At some point over the next year, Naughty Dog is presumably going to finally unveil the multiplayer offering it has in the works. Supposedly too big and ambitious to ship with The Last of Us: Part II, expectations have understandably risen as Neil Druckmann and co keep us guessing as to what it might entail. A reveal during some sort of summer showcase around E3 season sounds about right to me, with an upgraded PlayStation 5 version for the base game launching alongside it. I want to focus on what I believe is the most exciting piece of the puzzle though: the multiplayer offshoot we all know is coming. If the California-based studio gets it right, Sony has an online title that could carry it through the entire generation.
For starters, I think this expansive, separate mode absolutely has to be free-to-play. The biggest games in the world, such as Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone, don't charge you a penny to play. The Last of Us Factions must follow in those footsteps — I'm sure you'll be awarded some extra digital goodies for owning The Last of Us: Part II, but the base offering won't cost anything. What that most likely means then is the dreaded word hardcore communities hate the most: microtransactions. The Last of Us on PS3 was packed to the rafters with them and so too was The Last of Us Remastered on PS4. This would be nothing new for the franchise.
I have faith that Naughty Dog and Sony would handle this touchy subject carefully, however. The twosome will most likely take the route several other multiplayer titles have adopted and ensure any meaningful extra content such as new maps and modes will be free. It's the cosmetic items you'll be charged for, either garnered through a Battle Pass or purchased directly in an in-game store. That way, those who just want to play the game can continue doing so. There will always be those who continue to complain about the sheer existence of microtransactions, but I think this approach is the fairest of the lot. Meaningful content is delivered free of charge and supported by players who wish to invest more.
Next up, I think there has to be both a PS5 and a PS4 version. The former is obvious — it's Sony's latest console and The Last of Us Factions could take advantage of all those new bells and whistles. Get us into matches faster with the SSD, better visuals and framerate during firefights, and the possibility of utilising the PS5 DualSense controller. You know the score by now. It's the PS4 version that may be seen as slightly contentious, but I think it's an essential companion. Sony still has more than 100 million players using its previous system — it would be foolish to pass on the opportunity to give those users a chance to play too. Their progress, unlocks, and purchases would carry over into the PS5 version once upgraded, of course.
But what about gameplay additions? Well, I think the Infected have to be made part of the experience. Setting up a PvPvE situation, the standard Runners and Stalkers could feature on various maps to give you something else to think about. They're not a problem if you manage to sneak up and eliminate them from behind, but utilise your weapon in a tight situation and you'll reveal your position on the map to the enemy team. It would add a new dynamic to the undertaking, and we wouldn't stop there. Clickers could spawn at set intervals and block pathways, forcing you down specific routes and creating kill zones if you're not tough enough to take them down.
I'm also imagining a mode where the Rat King becomes part of the problem. Scrambling around for ammo and medkits in the dark, you and a group of friends take on the terrifying foe, with a long list of rewards your prize at the end. Maybe more of a co-op experience than PvP that one, but I like the idea very much.
One final mechanic I want to see expanded upon is the Camp, where in the original version you'd recruit NPCs from your real-life Facebook friends list and help to keep them alive with food and supplies. Except let's switch it out for people you're following on Twitter this time around, because who uses Facebook in any meaningful manner anymore? This could open the door to prominent Sony faces becoming part of the feature — let me recruit Shuhei Yoshida and Hermen Hulst once the world has gone to sh*t and help keep them alive! Naughty Dog has been advertising for an Economy Designer position, and I think this pertains to the Camp mechanic just as much as it does the game's overall economy.
The original idea for the Camp was to gather supplies and fuel during multiplayer matches to take back to your home base, and I think this can be expanded further. Give me the chance to prioritise those supplies for crafting to make new weapons and perks, or pump them into a stockpile of food and water so I don't have to worry about feeding my friends for a few weeks. There's lots of potential here if Naughty Dog wants to turn The Last of Us Factions into something big.
At the end of the day, I'm just a guy who's lucky enough to get to write about PlayStation for a living. I can't speak to the business side of this idea whatsoever, but given the fact that so many multiplayer games are taking this route, I think The Last of Us Factions would be on course for success should Sony do the same. The hardware manufacturer would have an experience it could support through the entire PS5 generation with a robust initial offering coupled with content drops every so often. With completely optional microtransactions to support it, there's no limit to how popular this could become. The next big game on Twitch whenever it launches? Quite possibly.
What do you think of Liam's approach to The Last of Us Factions? Should it be free-to-play or would you prefer to pay for it? And how should the general gameplay and Camp mechanic evolve? Share your ideas in the comments below.