Developer: Naughty Dog
Let's get this out of the way… we gave The Last of Us for the PS3 an A+, so to expect anything less for The Last of Us Remastered for the PS4 would be silly. Got it? Good.
The Last of Us Remastered is the same brutal, heart wrenching and exhausting tale of Joel and Ellie attempting to survive in a post-pandemic world — it's just a whole lot prettier (assuming you can label crumbling civilization, infected humans and extreme violence as such). It's still an incredible experience no matter which generation's platform it's played on, though if you have a PS4 and never owned a PS3 and/or a copy of the game, there's really no excuse now. After all, there's a reason why it took home 200+ awards.
With the PS3 original only a little over a year old, The Last of Us should still be relatively fresh to those who played it when it launched last summer. I personally had no issues with the visuals, gameplay or performance of the PS3 version, but of course after playing through the game on the PS4, it's pretty damn clear that Naughty Dog's vision was held back somewhat by the hardware. Even if you were totally content with what they squeezed out of Sony's last gen hardware, experiencing the game at 1080p and a nearly flawless 60fps framerate is eye opening. The enhanced texture resolution, shadows and lighting are certainly worthwhile upgrades, but it's the framerate (which has essentially doubled) that makes the most dramatic visual difference. The increased fluidity is really a change that you'll have to sit down and play, and see with your own eyes, to fully appreciate. I'll be honest though, the cut-scenes do look weird for the first 30 seconds or so, but you do get used to it. The studio has provided an option to lock down the game at 30fps which provides for a more PS3-like "cinematic" (hah) experience and slightly improved shadows, but once you get used to playing the game at 60, it's hard to go back.
Since this is a remaster and not a remake, it wasn't expected that the entire game would receive a total overhaul — especially in the timeframe that they have done so. You can pretty obviously see the game's PS3 roots in terms of environmental complexity, and most of that has not changed. The textures, shading and effects have benefitted the most, but the poly counts on the locations and objects have not been noticeably altered. The Last of Us Remastered does utilize the more detailed cut-scene character models, in-game, and they indeed look amazing. Naughty Dog's stunning motion-captured character animation is very much on display as you play the game, and you'll undoubtedly notice little details and facial expressions that were missed before.
The enhancements, beyond providing for a smoother gameplay experience, actually make the game a bit less challenging (in a good way) — especially when playing on Survivor/Grounded difficulty modes. Thanks to the increased fidelity, I found myself able to visually pick out threats from a much further distance and plan my survival strategy accordingly. Discounting the fact that I've played through it all before, I had a much easier time maintaining stealth through an area infested with clickers or being patrolled, for example. Oh, and do yourself a favor and turn off the listen mode; the game takes on a whole other dimension when you need to rely on your own eyes and ears. Speaking of audio, it may just be the placebo effect, but I'm pretty sure the quality of the music, sound effects and voice samples have been improved. Spatial awareness in the game is quite important, so the ability to precisely define your surround sound speaker locations in the game's audio options was a nice touch.
If you've never had the pleasure/pain of playing through the original, The Last of Us Remastered all by itself would be worth the $50. The fact that it's bundled with the Left Behind single player DLC, several new multiplayer maps and additional bonus content such as in-game commentary and photo mode, most certainly hits the sweet spot even for those who've dumped many hours into the PS3 version. The multiplayer experience is a unique and addictive one, and with many tweaks and balances since the PS3 version launched, it still holds up extremely well on the PS4.
As for recommending the game to PS4 owners, it's pretty obviously worth checking out — most definitely for those who skipped out on the PS3 version for whatever reason. Be warned: The Last of Us is unrelentingly pessimistic and violent, and the story and theme can be exhausting and mentally draining at times… it's still a journey worth taking. I promised myself I'd double dip on The Last of Us when/if it came to the PS4, and I have no qualms suggesting that other fans do the same.