Since its June release date, Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us has been serving up unbridled pleasure to millions of gamers. The stunningly original and emotional single player had us hooked from start to finish and those that were smart enough to give the multiplayer a go where enraptured all over again by its smart, stealthy and worryingly addictive gameplay. Personally, I found The Last of Us: Factions to be the most tense, fun and rewarding online multiplayer game I had played. The end of August brought us the ‘Interrogation‘ mode which turned an already superb game into something truly special. A simple gameplay tweak that opened the maps up and made teamwork of paramount importance!
Well, on Wednesday, the game was improved upon further, with the release of the ‘Abandoned Territories’ map pack. Four totally new and different maps based upon the world of The Last of Us single player campaign locations.
As Twinstick’s resident Last of Us fanboys and season pass holders, Mowerman and I have been putting the DLC through its paces and thought we’d share some of our thoughts from what we’ve experienced so far.
Firstly, we should mention the excellent tactic Naughty Dog has taken by adding an extra menu option to the Factions game selection screen. Along with ‘Find Match’ and ‘Find Match (no parties)’ you’ll now also see a ‘Find Match DLC’ option. This doesn’t completely remove the old maps, but does have the new maps appear with a high frequency (in our play sessions, we saw a minimum of one new map on every selection screen – understandably, this was always voted for by all players). We’ve put in a fair few hours and – as we know it gets you to experience more of the map than other modes – we have played almost exclusively on ‘Interrogation Mode’.
We’ll start with Book Store, as this was the first one played. This map is fantastic. It’s based on the large, 2 level bookstore building from the main game, but has even more cover (and thankfully a little more light). The fight is always intense as the teams seem to find each other very quickly on the ground floor. At times I felt like Leslie Nielson in Police Squad, hiding behind a dustbin, shooting it out with somebody only 3 yards away – but it is consistently fun (once you get your bearings)!
The second floor feels like a whole separate section with very few sight lines to the lower floor and longer corridor like sections to cautiously navigate. When used right, these can be an excellent way to get behind the opponent, but when mistimed, you can find yourself in a corridor with little cover, getting peppered from multiple directions! High risk, high reward indeed!
A hard map to snipe on as there are a lot of nooks, crannies and corners, but few clear lines of site, high powered, short range weapons and easy to hide bombs are the order of the day!
Despite its eerie resemblance to the unpopular ‘Downtown’ map, Hometown is a very well put together map. There are a number of different vantage points spread throughout the map to make use of as a spotter, but enough cover and buildings that its had to play as a pure sniper. Your best bet is to spot the enemy for your team to flank! And team play is essential on this map!
There are different ways around the map, some that allow you to stay outside and get a good view of the road ahead, but provide enough cover to keep relatively safe – as a group. Alternatively, you could scurry through the abandoned and dilapidated buildings. Hiding behind the empty shelves in a store or between the two pool tables in the bar and waiting for unsuspecting enemies that have broken from the pack (there’s always one … it’s often me).
Two things really strike you about this level. Firstly how much more broken down Joel’s hometown has become in the last 20 years – and moonlight. The moonlight casts an ethereal glow over the whole level, making it incredibly playable and possibly the best night map yet? Again, playing on ‘Interrogation Mode’ allowed us to scour the whole map, find some unusual routes around and some great hiding places to protect your team’s lock box (matches always seem close on this map). Trying to predict the opposing team’s approach and set traps for them is a challenge compared to other maps as there are many approaches to cover (including some verticality to handle at one end of the map)!
The Suburbs map (inspired by the stage in the single player where Joel, Ellie and Bill are approaching the sniper’s nest) is strikingly colourful. The most luscious greens and gorgeous orange hues really make this map stand out. Large buildings stand tall upon the hill on one side of the map; a variety of broken down cars, vans and motor-homes, in various states of disrepair, stand in the middle of the street (providing great cover). The other side of the road sees similar buildings that have smaller interiors and are lower down. Long grass, picket fences and garden sheds provide great hiding places for players and bombs.
This is a wide map (like Bill’s Town) rather than long, with the flanks providing the natural path around the map and the middle feeling like ‘no man’s land’ for the majority of the game (of course, when everyone is using the flanks – ‘no man’s land’ often provides a direct and less covered route to the opponent’s lock box – if you’re brave enough to take it). There are a few vantage points from higher ground – though only one of them provides much in the way of cover and only gives you sight lines for a small portion of the map – when used tactically, these can make the difference between winning and being repeatedly shivved to an embarrassing loss!
I’ve been back and forth with this – and Mowerman may well disagree here – but I think this might be my favourite of the new maps. It’s split into, what feels like, three distinct parts. One one side we have the offices – with walkways and fire escapes on the outside that can give you the drop on opposing factions. The middle ground has an assortment of buses, taxis – and a big steel gate in the middle that stands ajar, tempting and deadly, to navigate your way around. The final part sees the Bus station itself, with its glorious brick interior and split-level walkways (as seen in the picture above).
The gameplay moves from fast and furious when outside, to slow and cautious on the inside (especially when the enemies lock box is located in the station). The deadly game of cat and mouse always feels at its most frenetic on this map. One team can get a quick lead, then things get evened out as lock boxes are very defend-able when the whole team is covering. What becomes a real challenge is when the scores are even and you go for the lock box solo or as a pair. Choose the right path and you can get it partially open before the enemies reach you – get it wrong and you’ll be exploded, shotgunned or flamethrowered from all angles!
All in all, well worth the individual price of entry (£7.99) – but if I were you, I’d shell out for the season pass (£15.99) and save yourself money down the line. With single player DLC due for Christmas / New Year and another multiplayer pack planned for sometime in 2014 (along with numerous additional customisable items becoming available soon), the season pass gives you everything The Last of Us has planned at a roughly 70% discount!
Notes About Version 1.05
Alongside the new maps, Naughty Dog have also released patch 1.05 for The Last of Us. This fixes a few bugs and tries to balance gameplay further. Now, normally I’m impressed with these tweaks – and certainly the steps they’ve taken to stop games of Interrogation ending in a tie-game get a big thumbs up! I can even get on board with the much used 2 x 4 being missing in action until later in the game!
However, changes to the ‘Brawler 1’ perk, that used to allow an additional hit with the upgraded weapon are more controversial than the game’s ending! I’m quite a stealthy player and the additional hit with the silent, one-hit wonder stick was in every loadout I’d created! It’s still there, just now only available at ‘Brawler 2’ – which costs more points! Having to radically alter all my loadouts has been… well, actually its forced me to re-think my playstyle and experiment with little used weapons and has been a lot of fun! But I’m probably still not happy about it!
The whole video, detailing the patch notes an be seen below.
Richard is a father, teacher, gamer and writer. He believes that The Last of Us and Olli Olli 2 are the finest games ever made, feels that the StarWars Saga should only be watched in ‘the Machete order’ and once cleared Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in one sitting. Took him 20 hours, four cups of tea and a sausage roll. You can follow him on twitter @TLOUFactionsMP or @VigilanteSanta and view his occasional twitch outbursts on twitch.tv/spooklebeans.