chicago, at the event I recently attended celebrating the ‘Midwestern Premiere’ of The Last of Us Remastered, the game’s director, Neil Druckmann appeared on Skype and told us journos with a nod and a wink, like an old-fashioned huckster that there’s a secret new ending hidden away somewhere in there, allowing the tale to carry on four years in the future. Neil is a very Naughty Dog man!
Is he simply giving us what we want? Fans genuinely are funny folks. How do they manage to make and remake the very same Spider Man and Hulk movies? No point in my warning you that you might feel ripped-off because you already know the score. I gave The Last of Us raves, and I recommend the new The Last of Us Remastered. If you haven’t played this genuinely gripping and meaningful game, you really should own it. It arrived in stores on August 20, 2014.