It’s hard to deny the cultural impact The Last of Us series has had since its original launch. Both the first and second game have had people mesmerised by its world and discussing its story and themes many years on from the launch of each game. I still consider the original 2013 release to be one of, if not the strongest launch of a new IP in recent history when it comes to the gaming space, and the recent launch of the highly successful HBO series shows that the series shows no signs of slowing down. In what seems to be typical fashion when it comes to Naughty Dog over the past few years, The Last of Us Part 2 has now received a new remastered release, bringing the game natively to PS5. But this is far more than just a standard higher resolution based port. The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered comes with a slew of new features, a sizeable new game mode, content that was cut from the original game as well as graphical improvements to throw even more value into an already incredible game. This new release is the definitive way to experience Part 2’s story if you’ve never played the game before, and also has plenty of new features that warrant the upgrade cost for existing owners of the original PS4 release.
When I reviewed The Last of Us Part 2 when it released in 2020 I said it was a masterpiece, and I still stand by that. The story while divisive, does nail the story Naughty Dog were trying to craft and it provided a deeper look into the world and lore established in the first game, giving us more time to enjoy this dark but also very beautiful world. If you want a more detailed look at what I thought of the first game when it comes to a story, gameplay and systems point of view, check out the original review here.
Outside of the main story which is clearly going to be the main selling point of this release. The most meaty addition to this game is its new mode called No Return. This is a new rogue-like mode that highlights the combat systems featured in The Last of Us Part 2 and sees you progressing through randomised stages that will change upon each run. And between this and the recently released Valhalla add-on for God of War Ragnarok, it certainly seems like Sony know what they’re doing with this kind of gameplay loop with their franchises. Upon jumping in, I initially thought that the mode may just pop your character into a stage and throw randomised waves of enemies at you. But I was really surprised by how deep No Return really is. It’s a mode that I found enjoyable and addicting and is certainly worth the price of the upgrade fee alone if you already have the PS4 release and are looking for a reason to upgrade.
In No Return, you begin by picking a character (and yes there are characters from the main game that are actually playable for the first time here in this mode) and progress through randomised combat scenarios across a number of stages to try and successfully complete a run of 5 stages. If you get overcome and face death it’s game over and you’ll have to start from scratch, just like a typical rogue-like. But if you do manage to survive, the mode culminates in a high stakes boss battle. It’s an easy to understand premise, but moment to moment gameplay and the way each run can play out is impacted by so many factors, which keeps the mode interesting. One of the most contributing factors being your player character. Each playable character has their own base skills but can then be further shaped as you play and collect more cosmetics, skills and modifiers that will affect your runs. As you progress through more stages you’ll be collecting resources that can be used to buy better gear as well as upgrading skills and weapons the more you progress. Upgrades can be better suited to one player over another which does encourage you to try out different characters as they’re unlocked to best see who may best match your preferred strategy. The stages you progress through utilise environments from the main game but the combat that occurs there is randomised and does feature different scenarios to what are experienced in those areas in the main game.
One of the key highlights I enjoyed was that runs don’t take too long to complete once you understand the structure of the mode and how to develop a working strategy mid-run, which makes it really easy to jump into and play a run or two when you may be short on time but want to play something, or to jump into between chapters of the main game when you need to take a break from the story that can get intensely dark at times. There are also multiple difficulty modes to select from, catering to those players who love a harder experience, and it can be made even more difficult via the use of mods that can impact enemy stats, but typically come with the trade off of more experience when you manage to complete a stage.
Other noteable additions within The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered are the inclusions of Lost Levels and Level Commentary. As someone who loves to see the behind the scenes workings and the thought process of creatives, this was a feature I really loved. Lost Levels allows you to experience early development versions of some sequences that were ultimately cut from the final game. They aren’t incredibly long, but do help provide a deeper look into the world of TLOU2 and what could have been. And with the Level Commentary toggle turned on you’ll be able to hear hours worth of commentary audio from the director’s and cast to hear more about the development process, alternate versions of events and insights into the thoughts of the people that helped make the game what it is. These both may be features that some players have no interest in, but for myself I enjoyed the peak behind the curtain at the process and would really love to see more games implement features like this either alongside or post-release of their games.
The game also features a slew of smaller scale features that while not on the same scale as the aforementioned inclusions do still add enhancements and quality of life improvements to the game. There is now the ability to free play the guitar, a feature I know some people online are going to end up doing crazy things with. New accessibility features, a new speedrun mode and now that it’s a native PS5 game, it comes with DualSense support, integrating haptic feedback and adaptive triggers to enhance the overall feel of the game too. On the graphical side, the game continues to still look incredible but now has a 4K fidelity mode, improved frame rates and higher resolution textures and shadows. Probably not something that will be noticed as much due to how amazing it already was on PS4 but I’m sure no one will be complaining this release is further enhanced.
And for existing players of the PS4 release, you do also have the ability to transfer your progress to the Remastered version to continue your progress. This process also transfers any unlocked trophies across to this game too, similar to how it worked when Naughty Dog released the PS5 versions of Uncharted 4 and the Lost Legacy.
Overall, The Last of Us Part 2 Remaster is the definition of ‘more of a good thing’. It comes with the core game, which itself I still find to be an incredible follow up to the first game along with a surprisingly deep new mode with No Return and a slew of new features that enhance an already great game but now allows it to utilise the improved features of the PS5. My only hope is that now Naughty Dog have ported and even remade their recent catalogue of games for the PS5 that we may soon get to see something new come from the studio many consider to be one of the best in the world.
A PS5 review code was provided by PlayStation for the purpose of this review.
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