PlayStation has a multiplayer problem, but The Last of Us can fix it
OPINION: PlayStation has rightfully been lauded for its excellent game library in recent years.
The likes of Uncharted, Horizon, The Last of Us, Ratchet & Clank, Spider-Man, God of War and more have helped ensure a steady flow of top-notch first party games on PlayStation’s consoles. Most people would agree that this is the core reason why the PS4 and PS5 had seen such incredible sales figures.
And yet, rather surprisingly, PlayStation still doesn’t have a high-profile multiplayer game in its modern first-party library. Given the level of investment Sony has put into its exclusive games, that’s a big surprise, especially in an era of the hugely popular Fortnite.
This would be a little more understandable if PlayStation’s main rivals were also lacking in this department, but that isn’t the case. While Xbox has been struggling to fill up its first-party library overall, it hasn’t been short of multiplayer gems. Forza Horizon 5, Halo Infinite and Sea of Thieves all scratch that multiplayer itch, while even Nintendo has Mario Kart, Smash Bros, and Splatoon.
Sony has made no secret that it wants to improve its position in the live service market. In fact, just today (May 24) it confirmed that it has 12 live service games in production. The acquisition of Destiny-maker Bungie also emphasises how keen Sony is to have a high-profile multiplayer series.
Fortunately for Sony, the PS5 could be getting a high-profile multiplayer game very soon in the form of The Last of Us: Factions. Naughty Dog has already confirmed that it’s working on a multiplayer iteration of its post-apocalyptic epic, although the name is still up in the air.
I’d typically roll my eyes at a studio launching a separate multiplayer spin-off of a popularly single-player game. But this case is different, as Naughty Dog has already proven the sky-high potential of The Last of Us when it comes to multiplayer.
When The Last of Us first launched on PS4 back in 2013, a multiplayer mode called Factions was also included. This went under the radar for most, with the award-winning campaign drawing most people’s attention instead.
But as someone who invested hours and hours into The Last of Us multiplayer, I can confirm that it was surprisingly excellent. Ditching the story centred around Joel and Ellie, Factions instead focuses on the ongoing war between the Fireflies and FEDRA.
Factions embraces the scavenging aspect of The Last Us, with a particular focus on stealth. Instead of charging around the map guns blazing like in Call of Duty, the best approach in Factions is to sneak around the map, planting booby traps and hunting down gear to upgrade your arsenal.
As a result, multiplayer matches often ended up feeling incredibly tense. To hype up this pressure even further, Naughty Dog added in the genius supplies system. When winning a game (or getting a high kill count) you’ll receive a bounty of supplies, which are required to keep your virtual clan healthy. Consecutive wins will see your clan grow in size, but hit a rough patch, and you will start to see people in your clan become hungry and sick, before ultimately dying.
This was a very clever alternative to a basic progress system you’ll find with most multiplayer shooters. It blends in nicely with the bleak nature of the story campaign, while also adding an emotional incentive to win every multiplayer match. I’m excited to see how Naughty Dog expands upon this system for the upcoming standalone game. I’d also love to see the studio incorporate the zombies (or rather Runners and Clickers) integrated into the multiplayer. It’s clear that it has a lot of potential.
Interest in The Last of Us series seems to be at an all-time high too following the release of the HBO TV series. As a result, The Last of Us: Factions (or whatever it will eventually be called) is in a fantastic position to kickstart PlayStation’s newfound focus on multiplayer games.
I’m expecting The Last of Us: Factions to be announced at the PlayStation Showcase. If that turns out to be true, and it gets a 2023 release date as expected, it would jump right to the top of my most anticipated list of games for the remainder of the year. And if PlayStation can finally launch a high-profile multiplayer game, it’s going to become even harder for Xbox to close the gap – at least until it acquires Call of Duty.