Naughty Dog explains how it made The Last of Us 2 look so good on the PS4

When The Last of Us: Part IIfirst launched in June 2020, players were blown away by the impressive visual fidelity Naughty Dog had managed to produce. This feat was even more staggering when you consider the wider context of the PlayStation 4 - a then six-year-old console soon to be replaced by the PlayStation 5.

As a result of its visuals, plot, and gameplay, The Last of Us: Part II was rewarded with strong reviews and sales figures, picking up seven awards in total at The Game Awards 2020.

Following The Last of Us: Part II's release, Naughty Dog spoke about the issues it faced in maintaining a solid 30FPS on the PS4, along with how they solved it.

READ MORE: The Last Of Us star Troy Baker recalls first impression of Joel: “I am not right for this role – at all”

Optimising The Last of Us: Part II

Speaking at the virtual SIGGRAPH 2020 Conference in August, Naughty Dog's graphics programmer Parikshit Saraswat explained how the problems the team faced when creating TLOU2.

"Developing a game that satisfies high expectations on visual quality while running at 30 FPS on a 6-year-old console platform, PlayStation 4, is quite a challenging task," Saraswat said. "The majority of the world of The Last of Us Part II contains alpha geometry which has poor rendering pipeline performance and full-screen expensive shaders with heavy resource usage."

In working with the PlayStation 4, Sarawat explained that the team used "plenty of hacks and tricks to push the hardware to its limits."

To achieve the maximum visual fidelity, Naughty Dog made several changes to how rendering worked, altering, for example, the occupancy of a pass to "leave the register file as empty as possible for the other asynchronous passes to run with it."

Similarly, in ensuring no memory bandwidth was wasted, Naughty Dog idnetified elements as the User Interface that "render sparsely on the screen" as areas for optimisation. Using custom bilinear filtering avoided any bandwidth waste that would require clearing textures and reading in further pixels.

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The Last of Us Part II PS5 performance

Unlike God of Warand Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us: Part II has not received a specific next-gen upgrade that would improve its performance. While simply running on the PlayStation 5 has led to some minor improvements in visual quality and through the use of haptic feedback, for example, fans are hoping for a further PS5 patch in the future that negates the need for a backwards compatibility mode.

A dedicated PS5 patch may be coming in the future, however. One industry insider recently commented on a ResetEra thread about PlayStation Studios, stating: "I know a patch was in the work at some point but I'm not sure if it's still happening or when. I'd be surprised if it doesn't get a patch, though."

If a patch does get released, we'd expect it to allow players to run The Last of Us: Part II in native 4K along with potential support for 60 FPS. We're also still hoping for a Factions mode, but that looks unlikely at this point.

READ MORE: Is Naughty Dog making a PS5 expansion for The Last Of Us Part 2, like Spider-Man Miles Morales?

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