This week’s State of Play presentation from Sony and Naughty Dog’s Outbreak Day revealed a wealth of new information about the long-anticipated sequel to 2013’s mega-hit The Last of Us. For some, the announcements were a bit bittersweet as The Last of Us: Part II will not ship with a multiplayer mode. While The Last of Us is mostly known for the emotional resonance of its compelling story, the first game’s multiplayer “Factions” mode was pretty popular, with the PlayStation 3 servers only shutting down this year on September 3rd. Servers for The Last of Us Remastered on the PlayStation 4 are still playable.
Naughty Dog used their official Twitter account to post an update on the multiplayer aspect of The Last of Us: Part II, explaining that while it might be a bit of a letdown to fans of the Factions mode in the first game there’s still an “enormous” amount to look forward to when The Last of Us: Part II releases early next year.
An update regarding multiplayer: pic.twitter.com/CUd98LgJGC
— Naughty Dog (@Naughty_Dog) September 27, 2019
Co-director of The Last of Us and current Vice President of Naughty Dog Neil Druckmann said earlier in a post for PlayStation.Blog that “what [Naughty Dog] realized pretty early on is that we were putting together Naughty Dog’s most ambitious and longest game in our 35 year history. To tell this kind of story the game needed to be massive.” Druckmann is also serving as Director for The Last of Us: Part II.
Druckmann adds that Naughty Dog “began working on this game over five years ago. It’s hard to describe the immense pressure of following up the first game.” The game’s story in Part II aims to ask new questions and get deep: “[H]ow far would you go to exact justice against the people that hurt the ones you love? It’s a highly emotional story with complex themes that befit the world of The Last of Us.” With so much on Naughty Dog’s plate (The Last of Us: Part II will ship on two discs, for some context on the sheer size of the game) it makes sense that multiplayer would have to be sacrificed in order to make sure Druckmann and the development team could give everything they’ve got to make Ellie’s ongoing story amazing.
In an interview with GamesRadar, The Last of Us: Part II co-writer Halley Gross talked about the complex narrative that she and the team built for the next installment of the story. Gross calls The Last of Us” Part II “a story about the cycle of violence,” adding that “beyond that, it’s a conversation about the effects systematic trauma can have on your soul.” Complex indeed.
“And so to do that, obviously Ellie experiences this deep trauma, it has an impact on her that’s going to affect how she engages with the world. That’s going to affect her tone as we sort of descend through that,” Gross said during the interview. “That being said, Ellie is driven by love. It’s love that sends her on this mission for justice. It’s love that she feels for Joel, for Dina – these moments that buoy her.”
With so many deep and sophisticated questions on the relationship between love, hate, trauma, and human drive and what it means for Ellie as she grows up, it’s understandable that there wasn’t enough ambition left over for a multiplayer mode that could potentially detract from the major single-player experience or feel tacked-on and irrelevant.
“Yes, but where’s the multiplayer?” someone out there is bound to ask. Looking back at the statement on multiplayer from Naughty Dog, it appears that there is some kind of multiplayer mode or game underway, just not for The Last of Us: Part II at release. Naughty Dog states that despite the lack of an online mode, “you will eventually experience the fruits of our team’s online ambition […] When and where it will be realized is still to be determined.”
It’s possible that as the scope of The Last of Us: Part II‘s main campaign grew, the multiplayer mode for the game grew too and needed to branch off for the health of both. It’s possible that a Factions-style mode might be introduced as a big DLC for the game, or that Naughty Dog can decide to release a spin-off game separate from the main title that offers a really rich and fun online experience to match the quality of the series.
Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us: Part II is scheduled to release on February 21, 2020 for the PlayStation 4.