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Geek Review: The Last of Us Part II Remastered

While not the standard video game icon that has come to define a game publisher ala the Italian plumber or blue erinaceidae, The Last of Us duology has become synonymous with developer Naughty Dog, publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment and, more importantly, three generations of PlayStation consoles. 

While the presence of a third game in the series is still in question, remasters of the games for new generation of PlayStation consoles have allowed the series to find new audiences and the latest, The Last of Us Part II Remastered, makes its debut on the PlayStation 5 (PS5), offering graphical enhancements, adding additional commentary and a new game mode for fans and new players. 

The Last of Us Part II Remastered
The Last of Us (HBO series).

With the HBO streaming series of the same name winning accolades and drawing a new generation of players to the franchise, especially with a second season in production, it’s unsurprising that Sony has picked this time to re-release the game with several upgrades, so if you played the 2020 original on the PlayStation 4, and own a PS5, you should definitely pay the S$13 upgrade fee to access the remastered edition on Sony’s latest console. Heck, Sony is even allowing you to transfer your save data from your PS4 to your PS5, either via a USB drive, or via the cloud if you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber, so there’s little incentive in not taking the path. 

The Last of Us Part II Remastered

Visually, the graphics are sharp, from a source that’s already amazingly detailed, and unless you’re gaming on a massive 75-inch TV that would benefit from the native 4K output in Fidelity Mode, or 1440p upscaled to 4K in Performance Mode, the differences are more superficial, as if someone fed the original video into an upscaler, or used more advanced software to colour correct some of the game aesthetics, with greater attention to details in the shadows and lighting. Just don’t expect the restyled graphics of older games remade with modern sensibilities as this looks as rich and beautiful as when it came out four years ago, and while the enhancement in details are rather miniscule, you get a more robust presentation, so Abby looks a lot grittier against the white snow, Joel and Tommy look a lot more worn and bloody, and Ellie… let’s just say that moment in Eugene’s basement with Dina is a lot more livelier and natural looking than you remembered.

The game has also adapted to the advanced haptic controls of the PS5 DualSense controllers, offering more precise force feedback and haptic triggers, so that recoil from the shotgun tearing through the clicker feels different from that handgun that just delivered the headshot, and from that pistol of Joel’s – not that it matters because when the runners swarm around you and the stalkers descend on your position, the tendency to button-mash in frantic retaliation is normal. And because of the better hardware, the transition between scenes when you control the character, to when the narrative unfolds as a cut-scene is much smoother, with improved load times to let you jump right back into the action. 

There are some other new secondary features that don’t necessarily impact gameplay for the majority of gamers, including Descriptive Audio and Speech to Vibrations on the touchpad, that serve to enhance the game’s accessibility features. To that end, the game has added a few new modes that extend the pleasure of remaining within the confines of the game, while not impacting the original game.


‘No Return’ Game Mode

The Last of Us Part II Remastered

As much as we can love The Last of Us series, it’s a mix of cinematic narrative intersecting action that meets on rails, where if you run, dodge and jump around – and survive – long enough, you’ll get to where you need to be on the map, because action is just one element in the game, but what if that becomes the focus?

No Return brings you across the various locations throughout the game, drops you in and throws randomised encounters at you, but instead of running away and escaping, the focus here is on combat and survival. Oh, do you recognise the location and remember that clickers or members of the Washington Liberation Front or WLF don’t appear here? In No Return, anything is possible as you’re exposed to a series of enemies, leading up to boss battles.

It’s also here that you leave the confines of playing as Abby or Ellie, and step into the shoes of Dina, Tommy, Jesse and other characters. Each character also offers distinct character traits – Ellie starts off with a recipe for molotov cocktails, while Abby is more physical in her takedowns and heals with melee kills, and you unlock new characters as you progress.

The good news is that this mode is available the moment you boot up the game, though it’s recommended that you playthrough the game before starting on it, as newcomers will need to master the nuances of countering attacks and takedowns.

There are four types of challenges in this. Assault simply piles on waves of enemies at you, while Capture requires you to break into a safe guarded by enemies, and filled with precious supplies. Holdout requires players along with an AI-controlled partner survive against a swarm of infected, while Hunted is a timed survival mode where you have to outlast the clock against waves of enemies.

Once you make it all the way to the end, you’ll face off against one of six game bosses that you’ll unlock, and will appear randomly in subsequent playthroughs. While survival is key, rewards will be dispensed regardless if you win or lose, and unlike level restarts, each No Return run is different from the one before or the one after, so you can’t restart each time hoping to memorise and master the level.


Lost Levels and Commentary

The Last of Us Part II Remastered

Appreciation of Lost Levels depends on how much you adore the game as it cobbles together three early development levels that ultimately weren’t included in the final release. These levels – Sewers, Jackson Party, and Boar Hunt – come with commentary and developer insights. And for those who love watching making-of documentaries, the game comes with one more surprise: a trailer for an upcoming feature-length documentary on the making of The Last of Us Part II. For fans of the live-action, series creator Neil Druckmann has indicated that elements from the Lost Levels might make its way to the second season, so explore away and be prepared to be spoiled.


Guitar Free Play

A-ha! There’s a moment early in the game where Ellie serenades Dina after arriving at the Valiant Music Shop in Downtown Seattle, playing and singing iconic 80’s synthpop track, Take On Me. Strumming the guitar with the trackpad while hitting the guitar keys with the left joystick seems weird at first because it’s not Rock Band or Guitar Hero, but the action of guitar ‘playing’ grows on you and the Guitar Free Play just lets you strum the guitar at any time by accessing the extras section in the menu. 

Individually, the additional parts of The Last of Us Part II Remastered don’t offer a new game experience, though it gives combat-focused players a new way to enjoy the action foundation of the franchise. Ultimately, it offers improvements to the features players enjoy most, making it worth a play especially if you’re new to the game.

The Last of Us Part II Remastered is available on the PlayStation 5 PSN Store for S$67.90. Owners of the physical copy of the PlayStation 4 game can insert the disc into their PS5, and upgrade their copy to the Remastered version for S$13.

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

It’s been less than four years since the original, and the original game’s appearance at the tail end of the PlayStation 4’s life cycle means that The Last of Us Part II Remastered was inevitable. The game itself remains close to the original, and it’s the inclusion of the ‘No Return’ mode that warrants the S$13 upgrade fee. Ultimately, it’s a small fee to pay for one of the best games on the platform.

Overall
9/10
9/10
  • Gameplay - 9/10
    9/10
  • Story - 9/10
    9/10
  • Presentation - 10/10
    10/10
  • Value - 8/10
    8/10