The Last of Us Part 2

Review: The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered

Nearly four years ago, I mentioned how important The Last of Us Part 2 is to PlayStation. It was a follow-up to one of the biggest franchises at Naughty Dog and launched during a pandemic. In a twist, it was an ironic launch as you played through a title that featured a world struck by a pandemic while dealing with one simultaneously.

In June 2020, I asked how you handle a sequel to The Last of Us —  shock value. To put it more succinctly, self-destruction. Naughty Dog’s sequel was harshly criticized for doing something unexpected and something different. However, how can you make another Joel and Ellie adventure after the betrayal witnessed at the end of Part 1?

The Last of Us Part 2 could never be another Joel and Ellie adventure

The theme of The Last of Us Part 2 was always revenge. We knew this from the earliest trailers; the narrative and game design support that idea. We see two sides of the same coin across nearly thirty hours. Personally, the reaction to the events themselves is warranted, but that reaction is a testament to how excellent the writing is.

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In trying to keep this review spoiler-free, I find it challenging to discuss many themes Naughty Dog skillfully weaved together. In the end, what we get is a scenario we see from multiple sides. This decision made the campaign work as cohesively as it did because it mirrors reality. Life isn’t cut and dry, and life isn’t sunshine and rainbows. Many of us have gone through situations where we were robbed of our ability to step up and say or do the right thing.

In June 2020, I was angered and saddened by The Last of Us Part 2. I said in my review I felt like I was hit with a brick thrown by Naughty Dog. I felt like this because of the things the studio tasked me with doing as Ellie. She is at the start of her journey of revenge, and you’re going through the entire cycle with her. By the time I finished the campaign,  I felt gross. I had participated in something that left me feeling like a monster, and yet, by the end of it, I understood why it had to happen.

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I would have done the same thing in another world if it were me. The violence of The Last of Us Part 2 is necessary yet not glorified by the developers. You kill to survive in this world or be killed. Many of these violent sections are broken up with quieter moments between characters that help break up the heavier sections. Without these sections, The Last of Us Part 2 wouldn’t work – and rightly so; these moments allow the player to process the sections that came before and move forward.

The Last of Us Part 2 eclipses its predecessor in almost every way. Naughty Dog could easily have made another game where Joel and Ellie head out and into another adventure, prolonging the inevitable and stretching out what goodwill the studio had built around the series. Instead, we got a masterclass in storytelling as the phrase “actions have consequences” drives home just how valid those words are.

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What’s Been Added?

In November, Naughty Dog teased additions to The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered, including the Lost Levels and early-development versions of three new stages not seen in the original Part 2: Sewers, Jackson Party, and Boar Hunt.

The three stages were what I jumped into immediately after my download had finished, and frankly, the insight the developers provided on the stages and why they either changed or removed are worth it. It is rare to see developers talk about what didn’t cut, but it is rarer to have those ideas presented in a playable state with tons of developer notes and feedback to engage in actively. Steve and I covered the Lost Levels in our Creature Cast review episode for Part 2, and we generally agreed that these sections give players an idea of how games are made. In the lead-in to these sections, Druckmann says that this project was a lot bigger during development, and the entire team worked on fine-tuning the final product into what we saw at launch.

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A look at No Return, Screenshot by Console Creatures.

The most significant addition, of course, is the new roguelike mode, No Return. We’ve got a dedicated review for the new mode coming to The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered, but I did spend a dozen hours playing through the various modes and the roster of characters you unlock through progression. Overall, it’s an excellent mode for those looking to stick around once the campaign’s credits roll (and the developers even suggest you play No Return once you complete the single-player).

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A look at Jackson via the Lost Levels, screenshot by Console Creatures.

Launching so close to God of War Ragnarök: Valhalla might have negatively affected my expectations around what to expect from No Return. No one expected Valhalla to be as good as it was because it wasn’t advertised as an epilogue to the campaign. That fact led to a monumental surprise conclusion to Kratos’ story that began decades ago. I can’t help but compare the two titles because they launched one month apart and boast a similar premise. No Return doesn’t offer much in story threads (and I even suggested a way for Naughty Dog to implement those elements on our show), so don’t expect a similar narrative payoff.

There are also graphical improvements that make this already great-looking title better. Many changes feel subtle, like hair being finer, skin tones being more apparent, and lighting in environments feeling more realistic. The PlayStation 5 version of The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered runs at a native resolution of 4K in Quality mode and 30 FPS. In Performance mode, expect a native resolution of 1440p and baseline 60 FPS with support for VRR. Comparatively, the PlayStation 4 version runs at 1080p on the base console, 1440p on the Pro console, and 30 FPS.

Verdict

With a second season of The Last of Us in development and the franchise finding a larger audience thanks to the show’s success, it makes sense Naughty Dog wants as many people to experience this tale. The campaign is one of my best experiences playing video games and showcases Naughty Dog’s innate ability to tell complex human stories. I never expected a sequel to stick to the script and give us another adventure of Joel and Ellie. By taking risks and circumventing all expectations, The Last of Us Part 2 created a division of its fanbase, and rightfully so, some fans wanted more of the same thing, while others were willing to go along and see what changed. Frankly, the series’ bold direction is how you continue to tell daring stories.

Recommended

[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PlayStation 5

The Last of Us Part 2
Review: The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered
Summary
The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered fine-tunes an already incredible game with better lighting, more details, and subtle improvements thanks to new Accessibility options.
Liked
Campaign gets a fidelity and detail bump
Campaign holds up well and is worth a revisit
No Return is a fun way to extend your playtime
Combat is brutal and satisfying
Lost Levels allows fans to see how the bread is made
Didn't Like
No new narrative content