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March 2024

The Last of Us Part II

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: Jan. 19, 2024


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PS5 Review - 'The Last of Us: Part II - Remastered'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Jan. 16, 2024 @ 7:00 a.m. PST

The Last of Us Part II is a sequel to the action/adventure series set a few years after the original, revolving around Ellie as main character instead of Joel.

It can be difficult to say when a remaster of a game is justified. A title that is 20 years old and not playable on any modern console is probably due for some sort of update. Some remasters completely change the game for the better, while others can make it worse. In almost every case, the remaster feels like an opportunity to bring an older game into the modern limelight. The Last of Us: Part II - Remastered is a lot more difficult to argue. The game, released less than four years ago, is still one of the most graphically impressive titles on the market and has aged wonderfully. Does it really need a remaster? No, but there are improvements to be found.

By and large, The Last of Us: Part II is still the same game released in 2020, so there's little reason to go over the plot, characters and gameplay again. Even compared to Part I, there aren't significant changes or upgrades, since many of Part I's updates were backporting improvements that Part II had added. Don't expect a massive redo or anything game-changing. It's The Last of Us: Part II, but it's been remastered.

The first change that needs to be discussed is the visual upgrade. The Last of Us: Part II was a fantastic-looking game when it came out in those long-ago days of 2020, and it still looks fantastic almost four years later. It looks good enough that it can be difficult to see the point of the remaster. I'd need to see the two games side by side to notice any significant difference, mostly with general smoothness, frame rate, and draw distance. The improved frame rate is perhaps the biggest change and arguably the largest justification for the upgrade, but it isn't something that is strictly necessary.

Perhaps the most frustrating element of the whole thing is that The Last of Us: Part II - Remastered feels like an unnecessary update for a game that you can already play on your PS5. (Granted, the Remastered upgrade is massively discounted if you already own the original game on the PS4.) If you already own Part II, then it's only worth upgrading for the other features. If you have to decide between the two for some reason, then the upgraded graphics aren't worth full price when compared to the inevitably cheaper PS4 version.

Part II does have new features. Probably the biggest and most significant of these is No Return, which turns Part II into a roguelike. Rather than following the story, you'll jump between smaller combat encounters with varied objectives, such as defeating all enemies or surviving a set period of time against infinite enemies. Between stages, you can go back to the workshop to spend resources on upgrades, and you're able to unlock perks and skills depending on the path you take through the challenge.

Completing challenges in No Return allows you to gradually unlock new characters, skins and challenges, with each character having distinct attributes. This isn't just for characters like Abby, Ellie and Joel, but also for most of their supporting cast. For example, Dina gets a variety of crafting-based traits rather than pure combat skills, which means you'd play her differently than the more combat-oriented Joel or Ellie.

No Return is quite fun. The core gameplay loop of The Last of Us boils down surprisingly well to roguelike gameplay and strongly encourages players to learn most of the gameplay mechanics in a greater way than the main game does. Constantly tossing different challenges at you helps keeps things feeling fresh, and it's a nice way to get more The Last of Us: Part II gameplay without having to repeat the cut scenes.

My only complaint about No Return boils down to the same complaint as the rest of the package; it doesn't feel like a justified excuse for an upgrade. It's difficult to not compare this to God of War: Ragnarok's Valhalla DLC, which was both a free upgrade and combined gameplay and narrative in a more involved manner. No Return is plenty of fun, but it also feels lesser than its fellow exclusive's attempt. Still, if you liked The Last of Us: Part II's gameplay, there's nothing better for it.

Beyond that, you have some pretty cool new features. You're able to explore three in-development versions of levels that didn't make the final cut. These versions obviously don't have the polish of the main game, but it's still neat to see areas that were planned and not developed, especially since there are sequences that were directly referenced in the main game but not shown. That said, it's pretty easy to imagine these sequences were cut for pacing reasons, and going through them is more of an interesting curiosity then a missing piece of the puzzle.

There's also a variety of more specialized modes. This includes a speedrun mode á la The Last of Us: Part I, and a new Free Play Guitar mode. The latter is a strange but amusing inclusion where you can take the "play the guitar" moments from the main game and jam out with various characters and instruments. It's a neat addition but will only appeal to a limited group of players. The real meat of the remaster is in the No Return mode and lost levels.

At the end of the day, The Last of Us: Part II - Remastered is a fine but pointless upgrade. In a vacuum, it's a straight boost to the PS4 version in every way, and the $10 upgrade cost is probably worth it if just for No Return. For all of its glories and failures, Part II is still the same game, even more so than The Last of Us: Part I. It's the best version of the game but probably not something that players need to rush out to get.

Score: 8.0/10

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