January 17, 2024

Revisit Ellie and Abby’s revenge plight in its best form in our The Last of Us Part II Remastered review.

The remaster/remake bug has really latched on to game developers/publishers in recent years – to varying success. I relished my time with Dead Space last year despite not thinking it even needed a remake, and Resident Evil 4’s iteration was high on several game-of-the-year charts. Some titles, such as XIII and Grand Theft Auto: Definitive Edition, are lambasted as some of the worst games of the modern era.

When I got my hands on The Last of Us Part I on PC, a remaster of the 2013 smash hit, it had already felt semantic – the game was already remastered in 2014 for the PlayStation 4. To coincide with the monumental success of the HBO series, the new port was initially a rush-job on PC and created some of the funniest visual bugs I had ever seen at launch. Thankfully, patches salvaged the port and it ran great soon after.

With the ninth generation of consoles in full swing and The Last of Us Part II launching very late into the previous generation running at 1080p/30fps across two discs, Sony decided to remaster the second entry into the franchise for an early 2024 release.

Promising the standard DualSense haptics support, spatial audio, and 1440p/60fps performance and 4K fidelity modes, the real draw for The Last of Us Part II remaster hones in on a new roguelike mode: No Return. Is the third remaster in Last of Us history worth $50, is it worth upgrading from a PS4 copy for $10, or is it even worth it at all?

The Last of Us Part II Remastered Review – Visuals/Performance

Ever since it pushed the PlayStation 3 to its limits in 2013, The Last of Us has been widely regarded as one of the most stellar-looking games around. Thanks to visual arts geniuses at Naughty Dog, not only are the landscapes eye candy in The Last of Us Remastered Part II, they get the spotlight during story beats that stop the player in their tracks to admire the scenery. Tack on the lack of pop-in and variable resolution and DualSense haptics every time you touch something in-game, and this makes for a spectacle on the PlayStation 5 with seamless loads and nothing to fuss about.

Every time The Last of Us Part II Remastered shows me its scenery, I pause to admire it.

For those that deliberate between performance mode and fidelity mode on console, there’s really no detriment to your preference for The Last of Us Part II Remastered. I played hours experimenting with both and despite my preference for framerate, I found that toggling performance mode while traversing Seattle/long travel segments and then flipping to performance when enemies neared to be the optimal way to play. There’s nothing to lose if you stick to the mode you’d like throughout your entire story playthrough, but for No Return mode where survival is paramount, you’re better off with performance mode.

The Last of Us Part II Remastered Review – Audio

As great as the visuals are in The Last of Us Part II Remastered, the sound design deserves its flowers as well. I experimented with both a sound bar and a pair of headphones and found the high action in the former to be as satisfying as the directional audio in the latter. The little audio cue that plays whenever a piece of dialogue is ready to be engaged with works wonders, as much as the whining and frenzy of runners is daunting.

Clicker noises still send shivers down my spine from the threat of an instant death.

While there are no explicit audio enhancements in this remaster, that serves as a testament to how well it was nailed the first time around. What The Last of Us Part II Remastered does add, though, is accessibility to those that are hearing-impaired with Speech to Vibrations and Descriptive Audio. Expanding accessibility to this sect of gamers is one of the best parts of modern gaming and those who couldn’t play the game the first time around get to experience it in this version of the title.

The Last of Us Part II Remastered Review – What’s New?

While The Last of Us Part II Remastered contains a one-to-one remaster of the game’s story mode, it’s more than just that. Included is a feature-rich Extras section in the main menu, which allows you to change character skins, view high-res character models, play the guitar in free-play, apply visual filters akin to photo mode, modify the gameplay, and check on your times for the new Speedrun mode. For a story that you may have already experienced, this massively enhances the replay value – but you’ll have to beat the game at least once to unlock most of them.

I give it a few days before we see someone cover Through the Fire and Flames on The Last of Us Part II Remastered’s Guitar Free Play.

In addition to all the goodies in the Extras menu, there is also a trailer for a feature-length documentary for Grounded II: The Making of The Last of Us Part II. With its Lost Levels, you can also engage in three cut levels from the game in a nearly-finished alpha state, complete with developer commentary and intros with Neil Druckmann. The feature-rich nature makes this an adequate supplement of content as opposed to a copy/paste story remaster. And we haven’t even touched the best part yet: No Return.

