Those following the The Last Of Us 2 have known since its reveal that Ellie is taking the spotlight in the game's story. But what of Joel, the first game's protagonist? He appeared briefly in the initial trailer but was nowhere to be found in the footage shown at E3. Comments from the game's director claim that Ellie is the sole playable protagonist. Yet it's also been recently confirmed that the game has multiplayer. So what gives? Is Joel back? Will multiplayer just be an army of Ellies running around? Let's look at the facts.
An article on VGR quotes the The Last Of Us 2 co-director Anthony Newman as saying “There is going to be multiplayer with the game, we’re really excited to share details about it, but that’s going to be at a later date.” Which sounds mysterious, until the article goes on to say that Newman specifically states "Factions is coming back" to GameSpot.
The first game had a multiplayer mode called "Factions" in which players were in charge of a group of survivors. Matches against other teams were literal fights for survival. Victory meant getting valuable resources to keep your people alive, and defeat would cost them their lives. It was a grim take on multiplayer with actual consequences. And it was certainly popular enough to warrant a comeback.
While it takes place in the world of the story, Factions never had a bearing on the fate of Joel and Ellie. So where does that leave them? Creative director Neil Druckmann told Polygon quite plainy that “Ellie is the only playable character in the game.” Of course, that statement should be taken with a grain of salt. The Last Of Us was a story-driven game full of brutal twists, and there's no reason to expect anything different from the sequel. The minds behind it have every reason to hide Joel's role in the game if it's related to a plot twist.
While a game centering on Ellie is certainly enough of a draw on its own (her love life is already making waves), the story does have to address Joel at some point. It just might be that gamers will have to wait for the actual game to come out to see him. At least there's the return of Factions to whet our appetites. Now all Naughty Dog needs to do is announce an actual release date for The Last Of Us 2.