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The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered review – good DLC wrapped in a pointless “remaster” of one of the best games ever made

How would you even score something like this?

The Last of Us Part 2’s multiplayer spinoff might have been taken out back and capped in the skull, but its weird little brother is still kicking. No Return takes developer Naughty Dog’s brutal and frenetic combat and transplants it into a roguelite mode, where you tackle a series of arenas with various characters, loadouts, and gameplay modifiers.

There’s something extremely funny about including a never-ending combat mode in a game about ending cycles of violence. It’s like adding a blooper reel to the extras menu of The Green Mile, but that’s video games, babeh. Anyway, guns and stuff!

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered No Return roguelike mode

The No Return roguelite mode is the biggest addition to this remaster.

Combat in The Last of Us Part 2 was a big step up from the original game. Fights felt desperate, scrappy, and about getting as much out of your limited resources as possible. But combat was discouraged. Make noise and you’d draw in deadly infected. Sound the alarm and enemies would flank and coordinate to take you down. Mess around and a dog would bite your face off. Kill someone and their friend would scream, “You killed Carl!” and make you regret your words and deeds. All of this is still true in No Return, but you’d better learn to stand your ground.

There are some missions where you can creep around with a bow and a knife and take out all of the enemies without alerting anyone, but there are also tense standoffs or arenas where you’re on the run from the word go. You get to appreciate all the work that went into enemy callouts, AI, the gore system, hit reactions, and all the other stuff you snuffed out by shanking everyone in the neck. You’re encouraged to apply violence efficiently, strategically placing traps and funnelling people into chokepoints until the smoke clears and all that’s left of the enemy is a clump of viscera dripping from the ceiling.

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered gameplay screenshot

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. One of the biggest improvements between The Last of Us and its sequel was the level design, which leaned into a more naturalistic approach, blending the lines between combat arenas and safe spaces. You never knew when you were safe and that fed into the tension. Here you’re always in danger, trapped in tiny combat arenas with limited options. Sure, there are buildings with windows, crawlspaces, squeeze-throughs, balconies, and flanking routes; there are cargo containers to hop between, and grass to crawl through. But you’re always boxed in, which means the best tactic is often to find the edge of the map and put your back to it, creating a kill zone directly in front of you – this is even more true in maps such as Jackson, a story area in the main game retrofitted to facilitate combat.

One thing that spruces No Return up is the introduction of new playable characters. Lev, Jesse, Joel, Tommy, Dina, Mel – Ellie and Abby are playable, but so are their pals. Each comes with a different default loadout, as well as perks or drawbacks. Joel can’t dodge, for example. Maybe that’s why he died.

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered screenshot

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered.

Each level you complete earns you scrap and other resources, which you can then use back at the safehouse before attempting the next level. Make it to the end and you’ll unlock more characters, more cards that mix up the gameplay, and add in new modifiers, giving you a sense of progression. It’s a fun distraction and, to be honest, the mode easily justifies the $10 asking price for the upgrade from the original game to this remaster. But it’s the only thing that does.

As an actual remaster, this package falls short. You could tie me to a chair and pop my kneecap off and I wouldn’t be able to tell you the visual differences between this and the game’s original release – especially not post the PS5 60fps patch. Calling it a remaster seems like a bit of a stretch, and I say that as a staunch The Last of Us Part 2 defender. For my money, it’s one of the best games ever made – playing it further enhances your enjoyment of the first game because the character writing is so layered and masterful. But if you’re here just to play the story again, you might as well just boot up the PS4 version.

The Last of Us Part 2 guitar minigame

Guitar Free Play is great if you know how to play.

The other major addition here is free play with the guitar, which is great if you know how to play music. I do not know how to play music, so I just make the characters seem (even more) deranged.

Then there are the Lost Levels, which give us a peek into in-development areas that weren’t included in the original release. These are unfinished and backed up by developer commentary which explains why they didn’t end up in the game, but they’re also levels that weren’t good enough to get into the game, which means you’re not missing anything by skipping them either. I did enjoy seeing the night of the community dance as Ellie, mind you, where the developers planned to let you mix drinks – crafting bench-style – and pretend to be a clicker in a game with the local sprogs, which was later swapped out for the snowball fight. Again, you can see why it wasn’t included. The game’s opening hours can already feel like a slog upon a replay and the last thing it needed was more downtime.

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered screenshot

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered.

So, how would you even score something like this? It’s a 10/10 game and this remaster takes nothing away from that, but now there are some 7/10 modes included as well. Oh, and it only costs the price of a London beer if you’re upgrading from the original. We’re at a point, however, where the word “remaster” has lost all meaning. What you’re really getting is the base game, a DLC pack that’s well worth the price of admission, as well as a set of curios for the hardcore fans to enjoy. I score it ?/10.