The Last of Us 2 Difficulties Explained – Which to Choose

Practice makes perfect

Aside from being (r)evolutionary in its wide range of accessibility options, The Last of Us Part 2 also offers an unorthodoxly long list of selectable difficulties right from the start – seven, to be exact. It’s not just quantity over substance though, as they all offer a different type of experience. Read on to learn more about the “ins and outs” of these choices.

7. Very Light Difficulty (In-Game Summary): "Explore and experience the story with a lighter combat challenge. Camera and aim assistance settings are enabled by default."

This is the “tourist” mode of this game. Enemies are slow, inaccurate, and unorganized, while the characters have, basically, plot armor. All resources are more than plentiful, so there isn’t any room for discomfort here. Guns-ho!

How it works:

  • Enemies have very limited vision and incredible slow reaction time.
  • The player can survive unrealistic amounts of both ranged or melee attacks.
  • You’ll practically be tripping over the supplies scattered all around.

Choose this difficulty if:

  • You want to get to the conclusion of the story as quickly as possible.
  • You want to admire the beautiful visuals at a leisured pace.
  • You are on your n-th play through, and just want to look for all of the collectibles and easter-eggs in peace.

6. Light Difficulty (In-Game Summary): “Less challenging than Moderate. Resources are more common and enemies are less dangerous.”

Another setting for those not looking for a realistic experience. Enemies still behave rookie-like, and there will be not enough targets to exhaust the generously offered ammo reserves.

How it works:

  • Enemies have somewhat believable, but still quite forgiving visual range.
  • Bullets can pose a threat, and close-quarters combat requires more precise timing.

Choose this difficulty if:

  • You are new to the series, but also want to finish the game without many rage-quits.
  • Simply don’t want to be seen choosing the easiest difficulty available.

5. Moderate Difficulty (In-Game Summary): "Provides a balanced experience. Resources are limited."    

The “intended” setting for players who experience the game for the first time, even for those who have mastered the original.  A healthy dose of scouring is needed to keep the supplies in the desired amount. Also, enemies should not be underestimated.

How it works:

  • Patrolling foes can sense Ellie if she is clumsy, and they will utilize flanking maneuvers.   
  • Clickers are fast and dangerous, able to one-shot the player.
  • Enemy snipers will position themselves correctly.

Choose this difficulty if:

  • You are looking for a “normal” type of setting.
  • You are willing to retry a few skirmishes, here and there.

4. Hard Difficulty (In-Game Summary): "For those looking for a greater challenge. Resources are very limited and enemies are more dangerous."

The eye-sight of your “human” foes is drastically improved in this mode, as is their hearing. Infected enemies, once alerted, quickly surround the player, all while moving unpredictably. So, every baddie is a capable combatant.

On top of that, health and ammo resources become much rarer.

How it works:

  • Stealth kills are difficult to obtain and alerted enemies react fast, with good aim.
  • Each missed shot carries a consequence.
  • Playing at full health, will not always be an option.

Choose this difficulty if:

  • You want to face intelligent, organized opposition.
  • You are willing to spend a lot of time after every skirmish in order to find enough resources to go on.

3. Survivor Difficulty (In-Game Summary): "An intense, demanding challenge. Resources are extremely scarce and enemies are deadly."

Grit – that’s what’s necessary to best this one. Reckless play is simply not allowed, and expert knowledge of enemy behavior is all but required. Victories are hard-earned, evoking a “by the skin of my teeth” type of feeling. So, control is very hard to maintain.

Ellie / Abby will be battered physically at all times, as enemies will do their best (and succeed) to put them in the middle of a pincer move.

How it works:

  • Enemies are super aware of their surroundings, and creeping up to them is no easy task. Moving silently with the L3 stick is a learned skill.
  • The game will “hide” ammo for your favorite and most upgraded weapons, so get familiar with every armament.
  • Tactics and cheap tricks should be used often. If more than one opposing faction is present, lure them against each other.

Choose this difficulty if:

  • You are a patient person.
  • You are allergic to “hand-holding” in video games.

2. Grounded Difficulty (In-Game Summary): "The most challenging and realistic experience. Listen Mode, HUD, and other gameplay elements are altered in this game mode."

Brutally realistic representation of a traumatic experience in a video game form. Each encounter should be studied separately and approached with the right tactic. The extremely limited amount of upgrade materials diminishes the range of choices available – the player will have to make best with what little is offered. 

Bullet shots deplete a good chunk of health, but melee strikes are deadly. Brawls are basically QTEs and require really precise timing for successful dodges. Every mistake is costly and will be punished. However, it all will feel rewarding and hard-earned in the end.

How it works:

  • The listen mode is completely disabled in this mode – so, no “seeing enemies through walls” this time around.
  • HUD is uncomfortably minimal. It takes quite the time to get used to not knowing how much health you got left.
  • Resources and crafting materials are precious and should be spent wisely.
  • Ammo is also scarce – headshots are your best friend.
  • Pro tip: not every scenario requires all of the enemies to be defeated!

Choose this difficulty if:

  • You have finished the game already and are looking for the ultimate challenge.
  • You are aiming for those bragging rights.
  • Simply feel masochistic at the moment.

1. Custom Difficulty: as the name implies, it is a 100% tailored experience. Like I said in the beginning, The Last of Us Part 2 is robust in its accessibility options. (

Therefore, many, many aspects of the gameplay can be tweaked and turned according to the player’s wishes. This includes cheat-like rules like disabling the enemies’ ability to spot the player if she is prone (complete invisibility as long as you crawl on the ground), all the way to the other end of the spectrum. The number of options is staggering, and the very range of components that can be altered by mere sliders (as if we were choosing the sound level) - must be seen to be believed.

How it works:

  • Almost every single thing about the gameplay can be altered.

Example: the visual cones for the guards, the frequency of their flanking maneuvers, the damage enemies do to you or vice-versa, the need to solve the game’s puzzles (yes, it’s true!), the rarity of health, ammo, or crafting materials (they can be set to “infinite”), the visibility of enemies (they’ll be colored with heavy red taint) and SO much more. 

  • … a ton of options, worthy of a separate article alone…

Choose this difficulty if:

  • You want to create impossible challenges for yourself.
  • You want to turn this game into a comedy.
  • You want to completely take the reins in your hands and fully apply your creativity, practically everywhere.

With all this being said, there are two more really important notes when it comes to this game understanding of the word “difficulty”:

  • regardless of which of the seven choices you opt for (and they can all be changed mid-game), you can enable a permadeath (one life) option as well
  • also regardless of the chosen difficulty, those aforementioned accessibility options will always have implications. For instance, the inherently “forbidden” listen mode in the “Grounded” difficulty, can be remedied by allowing the “enhanced listed mode” option in the options.

In summary, every difficulty can morph into many, many more things - all legit - and all completely under the players’ control. The only question is, which combination of limitations and freebies catches your eye first?



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Being born and raised in the Balkans, Konstantin has always felt comfortable doing activities like frenzying around Tristram, meleeing on Pandora, or virtuously slaying Silver Knights in Lordran.
Gamer Since: 1996
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Ghost of Tsushima, Minute of Islands, Diablo 3: RoS
Top 3 Favorite Games:Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition, Borderlands 2, Fallout: New Vegas

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