This is a bit of a tricky one. The Last of Us Part II: Remastered stretches the definition of ‘remaster’. Yes, it does technically include visual and performance upgrades, and yes there are brand-new features and modes (more on that below), but they are minimal. Certainly far removed from the generational bump that was the remaster for the original The Last of Us.
With this in mind, it didn’t make sense to me to write out a full, scored review for this release. Ultimately, the core game is still the incredible and harrowing experience I described in my review way back in 2020. There are just now a handful of new modes and behind-the-scenes features to check out.
To start with the visuals, performance mode runs at a solid 60fps but then so did the PS5 patch for the PS4 version. The remaster does have a slight bump in resolution but it will likely go unnoticeable to the vast majority of players. Naughty Dog advertises improvements to texture and shadow resolutions too but according to Digital Foundry’s investigation, these are extremely hard to find.
The load times are possibly the biggest technical improvement. The PS4 version of the game would often have you waiting over a minute to load in, this remaster takes around 15-20 seconds, which is certainly nothing to sniff at. Still, if your main draw for potentially buying or upgrading to this version is for visual improvements you may want to reconsider.
Now let’s get into the new modes. The Lost Levels are three short sequences that were cut from the main game. They’re largely playable but might be missing voice-acting, textures, animations, etc. Spread throughout the levels are commentary nodes where Naughty Dog devs discuss the premise of the level, what interesting things it did, and why it was ultimately cut. Undoubtedly fascinating stuff for anyone interested in game design, but you’ll see everything they have to show you in around 30 minutes.
Guitar Free Play is another new mode where they’ve given you the time and space to muck around with the guitar-playing mechanics that feature in the story. You can swap out the character to be Joel, Ellie, or even the famed composer Gustavo Santaolalla. You can unlock different guitars and effects. Again, it’s neat but hard to imagine most players will spend more than a couple of minutes fiddling with it.
The meatiest edition is undoubtedly the No Return mode, which is essentially a roguelike using enemies and arenas from the campaign. You can unlock different characters, playing as Dina, Lev, Tommy, and more as well as many other variables. There are different types of encounters, from a standard horde mode to one where you have to survive until the time limit runs out. Everything is reset on death, however, so it lacks the sense of progression of something like the recently released God of War: Ragnarok’s Valhalla mode.
For those who can’t get enough of this game’s combat, I can see No Return being a decent distraction. For me, I had my fill after just a couple of rounds. There just isn’t enough to it for me to invest the time and I have honestly had more fun replaying the same or similar combat encounters in the main campaign.
By far the most exciting addition in this remaster is the commentary tracks that have been added to every cinematic of the main story. These feature game director Neil Druckmann, narrative lead Halley Gross, and the main cast discussing what it was like to shoot these scenes, what the importance of various moments was in terms of the overarching script and character development, as well as early or different versions of the narrative.
If you import a completed save from the PS4 version you can access every cinematic right from the start. I had a lot of fun just going through these and listening to the various anecdotes that range from funny and weird, to surprisingly emotional.
The Last of Us Part II: Remastered is a bit of a hard sell. Yes, it technically improves things and adds a handful of new modes, but I’m not convinced these features justify its existence. For those who own the PS4 version, it only costs $15 to upgrade, which I suppose isn’t too bad. Whether the purchase is worth it or not will largely depend on how interested you are in the extra modes, and whether you’re ready to revisit this devastating story.
The Last of Us Part II: Remastered was played on PS5 with a code provided by Sony.