Few multiplayer games of the last decade invoked as much moment-to-moment tension as The Last of Us did back in 2013. Scurrying past a darkened hallway lit by just a fiery waste bucket and a squad of players stalking you from a few feet away proved to be an undeniable rush.
You find some cover behind an abandoned school bus as you hurriedly craft a Molotov cocktail and a shiv just in case. You’re the only one left in your party as your teammates spectate with bated breath. You activate listen mode as a gang of silhouettes inch closer and closer to your pitiful post. You cock back that revolver and hope for the best as their steps become almost deafening.
This is just an example of an encounter you may have during Factions; the multiplayer mode for The Last of Us. Naughty Dog was able to translate the tense, methodical gameplay of the single player onto the multiplayer in astoundingly seamless fashion. Whatever skills you mastered during Joel and Ellie’s adventure will safely transfer over to Factions. And so will your heart beat. In Factions, players hunt each other down in a 4v4 showdown. Three modes are available.
In Supply Raid, the two teams share 20 respawns and the goal is to eliminate the opposing team. In Survival – my personal favorite – each player has 1 life per round and the first team to win 5 rounds wins. Interrogation was the last mode added to Factions and had players locate a lockbox by capturing and interrogating an enemy player. All 3 modes are white-knuckle affairs but Survival is the most simplistic yet extraordinary of the bunch. With just 1 life per round, everything else feels magnified. A wrong turn or missed shot can lead to severe consequences. It truly feels dog-eat-dog just like the main game and suffice to say, players online are even more brutal than the hunters you encounter throughout the 20-hour campaign.
In Factions, crafting is your best friend and choosing when to craft is equally important. What’s more exhilarating than crafting a last-minute bomb just as a player is searching for you? It’s unlike anything I’ve ever played. The game rewards you for surviving long enough by giving you “supplies” that you then use to purchase armor, ammo, or even weapons like a shotgun. You can choose to hoard as many supplies as you want or spend them judiciously throughout a round. Materials you find in lockboxes or looted from corpses can be used to craft a variety of helpful items but you always get just enough. Like in the main game, your resources are painfully scarce and you often have to decide what’s more beneficial. Is a health kit a more prudent choice in the moment over a strategic smoke bomb? Should you upgrade your melee weapon or risk it all in a blaze of glory with a molotov cocktail? The Last of Us challenges you with these questions and you’re expected to react fast or die. Crafting can also be enhanced by unlocking tiers. Factions has a surprising robust amount of skills that you can enhance such as healing, crafting, sprinting and others. I always played as the healer so you’d find me sticking close to teammates as I healed and nursed them back to health. It was also a great way to rack up a ridiculous amount of points as I found myself topping many leaderboards without actually killing anybody.
Teamwork is vastly important. There’s a sense of camaraderie when you’re huddling and tip-toeing together through a narrow hallway. Do you split the squad up? Do you try to flank? Possibilities are endless and it’s a feeling of excitement and nervousness when you know the opposing team is plotting your demise from just a few feet away. Communication is also paramount. Don’t have a headset for voice chat? No problem, tag that pesky enemy on the rooftop for the whole crew to see and you’ve already contributed to the team.
Factions also had an interesting social aspect. Dubbed simply clan, players could lead a clan of survivors (Either Fireflies or Hunters) through 12 weeks. After each match played, 1 full day passes and the supplies you collected throughout the match can be donated to your clan. At the start of a new match, the player is notified the target amount of supplies needed for the well being of the clan. Failing in delivering these requested supplies can lead to sick survivors or even deaths so it is imperative you perform well in matches.
Naughty Dog took it one step further when they implemented Facebook connectivity which really freaked me out the first time I tried it. Once synced with your Facebook account, survivors in your clan assume the names of the people you’re friends with on Facebook. There were many times I failed to deliver supplies and it told me my friend Mike had died. Or it would tell me that my Sister is working in the garden. During attack periods, sometimes I was asked to choose which friend would live between 3 of them. This added a rather unsettling yet intriguing wrinkle to the already tense-filled multiplayer experience. Bringing The Last of Us universe into my social life was something I was not ready for and I loved every minute of it.
Although The Last of Us did get credit for it’s multiplayer prowess in some reviews at launch, it never really had a moment to shine. A strong multiplayer with an emphasis on survival should have been a bigger hit than it was. This is good stuff guys and good enough for large-scale tournaments. How gripping would it be to watch a live tournament of The Last of Us: Factions? Is there another game you feel should receive the honor of most underrated? If so, leave your thoughts down below and join in on the discussion.