I don’t mean to beat down a dead horse with a 2×4 plank, but let’s face it – The Last of Us is a fantastic game. Perhaps the most understated is the game’s multiplayer mode, aptly titled “Factions.” Here you’ll align between the Fireflies and Hunters, a standard fare of loadouts, and a handful of character customization options. What makes this different from the atypical multiplayer experience is the emphasis on clan survival as a means of progression. It’s a clever metagame that enhances the universe Naughty Dog crafted.
When you begin, you choose between two alliances, Hunters and Fireflies. Your goal is to survive 12 weeks. Each match represents a day and you have a specified amount of supplies to gather for your clan. To gather supplies you heal, revive, and kill. “Endure and survive.” – the mantra of Ellie’s favorite comic series. Oregon Trail-esque notifications tell you that a Malaria outbreak has spread throughout your clan, and by completing a chosen set challenge within 3 days[matches] you can save your clan. And yes, you can die of dysentery.
Thematically, Factions is a nice compliment to the lore of The Last of Us. Each game mode is extrapolated and it actually makes sense. “Supply Raid” is Team Deathmatch, with 20 lives dispersed to both teams. “Survivors” is similar to Supply Raid, but the twist is one life per round – first team to 4 or best of 7 rounds takes the match. “Interrogation” is a new mode where both teams must locate the other team’s lockbox by interrogating [downing and executing] the opposing team. After 5 successful interrogations, the location to the opposing team’s lockbox is revealed and the mode shifts to an attack-and-defend struggle.
But there’s something missing. Where are the infected? The Clickers? What about the beloved Bloaters? The single-player campaign did a great job of changing pace between shooting hunters and shivving Clickers. Though Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City tried this when released in March 2012, the game is known for having strange level design and questionable AI. Some may argue that adding infected will destroy the mechanics of the multiplayer, as their inclusion might shake up the formula too much like an unopened 2 liter cola.
The inclusion of infected changes the dynamic. It will force players to move around the map and draw players out for confrontation while re-emphasizing teamwork. Too often I find teams staking out and waiting for the other team for an ambush. Camping is always an annoyance when it comes to multiplayer experiences, so sprinkling infected around the map would add a dramatic flair to an already tense multiplayer experience.
Imagine playing a round of Survivors with an optional Infected mode. As time begins to countdown, Clickers begin spawning. The “Sudden Death” notification splashes across the screen and you hear bellows from a Bloater in the distance. Suddenly, you see on the map that a Clicker grabs your teammate and you dash over to help. Not only does running alert the opposing team of your location, but Infected are coming to see what all the fuss is about.
Besides including infected to the formula, The Last of Us can use a multiplayer mode that emphasizes movement around the map. Capture the Flag has always been one of my personal favorites, but it needs a catchy title. “Infiltration,” maybe? Both teams compete to steal the duffel bag from the other team’s spawn area. Each bag you bring back gives you parts to use in the in-game store to buy ammo, armor, or loadout guns. First to 3 wins. Throw infected into the mix and you’ve got yourself a CTF mode that makes scoring challenging and as dramatic as the single-player campaign.
If tension and suspense are two pillars of The Last of Us, putting Infected into the game modes or as a separate option can make the Multiplayer experience as visceral as the campaign.