Not everyone was happy when Naughty Dog announced multiplayer for The Last of Us. Leading up to its release the developer had been quiet in regards to any form of online play, so when it first debuted, there were fears it had simply been bolted on to tick a few boxes. This wasn’t the case, however; not by a long shot. If you’ve yet to try it, multiplayer in The Last of Us is intimate and highly tactical, doing away with much of the running and gunning found in most online shooters. In an odd way, it reminded me of the now-absent SOCOM, given its emphasis on stealth and tactical co-ordination.
That’s not to say it didn’t do anything new. Instead of having a mini-map, for example, Joel’s sonar-like listening ability from the single player carried over to multiplayer. Item and weapon crafting also found its way into online, allowing survivors to quickly turn the tables on the other team, to set up ambushes using a combination of DIY gadgets. Though you can dip in every now and then for a few matches, The Last of Us also sports an interesting meta game to keep things interesting as you wait for menus and loading screens.
When starting multiplayer, you’ll be asked to choose a faction – though this is purely cosmetic – before embarking on a journey which lasts twelve weeks. That’s in-game time, of course, with each match signifying a day. You’re tasked with looking after a small band of survivors who die or thrive depending on your prowess in combat. As long as some of them make it to the end of week twelve, you essentially “win” the meta game, also receiving a gold trophy. For more trophy guidance be sure to check out yesterday’s handy little guide.
As for the actual multiplayer itself, there isn’t too much to take on board. At its core it’s a straight-up third person shooter that employs an intuitive, non-snap cover system. The first major difference you’ll notice is the flow of combat. No matter which weapons you slot into your loadout, you’ll be given just a small handful of ammo to start with. This immediately limits your options in a firefight, so its often best to search for more or at least make sure your team can aid you with support fire.
Ammo, as well as salvage for crafting, can be found in lock boxes, with four on each map. A solid stratagem to start off with is searching the closest lockbox before moving onto the next as a single, tight-knit squad. It’s a common tactic and one that produces three results. Firstly, both teams can go in opposite direction, often circling the map and searching all four lockboxes before the first shot is fired. Alternatively, you can end up coming at the same lockbox and initiate a firefight, either against a full team or a couple of stragglers.
The more salvage you collect, the more of an advantage you’ll ultimately have over your opponent. In using the components you gather, you can craft a variety of items, including health kits, proximity bombs, and molotovs, all of which can be used to great effect against the enemy.
- Health kits do exactly what it says on tin, restoring a portion of health to either yourself or team-mates, but take a few seconds to apply.
- Nail bombs, my personal favourite, can be tossed like a grenade or placed on the ground like a mine.
- Molotovs, though lacking in speed and accuracy, will kill a player outright if they make direct contact.
- Shivs can also kill with one hit, though need to be used from behind. Investing the components needed to build a shiv in other items may be more worthwhile, depending on skill.
- Smoke bombs temporary stun those close enough to the blast radius while also obscuring the sight of all nearby players.
- Melee upgrades provide you with yet another insta-kill option by attaching a sharp object to your melee weapon. The upgrade will only last for one hit unless you have the relevant perks.
Moving on to the actual gunplay, The Last of Us should feel familiar enough, but requires a level of both patience and precision. As touched on before, there is little running and gunning, at least not with the majority of the weapons on show. For the most part, you’ll use guns in mid to long range fights before swapping to your melee weapon or shotgun should you both get too close.
Playing the campaign should give you enough experience with the controls and weapons to slay your enemies, especially if you’re headshotting plenty of Clickers. The strongest piece of advice I could give is just to be aware of your surroundings, using both common sense and your limited listening power. Get a feel for where the enemy team is and where they might be heading. Place nail bombs around corners, in blind spots, or near lockboxes to bag a cheap kill here and there. Also, remember that you switch shoulder while aiming: this allows you to peek around corners without exposing yourself and can even be used to bullet dodge.
In The Last of Us, your playstyle depends on the combination of skills and weapons you have equipped. Unlike so many other mulltiplayer games, each of these weapons is viable, either on its own or paired with a secondary. Towards the end of my second online playthrough, I constantly found myself cycling between weapons and often jumping into a skirmish with nothing but a pistol.
Needless to say, some are better at some situations than others. Sniper rifles excel at long range whereas shotguns are built for close encounters. Most other weapon archetypes, however, are useful just about everywhere, including pistols, the semi-auto rifle, and the burst rifle. One weapon many will especially warm to is the bow, which can down an unarmoured opponent in two hits or one if you manage a headshot. Although finicky and sometimes slow on the draw, it’s also silent and can be often be used to swat enemies from behind.
Most of these weapons also come with attachments, all of which will cost loadout points. Each weapon, attachment, and survival skill has a points value, the sum of which cannot exceed a set limit. Speaking of skills, these are basically Naughty Dog’s own twist on the Call of Duty perk system. There are over a dozen to choose from with players able to equip higher tier version at an additional points cost.
Naturally, the types of skills you slot into your loadout will determine your role in a four-man squad. Equipping Crafter or First-Aid Training, for instance, sets you up a support player, as you’re able to gift items to your team-mates as well as patch them up faster. Lone wolves, on the other hand, may opt for both Covert Training and Sharp Ears, granting them immunity from the enemy’s listening ability while boosting their own, giving them much greater awareness of their surroundings. There are plenty of skills to mix and match, but the only way you’ll find the right loadout for you is to experiment.
One last thing you need to be aware of are special loadout options. At any time during a match, you can whip out your backpack and purchase ammunition, weapon upgrades, body armour, and any special weapons you have in your loadout. These are paid for using parts which are earned from both kills and opening lockboxes. Again, what to buy depends largely on your playstyle as each one has its own uses and parts can sometimes be sparse, but these can give you a fearsome advantage that can turn the tide of a battle.
Although our beginner-friendly primer will get you on your way, it can only take you so far. As with any game, familiarisation is the key to success, whether that be training with each of the game’s weapons or making sure you have the map layoust tucked away in the back of your mind. Just keep at it and, most importantly, have fun. It’s a brilliant multiplayer experience and one that only gets better on PlayStation 4.