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The Last of Us’ Factions Multiplayer is a Hidden Gem
Like any multiplayer component in a largely single-player game, The Last of Us’ Factions was bemoaned when it was first announced.
And while there’s a pretty extensive history of terrible multiplayer modes in traditionally narrative-driven games, it’s actually pretty neat to find that the multiplayer in The Last of Us is a fairly gratifying and, dare I say it, fun experience.
No, it’s not a collection of Joels sprinting around a map and blasting each other with overpowered firearms. And no, you don’t get to play as any of the main characters from the game. In fact, the only things that carry over from the game proper are the Fireflies, crafting, maps, and item scavenging. Otherwise, it is its own separate mode with interesting ideas and elements that make it a somewhat hidden gem compared to its hard-hitting campaign counterpart.
Interestingly enough, the multiplayer itself contains its own meta-game. You’ll side with either the Fireflies or the Hunters and will have to take care of your own group of survivors by collecting as many items and supplies as you possibly can to make sure they’re all healthy and well fed.
This meta game takes twelve in-game weeks to complete, with each match representing a day. As the days progress, you’ll be faced with challenges, encounter troubles, and have an added amount of pressure stacked upon you as you try harder and harder to make sure your clan survives.
This all takes place outside of the actual player matches themselves. And although you never have any tangible or real interaction with your clan, it still weighs heavily on you during the actual matches, as you can face dire consequences (including complete failure) for making mistakes or not completing objectives well enough.
While the meta game is great and actually gives some context and meaning to the overall experience itself, the gameplay is even more fun to take part in. You’ll have the choice to play either Supply Run or Survivors mode, with the first being a typical team deathmatch-style game that respawns players after death, and the latter being an unforgiving and more challenging mode that does not respawn, instead seeing each team go head to head in rounds. Each match starts with you and your team of four collecting items and moving carefully around a map and engaging the enemy team by using stealth kills, firefights, traps, melee attacks, and good old fashioned teamwork to down as many opponents as possible. You’ll be able to play as different classes and have multiple options available to you by way of scoring points and succeeding in a match, including supporting your team members by being a healing unit or even scavenging for supplies. The player who kills the largest number of enemies doesn’t necessarily reign supreme in Factions, which makes for a more interesting and tactical approach to the multiplayer itself.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that the learning curve is a bit steep. Until you find your groove and have a job that suits your play style well, you’ll find yourself dying time and time again at the hands of enemies and watching brutal executions of yourself go down while you look helplessly on. It can be a bit frustrating and disheartening at first, but those who are willing to stick it out and discover the optimal ways to engage the systems in Factions will find the matches to be a completely satisfying experience.
Crafting plays a big role in the multiplayer, as you’ll be collecting supplies around the map and may need items such as bombs, shivs, and bladed melee weapons. Some of the best times I had with multiplayer included setting bombs as traps and lying in wait while players ran by so I could get them with an upgraded melee weapon from behind. Strategy is an integral part to success in Factions, and the wise use of crafted items will play a large role in this.
Quite possibly the neatest thing about multiplayer is the fact that the game stresses teamwork and banding together in order to defeat the other team. It’s not necessarily needed in order to do well, but it really helps to have backup and healing support nearby when things go horribly wrong. On top of that, it’s much harder to defeat a group of people rather than a single person who’s decided to go it alone, and there’s something to be said about how cool it feels to win a match by working seamlessly together to take out the opposing team. This is something that is sadly absent from so many multiplayer modes, and seeing its implementation here was a stroke of genius I still can’t get enough of.
When I was first playing The Last of Us for review, I was admittedly lacking interest in the game’s multiplayer component, especially when you weigh it against the hard-hitting and compelling story the game’s single player campaign delivers with bravado. But after spending a fair amount of time working with survivors to take out enemy units and keep my survivor camp of 70 people happy, I’ve found that the mode allows for players to really live out the desperate feel of The Last of Us’ universe long after Ellie and Joel’s story has ended. If you loved The Last of Us and want to engage the game more, Factions is definitely worth trying out.