Does a game that came out less than four years ago deserve, or even require, a remaster? The original PS4 release of The Last of Us Part II was arguably the best-looking game the console ever saw — running it on a PS4 Pro or PS5 via backwards compatibility delivered a phenomenal experience.
But then The Last Of Us Part I happened, bringing 2013’s original game in the fungal zombie apocalypse saga up to snuff for modern players with a native PS5 release that leapfrogged Part II in just about every respect. Wanting parity for Part II clearly gnawed at developer Naughty Dog, despite the beloved sequel not really ‘needing’ it as much, and so here we are.
And, look, the core game here? It’s still the incredible five star experience it was back on PS4. Picking up five years after the events of the first game, a shift from original protagonist Joel to an older Ellie — and later, new character Abby — makes for another harrowing journey. It remains a thrilling, tense, and horrifying tale, packing all the narrative twists and emotional gut-punches that made it so impactful in the first place. Yet, likely cognisant of the reaction such a short order remaster would engender, Naughty Dog has made this a more compelling package than Part I.
This is the definitive way to play one of the best games of the decade.
The remastering itself is on par with its predecessor, offering a ‘Fidelity’ mode for true 4K rendered visuals at 30fps, or ‘Performance’ mode which delivers 1440p renders upscaled to 4K at 60fps. Although the leap isn’t quite as striking given how good Part II’s visuals already were, this is undeniably the best the game has ever looked, whichever mode you opt for. Similarly, the return of a host of accessibility features — visual filters, audio options, control tweaks, and more — make the game more approachable for all players. Elsewhere, being PS5 native allows for true integration of DualSense controller features, with more advanced haptic feedback and clever use of the joypad’s speaker for some truly unsettling encounters with the infected.
What elevates it all though is the trove of ‘Making Of’ content. Three ‘Lost Levels’ give a fascinating look at the game’s development, offering pre-alpha builds of planned sections of the game that didn’t make the final cut, playable with developer’s commentary. Similarly, there are a host of behind-the-scenes videos and four episodes of the official The Last Of Us podcast dealing with the game’s creation, plus a director’s commentary for the game itself, that provides insight on cinematics. Another nice touch is the inclusion of a guitar free-play mode, allowing you to revel in what were quiet digressions in the main game by strumming chords for as long as you like.
Perhaps the biggest draw though will be the new ‘No Return’ mode, a roguelike survival mode. This puts players through five rounds of combat against randomised enemies, while trying to complete various objectives, gathering supplies, and upgrading your character between outings. It’s quite a departure from combat in the campaign, which is often frenzied and sudden, if not avoided entirely via stealth, but once you’re accustomed to the different flow, it’s a potent reminder of how strong The Last Of Us’ combat mechanics are to begin with.
If there’s one part that frustrates, it’s that some of the bonus content, such as full game director’s commentary, isn’t unlocked until you’ve completed the story at least once. Given that for many players, Part II Remastered will be their second go around with the game anyway, barring this content feels slightly stingy. Though it is worth noting that saves from the original can be transferred over, allowing players to sidestep this obstacle.
While the rapid appearance of a remastered version may still raise some eyebrows, Naughty Dog really has pulled out all the stops with this release. This is the definitive way to play one of the best games of the decade, and with a cheap £10 fee for those who own the PS4 original, it’s a very welcome upgrade.