Despite stirring up some controversies regarding its story and characters, The Last of Us Part II successfully followed in the footsteps of its predecessor, garnering numerous accolades from award shows and gaming publications shortly after its release, solidifying its position as one of the best-selling PlayStation 4 games. On January 19, 2024, the game is making its debut on the PlayStation 5 with a Remastered version, promising significant visual upgrades supporting 4K resolution, along with technological enhancements like adaptive triggers integration with the DualSense wireless controller. The Remastered version also introduces new modes, including the highly-anticipated roguelike survival mode "No Return" and more.
Unsurprisingly, The Last of Us Part II Remastered maintains a gameplay system akin to the original. The narrative is also closely aligned with the original game, depicting the lives of Ellie and Joel in the peaceful Jackson, Wyoming, five years after the events of the first installment. However, the introduction of Abby disrupts this peace, propelling Ellie on a relentless quest for justice and answers.
In my opinion, setting aside the controversial story, the original The Last of Us Part II was already a high-quality masterpiece, featuring engaging gameplay, a unique narrative style, and top-notch visuals for its time. The current graphical upgrade serves as the perfect icing on an already delicious cake. While the enhancement in textures may not be overly noticeable, particularly in close-up scenes, the upgraded lighting and distance rendering in the Remastered version prove to be significant. These improvements substantially enhance the game's immersive quality, introducing a level of realism that contributes to the overall experience.
The fresh addition of the “No Return” mode has quickly turned this game into one of my recent top favorites. In “No Return”, you get to step into the shoes of various characters from the game, including Ellie, Joel, Tommy, Jesse, and more. Each character brings their own cool loadout and special traits, letting you mix up your playstyle. Whether you prefer Abby's close quarter combat or Dina's focus on crafting handy items, there's definitely a character that will suit your gameplay.
This roguelike survival mode puts us in a series of dynamic encounters, featuring Assault and Hunted modes, culminating in an epic final boss battle. In Assault mode, we have to face three waves of enemies, each starting in Search or Combat, depending on the encounter. We could opt for stealth if they're in Search, or go all out from the beginning if they're in Combat. In contrast to the Assault mode's task of eliminating all spawned enemies, Hunted mode presents an adrenaline-fuel challenge where enemies will spawn constantly. Here, survival hinges on either engaging in combat to keep them at bay, or skillfully staying hidden until the timer runs out. Either way, it’s a pulse-pounding experience that will eventually lead to the ultimate test against the final boss.
Every encounter unfolds on a randomly selected map, which are based on locations featured in the main story. Other than simply offering diverse arenas, these maps are peppered with valuable loot items – crafting materials, health packs, ammo, and more – enticing us to stay on the move, as we have to continuously gather these limited resources in order to survive. The intricate level design underscores the importance of map knowledge, particularly on higher difficulty levels, as proficiency in hit-and-run combat becomes crucial, serving as a critical skill to evade hits and minimize the risk of being cornered.
Another randomized element introduces various enemy factions, including the WLF, the Seraphites, and the Infected, each possessing distinct strengths and weaknesses. The WLF predominantly relies on firearms, keeping a distance from us, while the Seraphites and Infected lean towards melee combat. The diverse enemy types necessitate adapting our loadout for each encounter, such as employing trapmines against the Infected or utilizing smoke bombs against the WLF. Personally, I've encountered more challenges dealing with the Infected, given their speed. Getting ambushed by a Clicker from behind whenever I find myself surrounded by a few infected is also consistently frustrating, yet it highlights the game’s clever enemy AI that wouldn’t just simply stand by while their allies are taken down.
Furthermore, encounters are sometimes altered by random Mods, introducing buffs such as reduced enemy health or debuffs like faster enemies or increased enemy health, adding unique challenges to each new Run. The good news is that there are four distinct paths for us to choose before facing the final boss. Each path has all its encounters revealed to us (excluding Mysterious encounters), enabling us to evaluate their difficulty based on our playstyle, select a path to follow, and then proactively prepare for the impending challenges. For example, players selecting Tommy, skilled in sniping but lacking in dodging, might opt to avoid the mod that amplifies enemy speed, demonstrating the strategic planning element of the game.
All these randomized elements introduce a heightened challenge unprecedented in the game's main story. It demands not only adept control mechanics but also strategic thinking, spatial awareness, quick decision-making, and more. Similar to many other roguelike games, "No Return" is intentionally challenging, featuring a steep learning curve. Personally, I've found playing the game mode on Moderate difficulty to be significantly more demanding than the main story at the same setting. Without a doubt, mastering the game mode requires multiple playthroughs, as we eventually identify the playstyle that best suits us. The sense of accomplishment after successfully defeating the final boss for the first time is incomparable, sparking a desire for even greater challenges as I gradually conquer the lower difficulties.
With the introduction of “No Return”, the game's has arguably maximized its replayability, thanks to the combination of roguelike gameplay and a plethora of rewards for players to unlock upon completion of various Challenges. The Daily Run mode further promotes a competitive experience by placing players globally in indentical Runs, fostering competition on the global leaderboard. Given the cancellation of The Last of Us Online and recognizing the potential of the "No Return" mode, I'm convinced that incorporating multiplayer gameplay in the future could propel the game into another multiplayer sensation.
In comparison to The Last of Us Part I, Part II undoubtedly boasts superior combat mechanics. The inception of the “No Return” mode in The Last of Us part II Remastered brilliantly amplifies the enjoyment of the game's combat, immersing players in a series of diverse encounters that never feel repetitive. Considering that owners of the original game can upgrade to the Remastered version for just $10, I believe it's an absolute steal for fans who enjoyed the original and are eager to take on new combat challenges in the exciting new roguelike mode.
And that concludes Lluvia's review of The Last of Us Part II Remastered. Big thanks to Sony Interactive Entertainment Singapore (SIES) and Naughty Dog for granting us the chance to experience the game ahead of its release.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered is set to be released on January 19, 2024, exclusively for PlayStation 5.