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What Multiplayer in The Last of Us Might Mean for Its Story

/ Feb 1st, 2013 No Comments

The Last of Us
The Last of Us

The Last of Us

Superstar developer Naughty Dog, the creators of the successful Uncharted franchise, are set to release survival horror action-adventure game The Last of Us on May 7. The PS3 exclusive is taking the studio in a somber new direction in the ongoing pursuit of evolving storytelling in its games. Part of the title’s promise includes “dynamic stealth”, a system of emergent player options in scenarios that result in differing enemy reactions.

A multiplayer mode, familiar to fans of Uncharted from its latter two games, was also announced last December. Naughty Dog recently reassured gamers who were concerned that its inclusion might divert resources from the game’s single-player campaign. They made their intentions clear for the multiplayer to go beyond what is traditionally offered without sacrificing any other aspects of the game. What has yet to be revealed, and may have a significant impact on elevating the very idea of multiplayer itself, is how the developer has approached the opportunities available from its dynamic stealth system within the multiplayer arena.

Traditional multiplayer could be transformed into a very different, intense game of improvised survival, depending on the extent to which Naughty Dog plans to intertwine the story–and its dynamic choices for escaping and inflicting harm–with players’ unpredictable, in-the-moment, spontaneous multiplayer narratives. Possibilities include opening up new side missions inside the single-player mode through decisions made during multiplayer gaming sessions, such as unlocking doors or stashing items, which could then carry over into the main campaign and allow players to access newly unlocked paths or cached survival goods. If thoughtfully integrated, the multiplayer could deepen players’ immersion in the rusted beauty and pragmatic terror of the game’s decaying world by empowering their solo survival.

According to Naughty Dog, The Last of Us is designed to tell a great story dynamically. Its multiplayer could play a role in how that story unfolds, even if only to deepen the player’s connection to the breathless tension felt by characters’ desperate need to exploit anything and everything at hand, whatever it may be at that moment, to live to tell the tale. However, another approach could be to integrate both modes by using the single-player narrative to frame the multiplayer’s mini-stories as brief vignettes happening to sideline characters which affect options and obstacles in the campaign in tangible ways. Emotional stakes would be raised dramatically when players, engaged in cooperative and competitive play, can link current actions and choices with the ever-changing potential fates of the game’s heroes.

Whatever Naughty Dog has planned, one thing is certain from previews: players will face a brave new world of constant danger and hard choices. With luck, these choices will greatly expand gameplay and narrative options, as well as consequences, at the same time.

Matthew Allen
Matthew is a contributor to Gaming Illustrated and likes games that are full of kinetic gameplay, great layered storytelling and innovation in the exploration of the medium and the genre represented.
Matthew Allen

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