Why the Return of The Last of Us Multiplayer Will Be Worth the Wait
The Last of Us Part II not having multiplayer at launch is the best choice Naughty Dog made not only for players, but also its developers.
Ever since I watched The Last of Us Part II trailer at the most recent State of Play presentation, I can’t get the game out of my mind. Actually, that’s a lie – I’ve had The Last of Us on my mind since the moment I knew we were getting a sequel. But now, even more so, I find myself engaged in countless daydreams of the gameplay footage that was shown. Can we take a second to reflect on how amazing this game looks? We have new Infected called Shamblers, vicious guard dogs who can sniff you out, intelligent NPCs that know each other by name, and the most insane, fluid animation I have seen in a game in quite some time, if ever.
Aside from the gameplay and fleeting glimpses of the story, the biggest reveal from the trailer was Joel, whose weathered and rugged face was a welcoming gift. Although it wasn’t so much a surprise that Joel is in The Last of Us Part II (since he was seen in the reveal trailer), it was more seeing an old friend and witnessing how much they have been through as they wear their pain so vividly upon their face — each wrinkle and grey hair telling a harrowing tale. Recently, times have been particularly hard on TLOU community too with the dreaded news – on Outbreak Day, of all days – that players won’t get a multiplayer component with The Last of Us Part II. This report was met with instant outrage, especially for those who still play the original Last of Us online multiplayer, Factions, and some who have pre-ordered the game solely to play the online mode.
As a long-time player of Factions, I too was surprised to hear this news, but after 10 minutes of scratching my head — I knew there was more to the story than this. Naughty Dog has always known how much Factions means to fans; they’ve been diligently listening to the community all this time, coupled with the fact that they have had job openings for a multiplayer team for quite some time, with many members of Naughty Dog being huge fans of the multiplayer saying that there was something bigger in the pipeline for this beloved mode, and hopefully that means a standalone version of it. Thankfully, Naughty Dog released a statement to say that even though we won’t get a multiplayer mode at launch with The Last of Us Part II, players will “eventually experience the fruits of our team’s online ambition,” and for me — a weekly player of Factions for the last six years — this was music to my ears.
I have come across many people who have asked me what my favorite multiplayer is and I’ve always said “The Last of Us Factions.” This is sometimes met with a bemused look like I’ve just told them something truly shocking. “The Last of Us has a multiplayer? I didn’t know that!” they would reply, and this is one of the first reasons why I don’t mind waiting for the online mode this time around. When The Last of Us released in 2013, the multiplayer side of it was so poorly promoted that no one knew that this game even had any kind of online abilities. After some time, dedicated players began to grow that side of the game, making it one of the most unique multiplayer modes in gaming history. This time around, Naughty Dog isn’t leaving it solely in the hands of its player base to get the word out about how great it is — this time they are doing things right where very few people will have the opportunity to say “The Last of Us has a multiplayer?”.
There is a big part of me that thinks that the drama surrounding The Last of Us Part II having no multiplayer and leaving it until late on in their development to let people know this news was a really genius PR stunt. Naughty Dog is clever, and given what I said earlier about how much they actively listen to the community, I think it’s fairly certain that they would have known how much of an outcry that information would cause, making The Last of Us‘ multiplayer the topic of discussion from everyone within the gaming universe. It’s also no coincidence that The Last of Us Remastered has gone free on PlayStation Plus this month, making way for fresh players to experience the little-known multiplayer for the first time. This will give a whole new group of players a taste of what the fuss is all about, and what’s in store for them when the studio (hopefully) reveals “Factions 2.”
Another reason why we should fully support waiting for the new Factions is the sheer amount of pressure put on studios these days to produce content quickly and falling victim to high demand, as we’ve seen from games such as Fortnite. Crunch at major studios has been widespread and something that’s extremely difficult to hear about. Naughty Dog — even though there have been previous reports of excessive work hours at the studio — have mindfully taken things at a slower pace with The Last of Us Part II for the sake of their developers. This game is already so immense: it’s much bigger than the original and needs to be on two discs. That’s also coupled with the intense strain already on Naughty Dog to create another masterpiece.
Having them dedicate their time to the single-player aspect first and then dividing the project into a separate project reduces the risk of crunch culture, and that is always a good thing. Players who are still outraged need to consider the human cost of such a huge production like this, first and foremost; while it’s disappointing news to hear, also understand that your personal need for an aspect of a game should never outweigh the mental health effects that such a work environment creates for its developers.
TLOU Strategist, a highly-regarded member of The Last of Us multiplayer community and dedicated Factions YouTuber, spoke with me recently about how they felt about The Last of Us Part II multiplayer and what has kept him continuously playing Factions. He started the conversation off with wanting to touch upon a Battle Royale mode that some players want to see implemented into TLOU2 multiplayer: “Firstly, I hope that The Last of Us Part 2 won’t have a Battle Royale due to the lack of human connection that we see implemented so well in Factions.” He continued that “Battle Royale mostly becomes all about yourself and the core mechanics of that type of game is designed more towards the single-player element. This goes against the uniqueness of TLOU multiplayer as it involves the integration of proper teamwork in a small, intimate environment.”
TLOU Strategist expressed that he wouldn’t have any issue waiting until The Last of Us multiplayer became available on the PS5, as this would lead the player to bear witness to some amazing developments. This time, more could be done to up the ante because when Factions landed on the PS4, nothing groundbreaking was brought over from the original version on PS3. Talking about what has kept him coming back to Factions religiously, TLOU Strategist stated that there’s “no other third-person multiplayer experience of its kind elsewhere due to its slower pace, this is rare these days.” He then went on to discuss why teamwork within Factions is so important, and why it stands out from the rest:
“Going against someone who really irritates you (from the opposing team) and then when the team switches over, you get that same person on your team but then find out that they’re actually a pretty cool person — they weren’t trying to be this malicious person to me personally. So to me, this highlights the core foundation of the two sides of the human condition and this in itself is such a unique occurrence to witness in a multiplayer mode. This is why I don’t mind waiting [for TLOU multiplayer] — I know it’s going to be something very special.”
I wholeheartedly believe that Naughty Dog’s decision-making in bringing The Last of Us‘ multiplayer later on is a healthy, and strategic move. We will get to enjoy, to the fullest, the years of effort the team has gone into making this sequel bigger, better, and bolder than ever before with the single-player. Further down the line, we will then hopefully get to experience the follow-up to what I think is one of the best multiplayer modes of the decade (yes, even better than CoD). However, seeing it potentially become its own standalone, fully fleshed-out experience could already make it superior than just being tacked on to The Last of Us Part II. This is the best scenario possible for both the developers at Naughty Dog — making it less of a chore and kneeling to pressure when it doesn’t fit in with the scope of the narrative just yet — and for players to experience the best version of Factions possible.
So in the meantime, let’s enjoy the anticipation as we ready ourselves to dive deep within The Last of Us Part II‘s storyline and finally uncover what exactly has set off Ellie’s need for violence and justice. Despite what we’ve seen from the game so far, I truly believe there’s a hell of a lot more going on here than what Naughty Dog have purposefully lead us to buy into from the trailer. Either way, this sequel will be one hell of a ride and I’m really looking forward to getting strapped in for it, even if that means having to wait a little longer for one of my favorite aspects of the series.
The Last of Us Part II will release exclusively for PS4 on February 21, 2020, and you can pre-order the game now over on Amazon.
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