Naughty Dog asks fans of The Last of Us games to part with their cash, once more. This time it’s for the definitive PlayStation 5 version of the 2020 sequel, The Last of Us Part II Remastered.
“But I’ve already got The Last of Us Part II on PlayStation 5”, I hear you say. And you’d be right. The original PlayStation 4 game was updated for PS5 owners back in 2021 with performance improvements for the new console.
This new release not only offers some more performance improvements but also a new game mode and some levels previously left on the cutting room floor. It’s less of a remaster and more of a director’s cut, in my mind.
The first game, The Last of Us (Part I), introduced players to a post-apocalyptic world where a fungus-based virus outbreak has wiped out most of humanity. The virus infects humans growing inside them causing madness before taking over their bodies entirely turning them into blind “clickers”.
Joel, a crusty mercenary, and Elle, a teenage girl who may hold the cure that can save humanity, venture out across America. Along the way to find the doctors that can use Ellie’s immunity to the virus, the pair must face monsters, not only the infected but also humans that will do anything to survive.
The Last of Us offers a chilling tale, spiced with action and puzzles. It is highly regarded and it’s no surprise that the HBO TV adaptation of the game became an instant hit.
This sequel, The Last of Us Part II, takes the story in a controversial new direction that polarised its audience when originally released back in 2020. The game follows on from the end of the first instalment. The plot deals with the aftermath of the protagonist, Joel’s, decision to save Elle rather than have her die to save humanity. A brutal choice, perhaps the wrong choice, but one that I expect most players would have chosen as well.
Whereas the first game was about the growing bond between an orphaned girl and a surrogate father, Part II is a tale of revenge. It’s a darker game, that offers the same sort of gameplay as its predecessor but with a story that was a little too harsh for many fans of the first game. Personally, I think The Last of Us Part II makes the ending of the first game better. It solves a narrative issue that never sat well with me, even if it does so in such a brutal manner.
This version offers players marginally better performance on the PlayStation 5 hardware but not enough to recommend that you rush out and buy it if you’ve already got the updated PS4 version. The game still offers performance and fidelity options- either better visuals or a higher framerate, a compromise that I think gamers shouldn’t still be faced with.
The package includes three lost levels, unfinished sequences that were cut from the final game. Each one has a video introduction by the game director, Neil Druckman, and optional audio commentary within each level that explains a little more about the design process.
The first level, Jackson Party, is a sequence that is only mentioned in the released game. This level is from the beginning of the game showing Elle and the citizens of Jackson having a good time, a vision of normality before things take a turn for the worse. The next level, Seattle Sewers, has Elle swept into the storm drains traversing increasingly tight spaces to get to the surface. The last level, The Hunt has Ellie following the blood trail of an injured boar. The sequence is a parallel to the deer hunt in the first game.
Joining the filters, models, and concept art in the “extras” section in the guitar free play. This allows you to play the guitar as you do at certain points in the game, as you please. You can play as Ellie, Joel, or the game’s soundtrack composer, Gustavo Santaolalla. There are some unlockable backgrounds and a few different guitars to play.
The most interesting new feature of this remaster is the new game mode, No Return. Likely cobbled together from the carcass of the abandoned Last of Us multiplayer game, this Rogue-like game has players facing off against waves of attackers. The levels are based on areas from the main game. There are challenges with extra rewards and unlockables. It’s a fun game of cat and mouse that recreates some of the more heart-in-mouth stealth combat sequences from the game.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered seems to be less about refining the PlayStation 5 player experience (which with the patched PS4 version, was already very good) and more about getting the code ready for the inevitable PC release.
The lost levels, the No Return bonus mode, and the promise of the Grounded 2 making off documentary as post-release content round off the definitive version of the game. Until the next reissue, that is.
Released: January 2024
Platforms reviewed: PlayStation 5
Developer: Naughty Dog