Sony’s marketing team may be focusing on Death Stranding right now, but many of us are hungrily looking past Hideo Kojima’s latest and eagerly awaiting more news on The Last of Us Part II. With no new updates from Naughty Dog since last year’s E3, all we’ve had to go on are those tiny nuggets of information slowly starting to trickle out.
Most of this has been speculation regarding a release date. With motion capture on the sequel having wrapped back in April, a 2019 launch for The Last of Us Part II didn’t seem completely absurd, but then Ashely Johnson (who plays Ellie), may have let slip a potential February 2020 release in the last few days. Obviously neither Sony or Naughty Dog have confirmed anything.
However, the most recent news to surface doesn’t point at a release date, but about some details of the game itself. Those who netted one of the swanky Days of Play edition PlayStation 4 consoles, spotted small print that reads: “PlayStation Plus sold separately. Marvel’s Spider-Man, Days Gone, God of War and The Last of Us Part II do not support online multiplayer.”
Naughty Dog have previously assured fans that TLOU’s multiplayer “Factions” mode would be making a return for the sequel. While the aforementioned small print could be a simple error, we have to ask ourselves whether The Last of Us Part II actually needs online play.
For the past few years Sony has settled into a familiar groove, belting out one sprawling single player game after the next. Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War, and Marvel’s Spider-Man have all done remarkably well, and while Days Gone didn’t have that same impact, it performed far better than many might had expected.
In truth, we still know very little about how The Last of Us Part II is shaping up. While it’s unlikely that Naughty Dog will divert from its usual linear approach to fusing gameplay and narrative, dropping online multiplayer from the package isn’t completely out of the question.
Cast you mind back to ten years ago, when it seemed that every new release had some kind of multiplayer bolted on, whether it felt like a natural fit or not. It was easy to tell which games had suddenly sprouted an online component as a hasty afterthought, Uncharted 2 not being one of them. Naugthy Dog took us by surprise and would continue to craft excellent multiplayer experiences with Uncharted 3, The Last of Us, and Uncharted 4.
The Last of Us was a particularly interesting candidate, folding the game’s stealth and survival mechanics into truly tense and unique online skirmishes. When it was announced that the game’s PS3 servers were going offline, it came as a genuine shock to the small yet hardcore community still plugging away at the 7 year old game. At least you can still play on PS4.
Having spent endless hours lost in TLOU’s multiplayer, I can honestly say that I’ve been equally excited about seeing a Factions 2.0 mode as well as how Ellie’s story will play out.
It’s pretty clear that not everyone feels the same way. Digging into some simple trophy statistics, only 18.74% of those who played The Last of Us Remastered unlocked the game’s “Knowing The Basics” accolade. This is achieved by simply winning one match of both primary game modes. On PlayStation 3, that number is only slightly higher at 20.25%.
When you consider how many copies The Last of Us has sold (almost 20 million copies across both platforms) that’s no small number, but if Naughty Dog’s development cycle is running longer than expected, shelving the game’s online multiplayer may have been a genuine consideration at some point.
It would be a shame, but it seems very unlikely considering just how well Factions was received, not to mention Sony’s current lack of a strong multiplayer focused game. At the same time, it’s obviously not going to be the sequel’s biggest selling point. A purely single player sequel is bound to shift copies by the boatload, even if The Last of Us Part II clocks in at around the ten-hour mark.
Sadly, we’re not likely to hear much about the game for at least another few months. With Sony having skipped E3 2019, it seems to be focusing on one tentpole game at a time instead of showing its hand. For now we’ll just have to cross our fingers.