The Last of Us Part II Remastered Review
The Last of Us Part II Remastered Review
First released in June 2020, The Last of Us Part II was an installment that divided the fanbase forever. In as much as the first entry in the series was considered one of the best games in video game history, The Last of Us Part II either continued or ruined that legacy depending on which side of the fence you stood on. Hard to imagine, despite being one of the most awarded games in history.
Fast forward to 2024, and we’re getting a remaster in the form of The Last of Us Part II Remastered, bringing the game in line technologically with 2022’s The Last of Us Part I and taking advantage of all the bells and whistles of the current-gen hardware. Before you start bringing out your pitchforks, this release immediately fixes a big complaint from Part I, allowing players to upgrade their PS4 version for just $10. With a $50 price tag, this pill is much easier to swallow, especially for first-time players and those with a newfound interest thanks to the recently released HBO series.
Is The Last of Us Part II Remastered worth your time and money? Let’s find out!
For the uninitiated, The Last of Us is an action-adventure game from Naughty Dog that tells the story of Joel, who is tasked to escort Ellie to a rebel group called the Fireflies. Along their journey, they learn about each other and survive through a treacherous journey, where a choice awaits both of them that could change their lives forever.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered is a direct sequel of the first game, telling the events 5 years after, where Joel, Ellie, and the others have started to live peaceful lives alongside a community of survivors. Gameplay mostly followed the lead of the first game, with several marked improvements to enemy AI, physics, and combat mechanics that further elevated the experience.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered tackles heavy themes of revenge and humanity, and weighs the cost of losing oneself over fulfilling a goal. Throughout the game, players will have to deal with loss and great distress, playing through uncomfortable circumstances that will test their mettle, and see the game through the lens of both friend and foe.
Several events in The Last of Us Part II Remastered will weigh heavy on the minds of players, especially those who have played through the first game. If somehow you’ve managed to avoid any spoilers throughout the years, it goes without saying that you’ll be treated to some of the most emotionally charged scenes that could change your outlook on the series forever.
I loved the game then, and in The Last of Us Part II Remastered, I can safely say that the emotions I felt came crawling back with every level and conversation. Despite knowing what was going to happen, the game had a special way of pushing me forward, and I found myself realizing things that I never had before, offering new perspectives that gave me a much better understanding of the world and its characters. Will this release change your mind about the game? Probably not, but it is certainly tempting to finally see what the fuss is all about in all its glory thanks to the updated hardware.
With the game already running at 60fps on the PS5 due to an update back in 2021, many will ask – does the game even deserve a remaster? The question isn’t absurd at all, because I found myself having a hard time figuring out how The Last of Us Part II Remastered even improved graphically from its PS4 counterpart. Unless you’re able to distinguish and discern graphical details in the slightest, The Last of Us Part II Remastered might not be a huge leap in visual fidelity compared to The Last of Us Part I, at least not in my eyes, and that only speaks to how high Naughty Dog set the bar nearly 4 years ago.
This, of course, will be very subjective. Some will notice the improvement in visual quality owing to the more powerful hardware, while others won’t mind or notice any difference. What is a fact, however, is that the game looked stunning back then and it looks cleaner and smoother this time around, with arguably farther draw distances, improved lighting, and more detailed textures that make an already stunning title stand out even more.
That said, instead of talking about graphical upgrades (let’s not, the game already looks fantastic!), let’s check out what’s new in The Last of Us Part II Remastered and if it merits the $10 upgrade from the original.
No Return Mode
Similar to the recently released Valhalla DLC for God of War Ragnarok, it’s Naughty Dog’s turn to try their hand at roguelite-inspired content in The Last of Us Part II Remastered. In this new “No Return” mode, which is readily available from the get go, players will make their way through a series of scenarios with varying conditions and circumstances that will test their survival skills and culminate in a tension-filled boss battle against bloaters, the dreaded Rat King, and many more.
Starting out, players can only choose between Ellie or Abby. Using these characters and fulfilling certain conditions will unlock more content along the way, opening up the mode with a roster of characters that include the likes of Dina, Jesse, Lev, Yara, and much more. Each of these characters will have a different playstyle attached to them, and while they generally intersect with each other at some point, their starting inventories will mostly dictate how you approach the run.
Characters like Joel and Manny will be equipped with great starting items that allow them to take on earlier encounters with ease, but they are hobbled with handicaps (Joel can’t dodge, Manny can’t craft Medkits unless he gets a recipe, etc) that put them at a great disadvantage. On the other hand, characters like Yara may seem a bit weak, but her advantage of having Lev as an ally throughout the run can prove to be a difference-maker.
Apart from unlocking characters, No Return in The Last of Us Part II Remastered will provide players with varying modes and conditions that make runs a different experience each time. Assault is an encounter type that will have players eliminate threats in waves, while Hunted is a survival mode where players will have to hold off the incoming wave until the timer runs out. Players will be able to unlock a couple of more modes (Holdout and Capture) that further change how each run unfolds.
