The Last Of Us Part 2 Remastered: The Kotaku Australia Review

The Last Of Us Part 2 Remastered: The Kotaku Australia Review

Many will say it’s too early for a remaster of The Last of Us Part II.

The game launched just short of three years ago, at the tail end of the PS4’s lifecycle. To those who feel it’s ‘too soon’, I’d have to agree. However, there are elements of The Last of Us 2 Remastered that make me hope all future remasters are handled in a similar manner.

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered isn’t just a graphical overhaul of the base game. It’s an upgrade that comes with a chunk of additional content, and I think these extra goodies make it worth the price of admission.

The Main Game

The Last of Us 2 Remastered vs The last of us 2 ps4
“Corporate needs you to find the difference between these two pictures…” (Left: The Last of Us 2 PS4, Right: The Last of Us 2 Remastered, Screenshot: Naughty Dog)

There’s not much I can say about The Last of Us Part 2 that hasn’t already been said. As much as I would like to tell you that this remaster changes some of those painful moments, they hit exactly the same.

The issue that many have rightfully raised with a TLOU 2 remaster is that the game already looked so incredibly good. Yes, it had its technical issues, and yes, it pushed the PS4 to its absolute limit. But is a remaster of a 2.5-year-old game really necessary? No. Objectively, no.

It’s easy to forget just how good this game looked when it came out. Handily, I only replayed The Last of Us Part 2 a few months ago, so it’s fresh in my memory. Visually, I have to say I didn’t notice much of a change here. There are minute details, like the dusting of snow on clothing or the way light shines on different surfaces, that remind you just how gorgeously rendered this world really is. But, on the whole, this felt more like a reapplication of paint rather than an entirely fresh coat.

This remaster’s most noticeable upgrades are united around the leveraging of newer PS5 technologies. Similarly to 2022’s The Last of Us Part 1, the second game makes use of the haptic feedback of the DualSense controller. The controller swoops and buzzes with when sloshing through puddles or to communicate the impact of a punch in a way the PS4 didn’t.

The 3D audio also helps to build an even more tense atmosphere in encounters, as you hear the directional footsteps of enemies as they hunt for you and the creepy utterings of Stalkers as they lurk in the shadows. And while the loading isn’t instant like in Spider-Man 2, the SSD trims down a lot of the PS4 version’s frustratingly long load times.

This remaster brings The Last of Us Part 2 in line with the remake of the first game, making it feel less noticeable that these two games were released almost a decade apart and more like they are two parts of a whole.

No Return

The Last of Us 2 Remastered (Image: Naughty Dog)
The Last of Us 2 Remastered (Image: Naughty Dog)

The biggest addition to The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered, and the major selling point of this new edition, is the No Return roguelike survival mode.

There’s obviously an irony to TLOU 2 having a roguelike mode. The whole game is about the futility of a cycle of violence, after all. However, that doesn’t detract from the fact that the game is actually very well-suited to this style of play.

No Return is structured like a typical roguelike. You’re tasked with completing runs, which are comprised of 6 randomised encounters that alternate between different game modes. You’ll begin with two main variations, an assault mode where you must take down waves of enemies in any way you see fit, and a hunted mode where you simply have to survive relentless waves of enemies for a certain amount of time, with more modes unlocked as you progress. Weapons, ammo and craftable items stack between rounds, meaning if you’ve used up all your bullets in one encounter, you’ll start with no ammo in the next one.

In between maps, you return to your hideout, where you are able to firstly breathe and then spend the rewards you’ve collected in preparation for your next map. No Return rewards you with familiar TLOU collectibles – supplements (for spending on skill trees), parts (for upgrading weapons at your workbench), and coins (for purchasing new weapons and craftable items).

The reward you get depends on your success in each round. In true roguelike style, every action here has a consequence. Stealth kills may give you extra points, but they take longer, resulting in time penalties. Melee kills are worth more, but you’ll lose points if you take damage.

Runs end with a final boss battle, which is where you’ll find yourself facing monstrous enemies like Bloaters, Rattlers and, eventually, the Rat King . Your success in this battle is very dependant on how well you’ve done in the previous encounters, forcing you to be tactical with your playthrough and your use of supplies. It’s a mentality that’s already been ingrained in players throughout the base game, but it is epitomised in No Return.

The Last of Us 2 Remastered (Image: Naughty Dog)
The Last of Us 2 Remastered: No ReturnScreenshot: Naughty Dog

As you complete runs and challenges in No Return, the game rewards you with new unlockables that enhance both the roguelike mode and the main game. You have the ability to earn new skins and weapons you can equip in TLOU 2, but you’ll also be able to unlock different mods, maps, enemies and new playable characters who you’ve never had the chance to play as before, all of whom have their own unique advantages.

