Ellie And Abby Join New Rogue-like Mode in The Last of Us Part II Remastered

The Last of Us Part II Remastered
Reviewed On
PlayStation 5
Available For

It’s been four years since we first got to play The Last of Us Part II, the haunting conclusion (maybe) for this amazing game series. The The Last of Us Part II earned a rare perfect GiN Gem review score and really pushed the limits of what the PlayStation 4 could do, easily becoming one of the best-looking titles for that platform while also having its incredibly strong story, especially for a video game, to contribute to this masterpiece.

And then there is also the HBO television series which features the excellent team of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey perfectly bringing Joel and Ellie to life, which has again stirred up interest in the game. It doesn’t hurt the popularity of either the game or the TV series that everyone who either acts in the show or provides voice acting for parts in the game are amazing.  Even the supporting cast for both always bring a command performance. That includes Ashley Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Anna Torv, Melanie Lynskey and the late Annie Wersching. And for the show, there was even an award-worthy performance in the series by Nick Offerman who brought a somewhat minor character from the game’s story into the spotlight and won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama series. Suffice it to say, interest in the game series was at an all-time high after that, which was especially impressive for an older title where the first episode was released back in 2013 during the PlayStation 3 days.

Given those strong headwinds, developer Naughty Dog could have released a plain vanilla PS4 to PlayStation 5 upgrade for The Last of Us Part II, and it would have likely sold like crazy. But the developer instead chose to do all the things expected in a remake or platform upgrade, while also adding quite a few new features that most people probably never expected.

Let’s start with the standard things often found in cross-generation upgrades. The Last of Us Part II Remastered has been completely remade for the PlayStation 5. If your TV supports it, you can run the game in 4K resolution using fidelity mode, and it looks every bit like a title that was made natively for the PS5 console. Everything runs more smoothly now too, even though that was never much of a problem on the PS4. The water textures are incredible. You can now see far into the distance. And when running in HDR mode (again if your TV or monitor supports it) the dark areas, shadows and uniquely lit environments like inside the ruins of old buildings all look extremely realistic. Finally, the PlayStation 5 controllers add feedback to the experience, which is really something noticeable with some weapons like bows or powerful double barrel shotguns.

I have to admit that I was in no hurry to jump back into the main campaign, not because I don’t love it, but that first part of the story and what happens to Joel (who I now envision as Pedro Pascal – thanks HBO) was not something that I wanted to experience again. My sincere hope is that the new HBO series will find a way to change that plot point somehow. I hope that they do, otherwise Pedro Pascal is probably only going to be in the first episode of the next season. Anyway, once I held my nose and rushed past that point, I really enjoyed the rest of the campaign again. It really does tell a great story, and this time around I actually enjoyed playing Abby as much as Ellie.

Going through the campaign was, like the three times I played it before, a great experience made even better with all the improvements. But I found myself really enjoying some of the crazy combat encounters, and was sad when I had passed each one in the main story once more. But that is where the new mode that was added to the remastered version comes in.

Called No Return, it’s played as a series of mini-levels where you will be facing waves of either human enemy factions from the game or infected hordes. Each encounter generally consists of three waves and can be played using stealth and traps or by running and gunning, or a bit of both. Those encounters are strung together into a “run” using polaroid photographs to represent a path of levels leading to a final boss, with the player choosing their path based on what kind of levels they want to tackle. Picking one path burns the other possible choices in true rogue-like fashion, so you can only move forward. The run is over when you kill the final boss in the last mission, or when you fall in combat along the way.

There is a lot of variety in the missions for No Return. You can even play as many of the characters from the game, each with their own special abilities, although most of them will need to be unlocked by completing challenges with Abby or Ellie, your starting characters. You can also fight all of the major factions of human enemies in the game and also infected.

And there are lots of positive and negative effects that can shake up missions. On the positive side of those effects, you might suddenly be given all of the title’s crafting recipes or the ability to set enemies on fire with melee attacks. On the negative side, enemies can be given a health boost or Molotov cocktails might randomly rain down from the sky. After your first run, whether you win or fail it, you unlock the ability to set the parameters of the next run to your individual play style so that you can control what kind of enemies you will face, what types of random modifiers you might encounter, the overall difficulty of the encounter and how many resources are available to find and scavenge.

Although a run ends if you die, if you survive a level, then everything that you have earned during that fight carries over to the next within a single run. Completing a mission returns you to your base of operations for a rest and reward in scrap, supplements and coins. The scrap can be used between missions to upgrade weapons and the supplements give your character bonuses, just like in the main game. Coins are used at a special trading post to buy new weapons, crafting recipes or raw materials. You can also spend a little coin to reroll the post’s sellable products, which cuts down on the randomness factor just a bit so you can at least get one or two powerful weapons per run unless you are very unlucky.

The No Return part of The Last of Us Part II Remastered is arguably the best part of the upgraded title, especially for those who love the visceral and gory combat found in the main part of the adventure. I ended up playing it for hours on end, constantly unlocking new characters to play in subsequent runs alongside of different enemy factions and even new game modes. The one slight disappointment here is that No Return seems like a perfect opportunity for a co-op mode where people could work together against the enemy factions. It even sometimes puts a friendly NPC with you on a level, a further reminder of what could have been a really nice extra and a rare co-op experience. But don’t cry too much, because even as a single player mode, No Return is well worth playing.

As a final touch, Naughty Dog even included an endless music mode where players can take on the role of Ellie, Joel or Gustavo to strum away with a variety of instruments. No longer do you have to wait to get to those few spots in the title where you can sit down and play the guitar. Just load up endless music mode and play to your heart’s content. You can even unlock new instruments, like an electric guitar or a banjo for added fun. I expect that we will see lots of YouTube videos of people making music with this mode in the near future.

The Last of Us Part II Remastered is on sale for about $50 at various places or directly from the PlayStation Store, and if you already own the PS4 version of the game, you can digitally upgrade to the remastered version for just $10. When I saw that deal, it was an instant buy for me. Just the excellent No Return mode is more than worth that price, and everything else is also impressive. The Last of Us Part II Remastered is one of the best remakes for one of the best PlayStation titles, and it’s worth playing its gritty adventure (plus all of the nice extras) at least one more time with the new PlayStation 5 hardware.

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