Candied, crushed sago't gulaman
UPDATE: If you’re looking for tips, tricks or any other vital information to get better at The Last of Us: Factions, check out this handy resource page I’ve created on the PS4 GameFAQs The Last of Us Remastered message board.
Back when I made the hasty decision to get a PS3 for The Last of Us, I was preparing myself for one of the greatest single player experiences in my entire video game playing history. That’s exactly what I got, and I was fully satisfied having played it even for just that one time. I did pay full price for it, so I planned on replaying the game a couple more times to collect every item and experience the real struggles of the higher difficulty levels.
It’s been three months, and I’ve yet to touch the single player game since I first beat it. But I’ve logged in more than two week’s worth of hours in The Last of Us, and it’s all because of the one mode I didn’t even know existed for the game till I booted it up for the first time (and which I promptly ignored at the beginning).
Online gaming on consoles isn’t exactly a big thing over here in the Philippines despite the concept having been a thing in industrialized regions like the US, EU, and Japan for the past eight years. That’s because piracy is the big thing here, and as everyone knows, connecting online with a hacked gaming system is asking for trouble. Internet connection speeds here, while being mostly serviceable, also aren’t up to par with the standards of first world countries. There certainly are ISPs that offer faster-than-1mbps connections, but I’ve no access to those currently, unfortunately.
Then I was reminded that, one, I paid full price for The Last of Us; two, I’m actually living in the 21st century; three, that I actually know a couple of guys who play video games on the PS3 online; and four, that I paid full price for The Last of Us. I could at least try it out once, just for the experience (and to justify all those pesos I spent).
Surprise, surprise; the multiplayer is actually awesome.
Taking It Slow
Although this game was my first time venturing into online MP in consoles, I’ve played my fair share of multiplayer shooters on the PC through LAN gaming. Most of them are all run-and-gun free-for-alls that favor the quickest and the sharpest (and the one carrying the biggest gun). One player can rack up the kills, soloing entire teams to victory. It’s chaos, which is enjoyable in its own right, but it can get tiring for me.
Factions, as the multiplayer is called, still requires great aiming and reaction times for high-level play, but the chances of one player taking out all four players in an enemy team just based on precision shooting are close to zero. Taking a couple of shots will have you crawling on the ground and bleeding to death, and you start out with very limited ammo in keeping with the game’s post-apocalypse setting so you can’t go in guns blazing. Rush into the enemy by yourself, and expect a bullet storm or a molotov to the face.
Your weapons also don’t come fully maximized to their abilities, making them slower to fire, longer to reload, and harder to aim. Such a gameplay structure then encourages a much more deliberate pace, with the maps providing lots of cover and hiding spots to really emphasize the sneaking dynamics. The shivs from the single player are in play here, and they allow for instant stealth kills so you always have to be aware of your surroundings if you want to avoid a rusty blade jammed into your throat.
There’s a barebones radar that tells you where your teammates are, but your enemies will only show up on it when they’re firing a weapon without a silencer, sprinting across the map, or when they’ve been marked by you or your teammate with the R3 button. You can go into Listen Mode which works just like in single player to detect jogging and crouch-walking foes nearby, but it’s limited to a couple of seconds and you’ll have to wait for its bar to slowly refill before you can use it again.
These foundational gameplay elements build up just as much tension as hiding from clickers and hunters, forcing you to be patient and paranoid, as one false move that alerts your adversaries can lead to a gruesome death.
Survival of the Fittest
Maintaining the “improvise to survive” aspect of the single player, the multiplayer also carries over the crafting system but with slightly modified requirements. Scraps for crafting are acquired from tool boxes spread around the maps in fixed locations, and the beginnings of matches usually spark first in these areas when both teams compete for those vital items.
All 7 multiplayer maps present unique situations with designs that capture the atmosphere of The Last of Us perfectly while maintaining a balance that’s fair to both teams. Each one is actually a modified version of areas in the single player, giving them a feeling of familiarity with enough tweaks to surprise. Checkpoint restricts players in abandoned stores and the quarantine area for intense close quarters combat; the wide open areas of Lakeside and its many high perches slightly favors snipers until a blizzard kicks in and everyone’s cloaked in white; and Downtown keeps players in the dark with its many hiding spots and winding alleys.
Chokepoints, rooftops, ravines and car-littered courtyards all make for great battlefields of back-stabbing, ambushes and firefights. Death can strike anywhere so you’re always on your toes.
All the guns from the campaign are also in play with a couple of new additions exclusive to the mode. Each weapon handles differently, giving players a reason to try out everything from the fast-shooting but low power 9mm pistol to the one-two long-range punch of the hunting rifle.