The sheer amount of possible combinations in No Return gives it impressive longevity. No two runs are the same and the addition of creative mods keeps you guessing. In one playthrough, I discovered a mod that caused enemies to explode after I had killed them, putting an end to any ideas I had of using stealth.

It’s a game mode that keeps you on your toes. No Return encapsulates everything that makes encounters in The Last of Us 2 so stressful, but without any of the story cinematics to motivate you through. It’s an addition that is designed solely to challenge players, so if you come to The Last of Us for narrative reasons only, you won’t find it here.

In a broader sense, No Return feels like it has the DNA of what the now-cancelled TLOU 2 multiplayer could have been. It’s a shame that we’ll never see the fruits of all these labours, but if this is even part of what they were working on, the concept certainly had potential.

There were many times I wished No Return had a co-op option. Having a friend by your side would not only be fun, but also motivating to persevere through those times the roguelike becomes too stressful. I know multiplayer is off the table for Naughty Dog, but here’s hoping there could be room for a co-op update in the future.

Guitar freeplay

The Last of Us 2 Remastered: Guitar free play (Image: Naughty Dog)

One of the coolest mechanics introduced in The Last of Us 2 was the guitar. It served as motif for Ellie and Joel throughout the game, but it was also just a very intricate achievement in game mechanics. It leads to some incredible in-game covers of classic songs, and now

The Last of Us 2 Remastered has introduced a free play option, allowing you to fiddle with the guitar mechanic to your heart’s content, instead of waiting for specific beats in the story.

The Guitar free play doesn’t really offer anything more significant than what it says on the tin – apart from a nice little option to play as the game’s composer, Gustavo Santaolalla – but I can’t help but wish that it did. I feel like some tutorials or step-by-step guides for playing iconic songs on the in-game guitar, like Future Days or even Santaolalla’s classic TLOU theme, could’ve really elevated this game mode to a piece of content worth investing in rather than a neat gimmick.

Lost Levels and behind-the-scenes features

Speaking as a long-term Naughty Dog fan, I want to soak up every piece of The Last of Us content that’s available, which is why the inclusion of the Lost Levels is a really neat treat for fans.

There are three levels on offer (Jackson, the boar hunt, and the sewers) all of which come with an introduction from game director, Neil Druckmann, and feature in-game commentary from developers who worked on the scenes. These lost levels don’t offer anything significant in terms of story or gameplay. Instead they offer a peek behind the curtain at the world of game development. They’re almost like an audio tour you might see in a museum, allowing you to explore the level at will and listen to insights from the developers as to why certain decisions were made, and why the scenes were eventually cut.

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered also offers a commentary reel that can be switched on for all the game’s cutscenes, with Druckmann, Halley Gross (co-writer) and cast members Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey, Troy Baker and Shannon Woodward all taking turns to share stories and memories of their time working on the game.

Players have the option of listening to this as they play through the game naturally or, if you have a completed TLOU 2 save on your PS4, you can import your game and unlock all the cutscenes, which allows you to play through them like a movie with a director’s commentary.

Eventually, this remaster will also become home to Grounded II: Making the Last of Us Part II, which will be a more detailed documentary into the massive hurdles this game had to overcome in order to be made.

Combined, all of these features felt like something you’d find on the bonus disc of a DVD and it’s something that I think makes this Remaster really special. Bonus features are something that has been a staple for movies and TV shows, but they’re a rarity in video games, and that should change.

The Verdict

The Last of Us 2 Remastered (Image: Naughty Dog)

In the end, we all knew that a PS5 remaster of The Last of Us Part 2 was inevitable. It’s something that the first game did very shortly after its release in 2013, to bridge the gap between the PS3 and PS4, and with the second game coming out so close to the end of the PS4’s life cycle, it’s not surprising to see Naughty Dog repeat the same move.

What is surprising is the value for money. This is essentially Naughty Dog’s Game of the Year edition for The Last of Us Part 2 (which did in fact win GOTY in 2020), but all it’s asking for is $20 (assuming you already own the PS4 version).

It’s not a new DLC chapter for TLOU 2, it’s not The Last of Us multiplayer, but this is the next best thing. It’s is a no-brainer upgrade for any long-time The Last of Us fans and it serves as the definitive way to play the game for anyone who hasn’t yet.

The Last of Us Part II Remastered launches on the PS5 on January 19.

Lead Image: Naughty Dog

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