The Last of Us: Part 2, in the eyes of us here at Push Square, is a masterpiece. Naughty Dog’s divisive sequel surpassed the hype and then some with a shocking, heart-wrenching, and visceral tale of revenge that subverted sequel expectations in a bold and brazen way. So with The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered, a PS5 re-release, we’re faced with some big questions: why should we return to this Naughty Dog classic? And is it really worth the price of admission?
At the very heart of those questions is of course the original campaign, which remains one of the boldest gaming experiences in PlayStation’s decades-spanning history. It’s been four years since Ellie’s tale was continued on in bloody fashion, and now in 2024, it holds every amount of power that it did back then. Part 2 isn’t for everyone, as it shirks expected narrative beats to recontextualise the first game with merciless brutality. You’ll question whether you want to push the buttons on your DualSense controller, and whether that character you’ve grown to love is going down the right path. It serves as a potent reminder that Naughty Dog is one of the greatest to ever do it, and all of what makes Part 2 special is still here — but now it’s been made bigger and better thanks to this remastered effort.
But how exactly is it bigger and better you may ask? Well, we first have to consider what’s new with The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered. For starters you have visual and performance enhancements thanks to the PS5. And then you’ve got new skins for both Ellie and Abby to wear in-game, a new speedrun mode, new concept art, behind-the-scenes Lost Levels, and most notably, a survival roguelike mode called No Return. It even has a Guitar Free Play mode, for those that love to strum a tune as Joel or game composer Gustavo Santaolalla. On paper, this is a pretty impressive remaster, especially when so many before it have offered up much less — but is it all as good as it sounds?
Certainly the biggest query a lot of players will have concerns how much better the visuals really are. The Last of Us Part 2, which launched on PS4 in 2020, is easily one of the best looking games to come out of the previous generation, and it still holds up with modern releases to this day. What’s more, thanks to backwards compatibility, it already runs at a boosted 60 frames-per-second on PS5.
Now looking at this remaster, we have performance and quality mode options, with the former running an upscaled 1440p at 60 fps, and the latter rendering in 4K with a targeted 30 fps. Additionally, for televisions that support Variable Refresh Rate, there is an unlocked frame rate option, which does noticeably smooth out the quality mode, boosting the frame rate to somewhere around 40 fps. Even if we don’t quite think the visual upgrade is worth the price of admission on its own, this is still the best Part 2 has ever looked and performed. If you’re comparing side-by-side there will be a lot of pixel peeping to determine which is which, but in motion the game is a noticeably smoother experience – which works brilliantly with the fluid and hectic combat. At the very least it will ensure parity between The Last of Us: Part 1 remake and this, meaning the whole story can be experienced in one seamless and consistent level of quality.
Arguably the biggest technical additions to the PS5 version are haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. These immersive DualSense features are as brilliant as you would expect from a Sony first-party title, maintaining impeccably detailed rumblings and trigger resistance, making the game’s already top-tier action even better. It’s super satifying as you agressively reload your weapon and can even amplify an emotional cutscene with some subtle vibrations. Haptic implementation in Sony exclusives never fails to impress, and that’s really no different here.
Then there’s the extra content, such as Lost Levels, which in themselves are an incredibly interesting addition to a remaster like this. These are partially developed levels cut from the main game, featuring developer commentary on their design choices and ultimate reasoning for being cut. We can’t help but feel they’ve been slightly oversold, as the three levels amount to no more than a half hour of content, but what is there is fascinating. It’s not often that we get to peek behind the curtain in games development, and it’s cool to then see where the levels should have slotted in when playing through the main campaign. Really, our biggest gripe with the Lost Levels is that we were left wanting more — we’d love to see other studios take note and start to include behind-the-scenes features like this.
However, let’s bite into the real meat of this remaster: No Return. This survival mode sees players fight through five encounters, before facing a boss. After each encounter you will return to your home base where you’ll earn supplies to upgrade your character, buy and upgrade weapons and crafting recipes, and select your next stage. Encounters range from capturing safes guarded by Seraphites, to holding out from an onslaught of Infected. To spice things up though, modifiers are randomly applied across your run, which range from molotov rain to invisible enemies. Partner that up with the already brilliant and nail-bitingly tense third-person combat, and you have a roguelike that is continuously chaotic.
It’s hard not to compare it a little bit to God of War Ragnarok’s recent roguelike efforts with Valhalla, which we think has a better way of allowing players to risk it all to improve their build. There are aspects of risk versus reward here, like being able to choose which encounter you’ll face, completing Gambit challenges mid-encounter for small rewards, and Dead Drops where you deposit crucial equipment like medkits for a big reward when you return to base. With this approach, we still sometimes felt like we weren’t fully ready for the boss by the time it inevitably came around. However, The Last of Us isn’t a power fantasy; it wants you to survive by the skin of your teeth, so in that sense, No Return excels.
It also meant that by the time we reached a boss — sometimes after a 30-50 minute run — we really had to steady our nerves, as one fatal error could erase all our work. We experienced our fair share of heartbreak and complete euphoria as we were ripped to shreds, or progressed to victory.
What we really appreciate about No Return though, is its pacing. By the time we had beaten the final boss — of which there are six — we had racked up around 18 hours of playtime. This will vary greatly depending on the skill level of the player, but across our time, No Return managed to keep things fresh and engaging. There are ten characters in total to play as, each with their own starting weapons, recipes, perks and playstyles. Beginning with Ellie and Abby, you unlock the next character by playing through encounters. As you unlock more characters, you also start to unlock new modifiers, gambits, and encounter types.
So as you delve deeper into this roguelike mode, it steadily expands around you, becoming more dynamic and challenging in the process. Even defeating certain bosses will introduce new enemy types that will show up in encounters like The Rattlers. It does mean that ultimately there is a point where you’ve “completed” No Return — as once every gameplay aspect is unlocked, only challenges for character skins remain — but even still, you’ll likely have around 20-something hours before you’ve wrapped up the final challenge.
And that’s not to say there’s nothing else to do once you’ve completed the challenges. There are six difficulty levels to try out, including the infamous Grounded difficulty, while daily and custom runs mean you can really play around with all the modifiers to make it as gruelling an experience as you desire.
Looking upon the whole package, The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered is an excellent upgrade. In many ways it’s a sublime treat for fans of the series, with behind-the-scenes content that we lapped up, a survival mode worth the purchase price on its own, and small, albeit present visual and performative upgrades to one of the best games to come out of the PS4 generation. But more importantly, it’s the perfect package for those looking to experience Ellie’s tale for the first time; this divisive sequel still packs the same visceral punch that it did in 2020. Now partnered up with the Part 1 remake, The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered is the best way to experience this Naughty Dog masterpiece.