While all modes offer a slightly different experience, some are more engaging than others. Assault simply feels like a rehash of many of the combat sequences in the story campaign, while Capture could prove to be a challenge to finish due to the limited time. Hunted, on the other hand, could go either way. There were Hunted rounds where I simply hid in a faraway corner until the time ran out, but when combined with a small and closed level, it can get very stressful and heart-pumping because the enemies just keep coming at you without enough time for a breather.
On top of these modes, No Return also adds Gambits, which are additional conditions that players can fulfill during matches for extra rewards. From simple conditions like killing X enemies with a headshot to more complicated ones that require more advanced techniques and equipment like setting enemies on fire using incendiary shells, these Gambits increase the risk for valuable materials that can greatly help face off against the boss. I can’t say that Gambits really changed the way I approached each encounter, but it did give me an additional challenge to fulfill while doing the rounds.
Finishing an encounter will reward players with supplements and parts to upgrade their character and weapons with, but also a premium currency that can be used to purchase new weapons, crafting recipes, and consumables to use. It’s a true roguelite-inspired mode with randomized encounters and conditions a la Hades, to a certain degree, and The Last of Us Part II Remastered implements No Return pretty well to merit the extra hours.
Unless you are speedrunning the encounters and depending on how you approach each run and the difficulty level, a full session with the boss fight will probably take you a total of 30 minutes or so, maybe longer. The Last of Us Part II Remastered’s No Return mode is highly addictive, and thanks to the polished gameplay of The Last of Us Part II Remastered, it’s reason enough to justify the $10 upgrade on its own. It’s not Factions nor is it a fully-fledged multiplayer mode, but No Return is a hefty addition that will offer many more hours of gameplay on top of the story campaign.
If anything, the road to unlocking all of the extra mods and modes in No Return could be quite slow and repetitive. The more interesting characters and modes aren’t available until later, and you’re stuck with basic Gambits that are a breeze to complete until the more complicated ones are unlocked.
Also, the No Return mode in The Last of Us Part II Remastered isn’t tied to any story, unlike other roguelite titles, so advancing through this mode is simply a separate and standalone experience, except for the skins that you’ll get to unlock while playing. This could be a drawback to players looking forward to more revelations, especially since the recently released God of War Valhalla DLC provided some great story and character expositions on top of meaty gameplay.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered also adds some behind-the-scenes looks at the creation of the game. There are podcast episodes sprinkled in, but most interesting of all are the Lost Levels, early-development versions of three new levels that give players a new perspective.
Players will be able to explore small slices of the Sewers, Jackson Part, and Boar Hunt levels that were cut and did not make the final game. Throughout these small slices, there is developer commentary, providing context on team discussions and how these levels come to be, what changes the developers made, and how it all turned out in the end.
As someone interested in how the sausage is made, I loved seeing and hearing the developer insights, and just like movies, this is as close to those movie bloopers as we’re going to get in our games, so this was a treat. I wish developers would consider adding these behind-the-scenes looks in future titles because it gives the gaming public how much thought and work a 15-minute level takes, and certainly much more for an epic experience.
One feature in the original game that took off in surprising fashion was its guitar player, which was a complex feature that took advantage of the controller touchpad to strum and create full-fledged tunes. In The Last of Us Part II Remastered, we now have Guitar Free Play, a mode that I’m sure will pop off and bring the creativity of some players into the spotlight, allowing for some interesting clips to be shared on social media. There’s a good number of customization options here, even getting to use none other than composer Gustavo Santaollala, the person responsible for the haunting tunes of the series.
On top of this, The Last of Us Part II Remastered also adds some much-welcome technical improvements in the form of VRR support, Fidelity and Performance modes, and DualSense support. PS Studios titles know how to work magic with the DualSense, and while some are better than others, The Last of Us Part II Remastered brings the haptics and adaptive triggers to Ellie’s adventure in great form, further immersing us in the horror of the world.
Existing players need not rush to get this, since it is essentially the same experience that’s a bit shinier than before. Newly introduced fans to the world of Joel and Ellie, courtesy of the HBO series, are who The Last of Us Part II Remastered is for, providing exceptional value and elevating an already fantastic experience even more.
What we liked:
- No Return Mode is well worth the $10 upgrade on its own
- Upgrade path gives players an affordable choice
- The game looks absolutely gorgeous
What we didn’t like:
- Graphical upgrades might be tough to spot
- Some pacing problems and messy point of view shifts
- No Return mode has no story revelations
Verdict: Buy it!
The Last of Us Part II Remastered was a must-play then, and it remains a must-play even today. The way the story and gameplay hold up is a testament to how high the bar was set during its original release. Intense, raw, and emotionally charged, The Last of Us Part II Remastered is a reminder of Naughty Dog’s sheer brilliance.
The addition of a No Return mode makes this package even sweeter, adding a roguelite-inspired affair that works well given the context and systems of the game. Offering hours of repeatable gameplay, this mode alone is worth the $10 upgrade fee if you already own the PS4 version, making this the definitive way to play the game.
While a divisive title, The Last of Us Part II Remastered is certainly an easy recommendation for newcomers, offering a relatively cheap way to experience the follow-up to one of the best and most-awarded games, albeit very divisive, in video game history.
*The Last of Us Part II Remastered was reviewed on a PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.