The Last of Us Part 2’s first major post-launch content update, set to be released on Thursday, Aug. 13, will bring back the first game’s extremely challenging “Grounded” difficulty setting and introduce a permadeath mode, developer Naughty Dog announced Tuesday.
The news confirms information that leaked out on Monday via the game’s Trophies, which Naughty Dog recently updated with two new ones that mentioned permadeath and the Grounded difficulty.
For all the life-threatening peril that you face in The Last of Us Part 2, it’s not necessarily a super tough game on the default difficulty settings, as long as you play smartly. The new Grounded difficulty, which players of the original The Last of Us may remember, greatly amps up the challenge in a number of ways.
On Grounded difficulty, enemies are more deadly, crafting materials and ammo are “incredibly scarce,” and gameplay assists like Listen Mode and certain HUD elements are disabled, according to Naughty Dog. Once the Grounded Update (which patches the game to version 1.05) is released on Thursday, the Grounded difficulty will be available from the start; you won’t need to unlock it.
If that doesn’t sound hard enough, the patch will also bring in a permadeath mode, which was not available in the original game. The mode is what it says on the tin: You’ll have to complete the entire game without dying. You can, however, choose to play the permadeath mode with “checkpoints on a per-chapter or per-act basis,” said Naughty Dog. (A single “act” in The Last of Us Part 2, like “Seattle Day 2,” can last for many hours.) It will remain possible to unlock a Platinum Trophy for The Last of Us Part 2 without earning the two new Trophies for Grounded and permadeath.
In addition to the challenging new ways to play The Last of Us Part 2, the Grounded Update will introduce some visual, audio, and gameplay modifiers. The list includes nearly 30 new graphics rendering modes, and they’re more than just visual filters — one makes the game look cel-shaded and another turns it into a pixelated experience. There are also 10 gameplay modifiers that are unlocked after completing the game, such as Mirror World (which, you guessed it, flips the game world horizontally) and more conventional ones like infinite ammo.
Naughty Dog is also adding a variety of “frequently requested” little options and features. The patch will allow you to manually disable Listen Mode and adjust the level of film grain. There’s also a feature aimed at the speedrunning community: the display of up-to-the-second playtime on save files. And there’s a collection of accessibility improvements to elements like the “Rat King” battle, using ropes, and tracking collectibles.
For more on The Last of Us Part 2, check out our review — and, after you’ve completed the game, our full-spoiler review.