REVIEW: The Last of Us Part II Remastered (PS5)
January 17, 2024
Written by Jamie Galea
It’s been an interesting couple of years for fans of The Last of Us. Following a successful remake of the original game in 2022, and a critically acclaimed TV show adaptation last year, it’s a little surprising to see the next move be a remaster of 2020’s The Last of Us Part II. While it makes sense to capitalise on the hype surrounding the TV show and the new fans its garnered, for returning players, it’s a much harder sell.
There’s three core reasons why you’d be interested in checking out The Last of Us Part II Remastered, whether you’re someone well versed in the original release or finally getting around to it after all these years. For instance, you’re someone wanting to check out the game as a native PS5 experience, you’re someone wanting to try out the No Return mode, or you’re someone wanting to know more about the making of this game. All are mostly valid reasons, but some are stronger than others.
Right from the get go, the transition to becoming a PS5 game doesn’t make that much of an overall difference to The Last of Us Part II. The original version of the game was one of the last first party PS4 games, pulling out all the stops as far as being a technical showcase for the aging console.
Even today it still holds up pretty well, especially if you’re playing on a PS5. Back in 2021, the game was updated to unlock the framerate, which resulted in boosting the game to 60 FPS. While you still have the option to have that 60 FPS in the PS5 version, you can now run the game in full 4K at a locked 30FPS, and regardless of where you stand on the framerate, it’s still a stunning game to look at.
This is still a good looking video game.
Probably the biggest change has been the additional of DualSense functionality. While the use of the adaptive triggers is fine enough, it’s the surprising amount of options dedicated to the haptics that are more interesting. There’s a long list of variables you can toggle between, including one that syncs haptics to dialogue, effectively trying to simulate the strength of the dialogue exchanged. It’s a really silly feature, however one that’s pretty novel and worth trying once.
Where I’ve been spending most of my time with the game has been in the No Return mode. It’s a roguelike mode that sees you play through five truncated maps from throughout the game, concluding in a boss fight. If you’ve got familiarity with the maps already, you’ll already have a leg up.
Each encounter still keeps the basic rules of how The Last of Us works, so you’ll still be scrounging for limited resources and crafting items whilst engaging in combat. Between each map you can purchase new items, upgrade your weapons and current skills. You can also purchase craftable items if you weren’t able to scrounge resources in time.
However, it’s how No Return actually works as a roguelike that’s actually pretty unique for this style of game. You’ve got ten playable characters that offer up some drastically different gameplay styles. To help freshen up each map, they can rotate between four different game modes. Finally, there’s a mod system affecting each map that changes up how you’d go about it.
For instance, characters like Dina are focused around traps and crafting, so you can’t really go headfirst into combat like Abby, who can regain health from melee attacks. Then you’ve got someone like Lev who’s stealth focused, which is a viable means of playing the game. There’s no real wrong way to play, but there’s good incentive to at least try every character.
No Return is the most video gamey The Last of Us has ever been. Yes, I took a heap of damage trying to get this shot. You’re welcome.
The mods offer a good mix of balancing being beneficial or burdensome. Some are what you’d expect, from altering the health & speed of enemies. Others do things like flip the game world around. Then there are the mods dedicated to true chaos. One particular example is during the first map of a run, I was given a mod which made enemies invisible, and I didn’t really have the tools to efficiently clear it. Needless to say it didn’t go very well, but that’s the joy of roguelikes!
For as neat of an idea as it is, I wish the different game modes were more exciting. Assault sees you take on waves of enemies, Hunted sees you survive until a timer runs out, Holdout sees you fight off infected with an ally, and Capture sees you try break open a safe guarded by enemies. The change in game modes is interesting, but it all feels like little variation on the same theme. Not to mention it takes a bit longer than you’d expect to be given access to Holdout and Capture.
In fact, while there’s quite a lot to be unlocked in No Return, it takes a good while to unlock most of the gameplay relevant mechanics, which include additional objectives to perform in maps or even new bosses. Not that it’s necessarily hard to do either, it just takes a while. Thankfully if you want to expedite things, there are a number of difficulty settings to choose from.
Ultimately how you feel about No Return depends on how much you like playing The Last of Us and if you can accept how much of a diversion this is. For the most part, I like it well enough and it’s a good diversion from the main game, but I’ve never really felt the series was at its best as a proper, honest to god video game.
It’s something that’s more noticeable here because you’re scored on how efficiently you cleared a map, and you are somewhat incentivised to go loud and clear maps quickly. It works fine enough, but this is no Hitman Freelancer or the like. There’s a noble effort here to try make a more traditional gaming experience out of The Last of Us, and that’s worth commending, even if it doesn’t always succeed.
This is the first time Playstation has acknowledged Siren since Siren Blood Curse on the PS3.
Capping off the remaster are a slew of extra game modes and features. There’s new skins to unlock, if you want Ellie & Abby to run around with logos from sorely missed Playstation IP, this is your game. There’s a dedicated speed run mode complete with a time tracker to help you check your PBs. If you loved the guitar sections of the main game, there’s even a freeplay option that greatly expands upon what you can do in the main game.
For as welcomed as those features are, I wish I could say the same about the behind the scenes. While on paper it sounds fascinating enough, it’s limited to three cut levels and audio commentary. Granted, it’s more than what most games tend to offer, I just wish there was more to go with it.
The cut levels are maybe the most fascinating part of all this, as they’re presented in early forms. While they won’t take long to get through, they provide an interesting look as to what could’ve been. It’s worth running through them with the audio commentary turned on, as there’s some really fascinating design tidbits throughout.
It’s certainly more interesting than the Developer Commentary track for the main game. While the stories told are fascinating enough, they’re limited to only the cinematics and not throughout the game. Much like with a lot of these features, it felt like a bit of a missed opportunity to go deeper into the complicated making of this video game.
Ultimately, the question on my mind that still remains is given how recent The Last of Us Part II still is, does it justify a remaster so soon? On one hand, the extras are nice to have, and modes like No Return are fun and more welcoming than you’d expect. If you’re able to take advantage of the digital upgrade for a significantly cheaper price, it’s almost a no brainer.
However, with no significant changes or additions to the main game, it becomes a much harder ask. Especially when the PS4 game still looks and runs well on a PS5. If you absolutely must play the best looking and running version of The Last of Us Part II, this is certainly it, it’s just a hard ask at full price.
RATING: It’s Fine
This game was reviewed with code provided by the publisher. For more of Jamie’s thoughts on games, hit him up on most social media platforms under @jamiemgalea.