For all the anticipation that’s gathered around The Last of Us since its reveal at the 2011 Spike VGA’s, it’s worth noting that nearly every iota is a product of the single-player campaign. Whether it’s the tenuously intimate relationship between Joel and Ellie, surviving the brutality and frugality of a post-apocalyptic world, or simply smashing in faces with a jagged-edged 2X4, it’s been the story of Naughty Dog’s latest adventure that’s come to captivate many fans. Multiplayer has been an afterthought.

Which might explain the reaction to its confirmation for the game on Monday.

Soon after Naughty Dog community strategist Arne Meyer revealed The Last of Us’s competitive multiplayer plans in a pre-order-details post on the PlayStation blog, the website’s commentariat seemed split: Some praised the idea, or at the very least were intrigued; others, however, accused Naughty Dog of “tacking it on” or misappropriating precious development resources that could have been used for single-player.

The Last of Us Multiplayer Gameplay Naughty Dog

Where some developer representatives might have chosen to ignore such backlash, Meyer was quick to defend Naughty Dog — and The Last of Us‘s multiplayer — as the grievances began to grow:

“We don’t approach MP in any of our games as tacked on. And we also always have separate teams working on the different components so that we can maintain full focus on making SP and MP up to our standards”

Responding to another commenter:

“And we have faith that our MP will stand on it’s own. If we felt like it would be tacked on, we wouldn’t have added it. We want all our game experiences to be of the highest quality and that’s what we work extremely hard to deliver.”

Considering that reports of The Last of Uss multiplayer (or at least some version of an online component) date back to February of earlier this year, the “tacked-on” stigma, we have to agree, hardly seems to apply. It’s also encouraging that The Last of Us’s single-player staff won’t be overburdened or distracted by any overlapping demands (ditto the multiplayer team). But what about the intentions of developing the mode in the first place?

The Last of Us Multiplayer Criticism

Responding to the idea that multiplayer was a marketing concession, Meyer says that Naughty Dog only develops what it truly believe in:

“We don’t develop games or features for bullet points — we make the games we enjoy and we hope you’ll enjoy as well.”

Justifying multiplayer has been a challenge for many story-centric or traditionally single-player-only games as online functionality becomes more pervasive. Mass Effect 3 learned this recently. As did Naughty Dog’s very own Uncharted series when multiplayer was introduced to Uncharted 2. But, speaking of Naughty Dog’s online pedigree, the multiplayer component of 2011’s Uncharted 3 (read our review) marked a vast improvement over its predecessor mainly because the developer devoted substantial time and effort towards it. Should The Last of Us follow the same trend — Meyer seems to be claiming that it is — fans may well develop an affinity for both sides of the game when it releases this May.

Do you think that multiplayer belongs in The Last of Us? Does Naughty Dog have the best intentions with developing it — and can it possibly reach the high bar many are anticipating the campaign will set?

The Last of Us releases on May 7th, 2013, exclusively for the PlayStation 3

Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.

Source: Official PlayStation Blog