The Last of Us Part II Remastered Review — An Epic Return

The Last of Us Part II released all the way back in 2020 and, while contentious, is still arguably one of the most engaging, emotionally driven, and narratively in-depth games of its year. Now, almost four years later, the game is getting a remastered version with overhauled visuals and graphical fidelity, a handful of new features, and a slew of new content.  This includes a new roguelike mode with intense action mechanics and thrilling features. After almost forty hours spent across the entire game, specifically on its new content, I can confidently say the new package offers a new, highly engaging experience, but not one without flaws.

The Last of Us Part II Remastered re-releases the original game in a shiny new package with all the bells and whistles. The base game retains the same story with no changes to the narrative, pacing, or structure. Both new and returning players will experience Ellie and Abby’s intense, epic, and emotionally gripping story of revenge, redemption, and loss. Even almost four years later, the story is still incredibly captivating and engaging. The gameplay is still as fast, fun, and intense as ever, with several detailed motions involved with crafting, shooting, throwing, attacking, and dodging. 

This also includes intricate actions from NPCs, all of whom have names that their friends still yell when you murder one in cold blood with a bullet, a knife or strangulation. The gameplay is further enhanced with the DualSense controllers via adaptive triggers and haptic feedback that makes gameplay more immersive, specifically when shooting and experiencing environmental conditions like rain, which reflects on the controller via vibrations.

The remaster also adds several other features that enhance the base game, including a host of new graphical improvements like detailed backgrounds and models, smoother animations, and more vibrant colors. The game also features Fidelity and Performance modes, with a stable 60 FPS on the latter mode and overall, the game now has significantly faster load times.

As for the extra content, the remaster features a surprising amount of new content that returning fans will especially appreciate. The first and most notable is the No Return roguelike survival node. The mode adds excellent new features and a shocking level of challenge to the entire game. It gives players six levels, five of which include fighting or avoiding enemies in various modes, all leading up to a final boss to end the run. Like most roguelikes, if you die even once in the six levels, you’ll have to start the run again, no matter how far you are into it. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be dying a lot, at least if you’re playing on the Standard or more challenging difficulty levels.

The No Return mode features several different types of levels. There’s Hunted, a frantic and intense mode where players are being hunted by many enemies, and are given a short period of time to survive by either fighting every enemy until the time runs out or finding ways to avoid them. There’s also Assault, which serves as the balanced level of the new mode. Players clear this level by dispatching several waves of varying numbers of enemies through stealth or blazing guns. Another intense level is Holdout. This mode tasks players with defeating a set number of enemies while protecting an ally who will also be helping you kill them off. If you or your ally dies, the level ends, and the whole run is done. The last and my least favorite type of level is Capture. In this level, you’ll have to find and open a safe within a short time limit, while killing or avoiding the enemies guarding it. So not only do you most likely have to kill a lot of enemies and open a safe, but you also have to do it all within a time limit. It’s worth mentioning that the game gives you several mission paths to choose from, so you can always avoid the level types that you find challenging, which is a plus.

However, No Return has a lot of elements that make it  challenging as a roguelike. One of them is the enemy AI, which is shockingly advanced, and how enemies can take you down with a few shots or hits. Additionally, the game adds several positive and negative modifiers that make gameplay excruciatingly nerve-racking. Positive modifiers include enemies burning with melee attacks, recovering health when vaulting over objects, faster crafting, faster movement, slower enemy movement, and more. On the other hand, Negative modifiers include photo mode filters that make your whole screen black and white, completely red, or any other debilitating filter, raining molotovs, faster enemies, enemies starting in combat instead of in search mode, invisible enemies, which is by far the worst of all, and much more.

While the modifiers do an excellent job of making the gameplay loop feel more engaging and unique, some negative modifiers, like the aforementioned invisible enemies, are outright run-enders as there is no reasonable way of dealing with them, especially when fighting certain enemy types like the infected. Additionally, the good modifiers don’t really do a good job of making the player feel like they have an advantage in combat, as most are incredibly situational.

Other things that contribute to the difficulty are the difficulty modes themselves, which range significantly. The easier modes make the whole run almost a joke, as the AI is dumber, their attacks do very little, and your damage output is greater. On the other hand, the harder modes, including the Standard modes, are no joke. In these modes, the enemy AI is shockingly advanced, attacks hurt more, and it takes many more hits to down an opponent. This makes each run more intense and frantic, making the payoff feel much better. However, sometimes you might get lucky, and the game throws you a bone by giving you an NPC character to help you, but only on one random level.

Speaking of characters, in No Return, players can play through several runs with characters seen in the base game. The complete list includes Ellie, Abby, Dina, Jessie, Lev, Manny, Mel, Tommy, Yara, and Joel. However, most characters need other characters to unlock. For example, you’ll need to complete two levels with Ellie to unlock Dina, three with Dina to unlock Jessie, three with Jessie to unlock Tommy,  and so on.

Each character has their own unique starting weapons, stats, crafting materials, and items they begin with, so unlocking characters and testing them out is the best way to find the characters that fit your playstyle. Runs with different characters can play very differently with intricate differences. For example, stealth kills with Dina and Ellie are done with a knife, whereas Jessie straight-up strangles his enemies. Players can also unlock outfits for every character to add uniqueness to each run.

Lastly, the mode also has five bosses, all of whom provide their own unique challenges. I found that three bosses, namely the Arcade Bloater, Theater Bloater, and the Rat King, posed the most threat. Overall, the No Return Mode is a surprisingly fun, intense, and satisfying new roguelike mode. While the modifiers need more balancing, luckily, they can be turned off in custom runs.

Besides that, the remaster also features new, never-before-seen levels via Lost Levels. These include three incompleted levels, which are surprisingly more polished than expected and are entirely playable while still noticeably missing several elements. One of them lacks dialogue and sound effects, and they’re all very short. The levels also feature optional commentary from the developers, which adds much cool insight into what they planned for the levels and why they were cut in the first place.

To top it all off, the remaster also features bonus content, including the Guitar free play mode, a model viewer, a speedrun mode, and extra videos giving players insight into the game’s production. These serve as a pleasant addition to the game, especially for fans who want to re-experience the game.

All in all, The Last of Us Part II Remastered is an excellent remaster of an already great game. This version not only adds new quality-of-life changes, along with visual and gameplay improvements, but also all-new, highly engaging content. All these and more make the remaster the definitive version of the game that’s worth the price for newcomers, especially the $10 price for returning players.

Abdul Saad is an avid gamer and computer scientist. He's been writing for four years on news, reviews, previews, and more on multiple gaming sites. When he isn't writing or playing the latest JRPG, he can be found coding games of his own or tinkering with something electrical.



The Last of Us Part II Remastered

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The Last of Us Part II Remastered is an almost perfect package for both new players and returning fans looking to replay the game but with a new experience.

Abdul Saad

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