I absolutely loved The Last of Us. Joel and Ellie's journey from the quarantine zones of Boston to that ending in Utah ranks as one of my favourite video game tales of all time, and I'm not ashamed to admit to feeling a lump in my throat on a couple of occasions; such was the power of its storytelling.
It more than earned the 10 out of 10 (reads like an Essential) that Oli awarded it back in 2013 and his review, in my eyes, is spot on - except for one major omission; he only paid lip-service to the multiplayer.
This isn't really Oli's fault. When it comes to Naughty Dog, the multiplayer portions of their titles have always taken a back seat to the cinematic spectacle of their campaigns. The trouble is that my editor, and everyone else it seems, missed out on one of the best console-exclusive multiplayer games I've ever played.
Factions, as The Last of Us' multiplayer mode is known, is a rare breed of tacked-on multiplayer that's both original and innovative. Rather than half-heartedly churning out a brainless 5v5 cover shooter or a by-the-numbers zombie Horde mode, Naughty Dog instead produced a unique experience. It took core concepts of the campaign, like crafting and stealth, and used them as the basis for a multiplayer mode which focused on slow-burn team tactics and thrilling hit-and-run clashes between bands of desperate scavengers.
Uncharted 4's multiplayer is much more conventional, featuring typical game types like Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag (called Plunder in game) and Domination (Command). Sounds like a box-ticking exercise, and it's true that the game types lack imagination. But it's obvious that Naughty Dog has learnt a lot from The Last of Us' Factions, and its influence on the gameplay here is clear.
The treasure spawns - Uncharted 4's version of Factions' drop points - are a great example. Randomly spawning over time in out-of-the-way areas, these hefty cash stashes award you with $200 per pickup, much more than a player can earn from simply killing an enemy. As in Factions, this presents a risk-and-reward scenario whilst also encouraging players to explore the maps.
In Factions, the drop points awarded you components which you could use to craft new weapons and traps. In Uncharted 4, players can put the money earned from collecting treasure towards buying simple gear upgrades, or more expensive items like Mysticals and Sidekicks. Sidekicks are AI companions who, if called in at the right time, provide support and can potentially turn the tide of a battle. They come in four varieties, including the Brute, a minigun-wielding tank, and the Hunter, who immediately homes in on the nearest enemy, trapping them in a chokehold and leaving them vulnerable to attack. Mysticals, on the other hand, are strange artifacts that produce supernatural effects, such as the ability to revive all downed friendlies in a specific area, or highlighting the enemy team on your radar.
All in all, Uncharted 4's multiplayer plays like a faster, more accessible Factions mode. The gameplay is less complex, sure, but it rewards tight team play in much the same way as Factions did, and crews that concentrate on communication and coordinating their load-outs will often triumph against teams of individuals.
The nice thing about Uncharted 4, though, is that it also caters quite well to lone wolves. Factions was incredibly punishing for people who chose to go their own way, but the speed of Uncharted 4's gameplay means that it's much more forgiving for those who prefer to run-and-gun without a few mates on hand to provide backup.
Just like the campaign, Uncharted 4's multiplayer is quite the looker. There are eight gorgeous maps, each based on recognizable locations from the main game. From the small, snowy confines of a ruined church in Scotland, where fine flakes of snow settle onto gravestones bearing the names of the game's development team, through to the lush, vibrant greens of a Madagascan island full of ancient ruins and skittish ring-tailed Lemurs - every location is packed with tiny details that bring that special Naughty Dog sheen.
Look past the glossy exteriors, though, and you'll find something even better: masterfully designed level layouts that work to keep players flowing through the maps at high speeds. Whether it's vaulting walls, sliding down slopes or swinging above yawning crevasses, the pace hardly ever lets up, and it's this fluidity of movement along with the agility of the characters that makes navigating every one of the locations an absolute pleasure.
One of my favourite moments so far came when I was being chased by three enemies at once. I threw a pack of C4 behind me as I ran, detonating it seconds later to bring down two of my pursuers. Then I leapt off a cliff, latched my grapple hook to a wooden beam and swung right round behind the final attacker, finishing them off with a charged melee attack to the back of the head. They never saw it coming and it felt almost like a choreographed fight scene in a big-budget action movie. It's moments like this that Uncharted 4's multiplayer delivers time and time again.
Just like the Last of Us then, Uncharted 4's multiplayer captures the essence of the main game and builds a great experience around it. This time, it's not stealth and survival; it's bombastic, swashbuckling, wisecracking action that's full of flamboyant flair and personality.
Couple this with a generous DLC strategy that promises free content drops all the way through to the spring of 2017, and you've got one hell of an attractive package. It's no Factions mode, but it's still well worth your time. (Once you've polished off the campaign, of course...)
For more on Naughty Dog's latest, check out our Uncharted 4 guide and walkthrough.
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