After the success of recent PS5 remakes like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and The Last of Us Part 1, it was inevitable that a full upgrade of The Last of Us Part II was on its way for the PlayStation 5. Fortunately, this time around it comes with an A$20 upgrade price tag for existing owners, with a beautiful graphical overhaul and a new rogue-like mode.
If you haven’t experienced this superior sequel or want a reason to revisit it, this is the perfect package to do it in. While the story initially divided fans providing an extremely dark outcome for a few characters, it shows a superior form of storytelling that while it is hard to stomach at times, ultimately pays off with a satisfying story arc for Ellie and introduces some new characters that expand the world.
The Ultimate Return
The big question is, it is worth the $20 upgrade, or a full-price purchase if you don’t currently own the original PS4 version? The former option as an upgrade is easy to recommend. The remastered version offers two modes, with the performance mode boasting an upscaled 1440p at 60fps and the quality mode with 4K graphics with 30fps as the target. If you have a TV or monitor that supports Variable Refresh Rate, you can select the Unlocked Frame Rate which will boost the quality mode to 40fps.
For the visual upgrade alone, this is worth the price of admission. It already looked great on the PlayStation 4, it looks even better on the PlayStation 5 and fits in well with the recent Part 1 remake. I was fortunate enough to get through a couple of playthroughs, one with quality and one with performance. While performance was my overall preference, the unlocked VRR on performance mode admittedly did look spectacular.
Aside from the visual upgrade, the best thing that this upgrade offers sits within the DualSense controller. The completely immersive effects that you can expect from a PlayStation Studios game are on full display here. Rain gently taps your palms as each drop falls, and it never gets old. The speaker inside the controller ricochets as each gunshot goes off and the vibrations when you use the bow and arrow that work in hand with the adaptive triggers, enhance the immersion as the pacing of the story gets more intense.
Behind the Curtain
Apart from the main story, there are some added features that fans of the Naughty Dog series will love. Three levels are presented with developer commentary, that dive into the designs and ultimately the reason why they were cut. It shows where the series could have gone and why they made the choice to cut it. This is one of the first games to do this and a welcome addition to get a rare peek behind the curtain of what goes into a game and why certain decisions are made. My only complaint here is that there were only three. Being such a divisive game with some shocking themes, it would have been good to see more of these added, and hopefully be a trend that devs can follow in future titles.
The other big addition to this remaster is the rogue-like section titled No Return. It is a survival mode that has you going up against five waves of enemies before facing a boss fight. Each encounter when finished, will return you to your home base, giving you options to upgrade your character, craft recipes, upgrade weapons, and purchase new ones. In each scenario are some random oddities like invisible enemies that are randomly put into each level. This is on top of the already intense gameplay that encourages you to keep progressing to the next level.
This mode of the game can take quite some time to beat. With a total of six boss fights and the game often punishingly brutal, with one mistake forcing you to lose your progress and needing to go back to the start, it is best played when you have finished the main story and have an understanding of the mechanics and weapons and how best to use them. There are a total of 10 characters to unlock after the initial two, Ellie and Abbey. You then unlock more characters as you progress through each campaign. There is enough to do here to offer 20 hours of brutal and chaotic gameplay outside of the main campaign, and it is quite a shame that the multiplayer game based on this game series was cancelled if this is any indication of what it would have been like.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered may feel unnecessary in some respects, for a game that is only two and a half years old. Having the graphical overhaul for this current generation, particularly after the success of the TV show and the Part 1 remaster makes it a necessary addition to the expanding Last of Us universe. The unlocked frame rate allows for the quality mode to really look spectacular in 4K, enhancing the cinematic quality of this game. The addition of No Return in place of the online multiplayer game being cancelled, really showcases just how incredible it could have been.
There is plenty to love and to do in this rogue-like mode that expands the universe while offering up a chaotic challenge. The Last of Us Part II Remastered is one of the best games ever made (you can read our full review of the original game and its story here). The graphical enhancements and DualSense additions improve the immersion into this cinematic experience. If you are upgrading or buying it for the first time, The Last of Us Part II Remastered is the best way to experience this unforgettable masterpiece.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Gorgeous visuals; A worthy and hard-edged sequel to a bonafide classic; Incredible performances
Lowlights: Intense violence may be too much for some players
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 5
Available: January 18, 2023
Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with an early access code provided by the publisher.