The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered review: PS5 upgrades add bite to PS4's best

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered review: PS5 upgrades add bite to PS4's best
Images via Naughty Dog

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes

Published 

16th Jan 2024 15:00

It’s strange to play a game three-and-a-half years after it debuted and have it feel as though it’s got more of a chance to stand on its own terms. The Last of Us 2’s initial 2020 launch, amid such unprecedented circumstances, showcased Naughty Dog at the peak of its powers but had much of its momentum pulled away by leaked cutscenes and the furore that followed.

Given that breathing room, The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered has become the best way to play the studio’s magnum opus, and while not a lot of what’s added here is necessarily worth the wait, it represents a chance as good as any to reunite with Ellie and Abby.

Editor Note: I’ll do my best to keep this review spoiler-free.

GGRecon Verdict

For those who haven’t played it yet, I feel like I can say with my whole chest that The Last of Us Part 2 remains one of my favourite games of all time, and this remaster has only reminded me of that.

Back to Seattle

Abby climbing in TLOU2 Remastered
Click to enlarge

Jumping back into The Last of Us Part 2’s key scenes, I was immediately struck by just how captivating its characters are thanks to the performances on display.

Joel and Ellie’s scenes remain a high watermark, but Part 2 introduces so many characters that contribute to the game in their own way. This is a story about hate, and the cyclical nature of revenge, sure, but its cast showcases so much more than that.

The brutality of the events in Seattle remains hard to stomach at points, but in more tender moments it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a game made for the last console generation.

Much of that is thanks to native 4K in The Last of Us Part 2’s fidelity mode, and while none of its improvements necessarily made my jaw drop, I’d imagine going back to the PS4 version would make that work feel all the more worthwhile. The lighting is definitely more dynamic, too, meaning individual fittings lead to more nuanced shadows, helping showcase the reworked textures.

Joel and Ellie in TLOU2 Remastered
Click to enlarge

Even more noticeable is the game’s improved framerate, with VRR supported if your TV can handle it. Sadly, mine can’t, but playing at 60 FPS made aiming so fluid I kept skidding my crosshair over the heads of infected and missing my shots until I adjusted. It’s worth noting that you can play the PS4 version at 60 FPS, though.

To talk about The Last of Us Part 2’s story again would only retread old ground for many of you, but now that we’ve been swept up in the TV show, it does feel like a great chance to recontextualise Joel’s choice - and Ellie’s subsequent deathwish. I hope that Abby gets a fairer shake this time around, too, as replaying in 4K gave me an additional appreciation of Laura Bailey’s performance capture.

No Return

No Return gameplay in TLOU2 Remastered
Click to enlarge

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered comes with some additional ways to play, and in doing so feels like it tiptoes closer to a more violent version of Resident Evil’s Mercenaries mode.

No Return is a roguelike mode that sees the player pick their character and tackle small challenge maps that feel like truncated sections of those found in the campaign. Complete objectives, earn gear, and take it to the next section.

On the one hand, free from the narrative conceit the God of War Ragnarok used to justify its (excellent) Valhalla roguelike mode, The Last of Us Part 2 No Return is a pretty customisable experience. Players can work through runs as a variety of playable characters, and there are even classic and current PlayStation Studios-themed garb to dress them in (Arc The Lad t-shirt, anyone?).

Then there are the missions themselves, which can revolve around clearing enemy waves, stealing supplies before a timer runs out, or simply holding your ground against an onslaught, each with a variety of modifiers or the chance to pit yourself one-on-one with the Rat King.

On the other, divorcing The Last of Us Part 2’s grisly combat from the story that at least attempts to justify those actions makes it feel like a very dark stealth game with a lot of throat-cutting and painstakingly recreated death rattles. To each their own, of course, and it still plays great, but I found myself wanting to head back to Valhalla for my wanton murder as it’s a little less grounded.

Play it again, Ellie

Ellie playing guitar in TLOU2 Remastered
Click to enlarge

Conversely, you can pick up The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered and not do any killing at all thanks to the option to just play guitar with your favourite characters. It’s a nice change of pace, and I feel like someone much more talented than me will be recreating current top 10 hits within days.

While much of The Last of Us Part 2’s original development played out like a public spectacle, warts and all, with the initial leaks, Naughty Dog has wisely leaned into breaking down at least some of the wizardry behind it with a series of Lost Levels that didn’t make the final version, as well as developer commentary.

Perhaps my favourite new feature, though, is the DualSense support. Sony’s controller gets a workout with this remaster, with snow crunching below feet, and weapons kicking back, hard. It also goes pretty haywire when you get caught by an infected, as it should.

The Verdict

It’s hard to talk about The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered without speaking directly to two different camps; those who have played it and want to know if it’s worth the ten-dollar upgrade fee, and those who have yet to experience it.

For the first, I’d say there’s more than enough here to warrant the upgrade, especially if the game got under your skin the first time around. Collectible character models, No Return, and the developer commentary are likely worth the price of admission for you alone.

For those who haven’t played it yet, I feel like I can say with my whole chest that The Last of Us Part 2 remains one of my favourite games of all time, and this remaster has only reminded me of that.

5/5

Reviewed on PlayStation 5. Review code provided by the publisher.

Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.