I personally love the instant-down, room-clearing power of the shotgun, one of the six purchasable weapons that can only be used when you get enough parts to buy them during a match.
The inclusion of skills that give players all sorts of in-game abilities ranging from stealth perks such as becoming invisible to Listen Mode while crouch-walking to support powers such as creating gifts to give to other players further the strategizing into a complex system of varied builds and counterbuilds.
The three different game modes also demand full knowledge of which skills are best suited for the situation. Reviver 3 can be a game-changer for Survivors where there are no respawns until the whole team is wiped out. Strategist 3 lets you keep the pressure on the enemies guarding their safe in Interrogation as you keep respawning nearer and faster.
In the beginning though, players only have access to a few weapons and skills for customizing their characters unless they choose the preset classes that can’t be modified.
This is where the love-it-or-hate-it metagame comes in.
You start out the multiplayer with a choice to play as a Hunter or a Firefly. The only differences are aesthetic, as you have 12 weeks (with a match counting as one day) to keep your “clan” alive choosing either faction. During the course of the 12 weeks, you encounter a fixed number of missions that either add survivors to your clan or cut down a percentage of your population depending on how well you perform.
You actually get to choose what type of mission you do so you can prepare. The options vary from the offensive to the supportive such as downing a number of enemies with the semi-auto rifle or healing teammates a certain amount of times.
You start out with a handful that require a certain number of supplies to maintain. You get those supplies from the blue cans you pick up when you kill an enemy in a match as well as from the parts you earn by accomplishing particular actions like reviving teammates, marking enemies and crafting items.
If you get more than what’s required, your clan will grow but will then require even more supplies. If you get less than what your people need, some of them will get sick and eventually die if you keep playing badly and don’t get enough during matches. If they all die, you “lose” the mission, and you’ll have to start all over again.
It also serves the purpose of unlocking the rest of the weapons, skills and customization items such as hats, masks and emblems.
This system then encourages more competitive play, as sucking will lead to your clan dying and you not being able to use all the toys available.
There are downsides to it as well, as it has led to players quitting in the middle of matches to preserve their clans so that they can keep their clans alive and unlock hard-to-get items or keep their positions in the leaderboards.
It can also constrain your playstyle to a support role since you can easily get more supplies by healing, gifting, etc. Once I unlocked the admittedly badass Skull Mask which required 85 survivors in your clan by the end of the 12 weeks, I felt liberated as I finally had the freedom to screw around with all sorts of skills and weapons builds.
I’m A Monster
Speaking of gruesome deaths, the brutality reaches a new level with the many (literally) smashmouth animations your multiplayer avatar dishes out and endures. As I mentioned earlier, players don’t die right away when their health is fully depleted. They go into a downed state wherein a meter drains out over a minute or so before they truly die, giving their teammates a chance to revive them and get them back into the fray, or for the enemy to put them out of their misery with a hardcore execution.
Heads get caved in by 2x4s, faces get stomped on by unrelenting boots, and brain matter splatters everywhere with a point-blank shotty blast to the cranium. If a nail bomb were to explode nearby on a downed player, it’s a sure bet that one or two limbs will get severed in the blast radius.
The instant kills with the shivs, molotovs and flamethrower are equally raw. Victims gurgle as blood spurts out of their necks from getting shiv’d. They scream in agony when fire envelops their entire bodies, cooking them to a crisp in a matter of seconds as their screams die down, leaving a charred corpse for the victors to mercilessly teabag.
We’re All We’ve Got
Communication with teammates is key to gaining the upper hand, whether it’s in setting up ambushes, flanking the enemy in the heat of combat, or covering retreating allies. A week into playing Factions, I had to get myself a headset to be able to talk to my friends for more efficient victories.
The satisfaction of pulling off those well-orchestrated attacks, counterattacks, and hail-mary comebacks through frenzied directing and howling cheerleading is what keeps me playing. I can’t count the times I’ve felt the rush of sneaking up on enemies for surprise shivs while my team distracted them, the sheer joy of raining simultaneous nail bombs on safe defenders then rushing in for the last minute unlock, and the so-absurd-it’s-hilarious scenarios of me and my teammates all getting burned alive by one molotov.
I’ve met so many new people, too. Most of which are cool and a really small minority being assholes, and all of whom have made my first experience playing online a memorable one. From the smack-talking in the lobby before the match starts to the in-game taunting of the last player standing, it’s all been a blast.
And the best part is that Naughty Dog has long-term plans for the multiplayer with the promise of at least two DLC for Factions along with the one planned single player DLC. By the time this post is up, we might already have the full details thanks to Game Director Bruce Straley’s tweets:
If they announce a horde mode against the Infected, I’ll be playing till the cordyceps enslave the entire world.