The Last of Us Part II Remastered is pretty much a “Director’s Cut” of the 2020 PlayStation 4 game, and while some of its additions and special features are questionable (like the Roguelike mode), one of the more interesting inclusions is three playable lost levels that were cut from the final game.
It’s not very often we get a peek behind the curtain of development like this, so the more developers are willing to let players test out scrapped material, the better. But after playing all three segments, I can see why each of them didn’t make the final cut. Having read through The Last of Us Part II’s art book and listened to interviews with the creative team, I was aware of at least two of these sections ahead of playing them, and was interested to see what could have been. Given that Part II has been already criticized for its length in the past, Naughty Dog probably made the right call with these edits.
The first lost level is from before the inciting incident of the game’s revenge tour, and appears to have been a tutorial level. Ellie hangs out with the people of Jackson, playing games with the locals that teach you the aiming and Listen Mode mechanics, and she even chats with her ex-girlfriend Cat.
We never meet Cat in the game itself, and the version of her we see in the lost level looks like a placeholder model, so that is probably the thing I wish made it into the final game. But many of these tutorials were retooled with the perspective-shifting opening, with The Last of Us Part II teaching you different mechanics as you swap between Ellie and Abby while keeping up some momentum.
The second section is more of an expansion of a segment that still exists in the game. It features Ellie traversing the Seattle sewers as she moves across the city. This is probably the least notable segment Naughty Dog included in Part II Remastered, but it does have one really affecting moment that foreshadows Ellie’s struggle with PTSD following Joel’s death.
The third and final segment is one referenced in The Last of Us Part II, but never shown. During the game’s final hours, Ellie has a journal entry that talks about a boar she went hunting but left dying after its pained squeals reminded her of Joel’s brutal death. Originally, this hunt was supposed to be playable similar to the hunting sequence in the first game’s Winter segment. But having played it now, the whole thing felt a bit unwieldy and frustrating. Ultimately, between this and the equivalent PTSD reveal in the final game, I prefer the one the team went with because it’s less tedious to get there.
The lost levels aren’t the only behind-the-scenes features included in The Last of Us Part II Remastered, as it also has a commentary track that you can play alongside the game itself featuring Director Neil Druckmann, Narrative Lead Halley Gross, and actors Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, and Shannon Woodward.
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