The Last of Us Part II Remastered Review – No Return Mode

I’m a big fan of roguelikes – I’ve reviewed dozens and dozens over the years and will never stop playing the genre. So for a game with combat as polished as The Last of Us Part II to include it in its remaster left me skeptical as to how they would approach the tricky genre. I’m pleasantly surprised to report that this mode kicks ass. Naughty Dog went all-out to ensure this wasn’t hastily thrown together – it’s so fleshed-out and fine-tuned that they could have sold it as a standalone.

A bevy of gameplay mods serve to benefit you – or further challenge you – in each new level of No Return.

In The Last of Us Part II Remastered’s No Return mode, you’ll progress through a series of combat scenarios with consistently-changing conditions. This spans from what type of enemy you’re up against, to if you’re squaring off in being hunted in waves or an intense assault, and that’s not even mentioning the myriad of mods that make each encounter unique. Whether you’re a stealth killer or make the most of your limited munitions in firefights, there’s so much to enjoy and keep replaying in No Return.

Each new No Return run presents a planning board that shows a route that you can select between, almost akin to a Star Fox 64 route. I typically shied away from facing Infected as one mistake with a Clicker would effectively end my run, but the human enemies were no pushover either as they can easily overwhelm you later on in runs. It’s stellar that you can choose your preferred difficulty in No Return with no detriment to selecting lower difficulties to ease you into the experience.

The dreaded Rat King threatens to spoil your entire No Return run as a final boss mere moments before you can claim victory.

In-between rounds, you’ll have ample ways to prepare for what’s to come in the safehouse. Complete with a randomized shop, a workbench, and rewards from your previous round, you can load up on new weapons, modify them, or opt to save your currency for later if you don’t like what the shop offers even after a reroll. This lets every player cater to their own The Last of Us Part II Remastered-type playstyle and try out new ones in subsequent runs. It was also a treat seeing legendary weapons pop up in the shop to delight the luck of the draw.

What makes No Return so exciting is how frequent and varied the mods are. One round saw me playing in a photo mode filter trying to parse how I was going to survive in black and white, whereas another saw the final boss Bloater, already a bullet sponge, get extra health, resulting in me exhausting my resources while on the run. My heart raced on a more regular basis in No Return as my favorite part of The Last of Us games was always its combat, and getting to take it on in regular increments without story beats in the interim is a pure adrenaline rush.

No Return sees you square off against 3 waves of 5 enemies in Assault mode, with a handy supply box to tide you over in the 20 seconds between waves.

As if it being a roguelike wasn’t replayable enough, No Return boasts tons of features to ensure players keep coming back. With its Daily Run mode, you get one shot at a run and can compare with your friends on the leaderboards. Dozens of skins are available to unlock, as well as 10 playable characters that each operate differently. You can also modify runs after you complete your first, tailoring the gameplay exactly how you want it. There’s no doubt about it – the best part of The Last of Us Part II Remastered is No Return mode.

The Last of Us Part II Remastered Review – Conclusion

The Last of Us Part II has always been a polarizing game. I was part of the public that let my curiosity get the better of me and saw the disparaging leaks before the game released. Despite this, I soldiered on and enjoyed the game’s attention-to-detail, combat, and atmosphere in spite of its shortcomings elsewhere. I also subscribe to the fact that this series having more remasters than original entries is ludicrous – but I’m complacent in the fact that the addition of No Return makes this particular remaster so worth it.

And it’s for that reason that I can recommend The Last of Us Part II Remastered on a specific basis. If you play games just for the story and don’t need all the fine details, you can pass. But for fans of roguelikes, replaying games a few years later in better fashion, and especially if you can snag the $10 USD upgrade path if you already own The Last of Us Part II, I can say you won’t regret grabbing this remaster.

So, why should you play The Last of Us Part II Remastered?

  • Ample enhancements to an already beautiful, polished tale of revenge and everything that comes with it.
  • A roguelike mode that completely knocks it out of the park that you’ll keep coming back to.
  • Tons and tons of extras that previous fans will want to check out.

But why shouldn’t you play The Last of Us Part II Remastered?

  • Nothing new in Story Mode other than a Speedrun mode.
  • Will likely go on sale from its starting $49.99 USD asking price a few months from now.
  • 100GB install size. The $10 USD upgrade isn’t available for digital-only PS5’s.

A review code on PS5 was kindly provided for the purpose of our The Last of Us Part II Remastered review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out our The Last of Us Part I Remastered review and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about the series!

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