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The Last of Us Remastered is a stunning visual masterpiece

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The Last of Us stands as perhaps the best-looking game ever released on the PlayStation 3. You might have spent a lot of time during your playthrough standing still and moving the camera around, simply admiring the stunning environment that Naughty Dog crafted. You'll probably do something similar if you play the remastered version of the bleak, thrilling action game on PlayStation 4.

Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Remastered, which launches July 29 on PS4, looks to be the definitive version of one of the best games of 2013. The package collects the game and all its single-player and multiplayer add-ons onto one Blu-ray Disc, which makes it a good deal. But the strongest reason for most people to buy the PS4 port will be the visual upgrade it offers, which is considerable.

The increased texture resolution makes the biggest difference

In addition to using cutscene-resolution character models during gameplay, The Last of Us Remastered features twice as much detail in shadow mapping as the original PS3 game, and four times as much detail in texture mapping. The increased texture resolution makes the biggest difference, according to Eric Monacelli, community strategist at Naughty Dog.

The demo station at Sony's press event yesterday had The Last of Us running side by side on PS3 and PS4, and we watched the cutscene of Joel, Ellie and Bill arriving at Bill's safehouse playing on both versions simultaneously. (The playback didn't quite sync up, since the video loaded more quickly on PS4.) The higher-fidelity backgrounds were just as impressive as, if not more so than, the improved detail in the characters themselves. The light-up beer signs on Bill's walls; the fliers affixed to his bulletin board; the local map he showed to Joel and Ellie — all of them simply looked clearer on PS4, and we were able to make out finer details on them.

Words benefit from this upgrade the most, naturally, and the improvement is apparent in gameplay as well as in cutscenes. Whether it was the pages of Ellie's favorite comic books or the food containers in a dilapidated Pittsburgh convenience store, we took moments to stop and read the fine print. And with increased dynamic range in lighting, there's a more stark contrast between light and dark throughout the game world.

It's all gorgeous, and Monacelli told Polygon that Naughty Dog plans to add a photo mode like the one in Infamous: Second Son with a launch-day patch, so players can share shots of beautiful vistas. (Even outside of the photo mode, the PS4 version allows players to turn off the HUD, so they can capture pristine screenshots with the DualShock 4's Share button.)

Animations also look smoother on PS4, largely because Naughty Dog aimed for a frame rate of 60 frames per second throughout The Last of Us Remastered. And for those who don't like a variable frame rate, or the way that cutscenes look at 60 fps, the studio included an option to lock the frame rate at 30 fps. Either way, the game runs in native 1080p.

Naughty Dog included some additional PS4-specific features in The Last of Us Remastered. Certain sounds will play through the DualShock 4's speaker, such as the audio logs you pick up, and the light bar will flash and change colors when you take damage. And because the controller's L2 and R2 buttons are shaped like actual triggers, players can choose to aim and shoot with L2 and R2, respectively, instead of L1 and R1 (which is the way the PS3 original was controlled). Finally, you can swipe on the touchpad to open up your backpack.

The Last of Us Remastered launches July 29 on PS4 for $49.99.

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