The Last of Us Part II already defined the PS4 generation. It was undoubtedly one of the most visually captivating games of recent years leveraging everything Naughty Dog has built up to that point. With that in mind, the biggest question we all had when The Last of Us Part II Remastered was announced was “Is this needed?”. The game already got a PS5 performance patch boosting the frame rate to 60FPS so how far can a “remaster” push it?
Naughty Dog likely knew the challenges the developer faced in this regard. As a result, The Last of Us Part II Remastered is more than just a remaster. It comes with new content and feels like a bigger, more robust package. None of that extra content really adds value to the overall story, character arcs and setting but it does deliver fresh new things to do.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered’s improved visuals now align the game with the 2022 remake of the first chapter. Of course, that means things look sharper and there are some noticeable refinements to texture work and the draw distance. If anything, the biggest takeaway from my time with the game, from a visual standpoint, is the overall sharpness of render quality.
The PS4 Pro version of the game only ran at 1440p. This time around, The Last of Us Part II Remastered is native 4K when running the game on the Fidelity mode. Sure, you’re stuck at 30FPS here but the trade-off delivers a truly high-end visual experience that is likely the best way to play the game if you already beat it on PS4. I honestly didn’t see myself playing it any other way. It is meant to be a remaster and that means it should look better this time around. The best way to witness that is through the game’s Fidelity mode.
The Performance Mode is essentially the same as the PS4 Pro. Here, you’re getting 60FPS at 1440p. The game does upscale this to 4K at times which all depends on the scene. However, there’s definitely a noticeable loss in image quality due to this 1440p resolution. Distant objects feature jagged edges and the upscaling causes some distortion around moving objects.
Then there’s the middle-ground High Frame Rate Mode which is great. The mode unlocks the frame rate on supported displays and you can run the game at either Fidelity or Performance. In Fidelity, the game targets 60FPS at 4K and it fluctuates around that mark. Performance targets 120FPS at 1440p and it also dips depending on the scene. Of course, if you have VRR and a decent TV/monitor, these frame rate dips aren’t noticeable making the HFR Mode rather enjoyable.
Sadly, the HFR Mode still suffers from the issue all other Sony-developed games have – the 120Hz unlocked metadata doesn’t deliver YUV444. That’s because the PS5 HDMI is limited to 32Gbps and only supports YUV422. As a result, the HDR looks washed out due to the limited colour space being sent to the TV. I really wish Sony would unlock this PS5 HDMI bandwidth now. As someone who obsesses over the little details, I would rather disable the HFR Mode to kick the console out of 120Hz just to play games with full YUV444.
With that being said, it is also hard to sell you on the idea that The Last of Us Part II Remastered is levels prettier than the original because it isn’t. The PS4 version pushed the console to the limit and the remaster simply refines that. There are still some hiccups which I noticed. For example, some texture mapping hasn’t been updated in certain areas resulting in patterned blocks. These are far and few between though.
From a gameplay perspective, The Last of Us Part II Remastered is the entire game in all its glory. That means it comes with the same story and gameplay elements. I already finished the game back in the day so booting up the Remaster, it didn’t have the same emotional impact as the first time around. It is impossible to replay The Last of Us Part II and feel the same about the characters and the events. Naughty Dog carefully tailored the story to have a drastically different impact on players during the first playthrough.
Instead of being forced to play a character who I absolutely despised for what she did, I knew what happened and it all felt a bit less interesting. I know this is something you can’t avoid but halfway through the game, I kind of felt a bit over it all. The Last of Us Part II Remastered is something you really “really” have to want to play in order to mission through the entire story again. I promise you now, it doesn’t have the same “pull” the second time around. Well, for me it was a chore anyway.
I also felt demotivated over the game’s general gameplay loop. This is an issue I expressed in my original review back in 2020. The gameplay in The Last of Us Part II doesn’t go anywhere. You sneak around for hours on end, stab guys in the back, shoot people and rinse and repeat. The story carries the entire experience and with me having witnessed it all, there was no drive to push through the, dare I say lacklustre gameplay.
There was no climatic ending to achieve here because I had seen and done it already. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure people out there will love doing this all over again but I struggled. For newcomers, on the other hand, it is going to be a wild ride.
Outside of the main game, The Last of Us Part II Remastered also comes with the No Return Mode. This is a roguelike rinse-and-repeat mode where you’re tasked with moving from one stage to the next while overcoming various threats. If anything, this mode is a love letter to The Last of Us fans. There are multiple playable characters outside of the main game, it takes you to the best locations from the story and you can just kill things over and over again.
I have to admit that No Return was a lot more enjoyable than the actual gameplay in The Last of Us Part II Remastered. Mainly because there are layers of different mechanics at play here. For starters, different characters have different build styles. Abby, for example, is a close combat brawler so if I felt like hitting things, I could use her. Dina, on the other hand, specialised in crafting so in that run I enjoyed taking down enemies with trap mines.
These traits dictate how a run is going to go. They are also fun to use because, unlike the main game, you’re not forced into a box with limited supplies and inventory. After spending hours running through No Return, I wish the main game took a page out of its book, to be honest. There’s a lot of fun to be had here. Certain challenges unlock new characters with new playstyles. There are also unlockable mods that play into new runs and change each stage.
I remember having the best time in one run where I played as Dina, ran around the area placing down trap mines and the stage just happened to roll with trip mines too. I sat back as the enemies slowly offed themselves one by one. Some died by walking into the trap mines while others blew themselves up with the trip mines. It was pretty entertaining.
The more you play into No Return, the better it gets. New mods are introduced to the game which come with both negative and positive effects. Some levels have multiple mods too which add to the intensity. However, I won’t say the roguelike mechanics are as detailed as other games on the market. For example, there’s no real end-goal upgrade system that carries over from one run to the next. When you die, characters are reset to the basics. You can’t slowly nudge certain upgrades up each time to improve the next run. But it works.
The only thing that changes the gameplay loop is when you complete an entire run. This unlocks new mods which are randomly assigned to levels going forward. Sure, one can argue that character unlocks help with progress too but those are also barebone and limited to what they start with each and every time.
There are some cool things to unlock such as weapon skins, character skins and entirely new modes which appear in new runs. So you can spend a good few hours grinding through No Return and actually feel like you’re progressing. Once I unlocked it all, I felt as if the game mode was dramatically different due to new bosses, weapons, traits, mods, gambits and modes all littered throughout each run. It delivers the excitement.
So here’s the thing – The Last of Us Part II Remastered is a good game and it is totally worth the R180 upgrade fee if you already own the original. However, you need to “want” to play this again or you’re remotely interested in the roguelike mode.
Should you spend R1000 on it? Not if you’ve played it. I can’t recommend the campaign to anyone who has already beaten it once. It is way too slow and tedious given the forthcoming plot. I am also feeling The Last of Us fatigue now which is something I never thought I would say. Naughty Dog, please just do something else… anything else.
This The Last of Us Part II Remastered review is based on a code sent to us by Sony Interactive Entertainment. The game is available on PS5 on 18 January with an upgrade from the PS4 version. You can pick it up at retail from R950.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered
This is the best way to replay Naughty Dog’s masterpiece but that doesn’t come without its caveats. The story doesn’t have the same impact for obvious reasons making the campaign a slog. The No Return Mode, on the other hand, is more than a tacted-on afterthought that delivers some fun replayability.