For as Earth-shatteringly brilliant as it undoubtedly is, The Last of Us: Part II is not a game we’d necessarily describe as “fun”. It’s all a bit bleak really, isn’t it? There are brutal, sudden deaths that make you question your own mortality. There are repulsive infected, frothing at the blistered parting that’s split their skull in two. Even the survivors – especially the survivors – are ugly and flawed. Frankly, it’s a horrible, wonderful game and we love it.
But with the arrival of a new patch – v1.05 for those of you keeping check – Naughty Dog has decided to add a bit of levity. And also more brutality. So the headline addition here is Grounded mode, which turns off the HUD and increases the artificial intelligence. It’s tough, but the masochists among you may appreciate the inclusion of a permadeath mode as well. Just in case, you know, you want the pressure of a single mistake to lead to a full restart.
But as alluded to earlier, the Californian developer has also decided to have a bit of fun. A bunch of new gameplay modifiers added to the Extras menu allow you to enable all sorts of action altering mechanics, like infinite ammunition and crafting items. Some of these flip the game on its head – literally – as Mirror World completely inverts the level design. You can even opt to enable and disable Mirror World each time you die, just to keep you on your toes.
And then there are the rendering options, which are fun little toggles that’ll entertain you for a few minutes every now and then. Some of these simply alter the colour palette – like giving it a red or blue hue – while others go a step further, completely pixelating the visuals or adding a cel-shaded overlay. To be honest, they all unanimously look awful, and the effects don’t really work in this gritty and gruesome world like they did in the Uncharted games.
One feature that will delight many is the addition of gyroscope aiming, which is increasingly becoming a popular option among shooter enthusiasts. As with other games it’s used in, this effectively allows you to finetune your aim by making subtle motions with the DualShock 4 controller, and you can tweak the sensitivity to your tastes. It works well, and we subscribe to the idea that this should be an option in more games.
Here are the full patch notes, courtesy of Naughty Dog:
- Grounded Difficulty
- Permadeath Mode
- New update introduces two new Trophies: one for completing the game with Permadeath enabled and another for beating it on Grounded difficulty. Neither of these will be required in order to earn the Platinum.
New Graphics, Audio, and Gameplay Modifiers
- Mirror World
- Mirror on Death
- Slow Motion
- Bullet Speed Mode
- Infinite Ammo
- Infinite Crafting
- Infinite Melee Durability
- Infinite Listen Mode Durability
- Infinite Listen Mode Range
- One Shot
- Touch of Death
- 8-bit Audio
- 4-bit Audio
- Helium Audio
- Xenon Audio
New Options and Improvements
- Film Grain Adjustment Option
- Disable Listen Mode Option
- Motion Sensor Function Aiming Option
- Arc Throw HUD Display Option
- Aiming Acceleration Scale Option
- Aiming Ramp Power Scale Option
- Accessibility Improvements to Ground Zero encounter and rope gameplay
- Additional accessibility improvements
We played an hour or so midway into the campaign in Grounded mode and it’s undeniably a step up in difficulty. With the HUD completely stripped back and visual aids like Listen Mode eliminated, you’re relying more on your senses and instincts. One step in the wrong direction will see you put in the ground, and enemies are much, much more alert to your presence – picking you off if you so much as reveal your pinkie to their peripheral vision.
The combination of permadeath will certainly appeal to a very specific demographic, however, and the addition of two new optional Trophies adds incentive to explore these challenging new difficulty tiers. We should add that, while accessibility options can still be used, some of the other cheats are completely disabled in Grounded, which makes sense as it would kind of defeat the point of the increased resource scarcity if you had unlimited ammo.
As a meaty, post-release update, this is a good one – and it’s obviously free. We would like to see Naughty Dog do a little more with the game’s combat system, as it’s so good that we reckon it could benefit from some Days Gone-esque combat trials and such. But for now, this patch will add longevity to the game for those desperately seeking a new challenge, while the cheats and visual filters should raise a smile on even the most depressed faces.
Will you be replaying The Last of Us: Part II on Grounded difficulty? Do you reckon you could make it to the end of the campaign with permadeath enabled? Stay alive in the comments section below.