Though I’ll always love the Uncharted games for their single player campaigns, the multiplayer introduced in in 2009’s Among Thieves was certainly nothing to scoff at. Sure, it lacked the breathtaking vistas and metrosexual smirking that first drew me into the franchise, but it also did some fairly unique things for a competitive third-person shooter. This November, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception will seek to build on that solid foundation and create a more polished, robust experience.
After having played it, I can confidently say that everything I (and millions of other fans) loved about Uncharted 2’s multiplayer has stayed intact. Naughty Dog knows they got a lot of stuff right, so they’re seeking to iterate and evolve rather than redo everything from scratch.
As a result, the changes and additions aren’t particularly revolutionary. Fans will be delighted to know that the much-requested sprint button has been implemented, making for a slightly faster paced experience. There are also new boosters, a more robust weapon modification system and new abilities called kickbacks that you can use after earning a certain number of medals. For example, I equipped Carpet Bomb, letting me throw three grenades at once for every seven medals I earned. I’m looking forward to experimenting with all the rest to find out which one best fits my playstyle.
The single biggest addition to the rules comes in the form of power plays, 60 second alterations to the game rules designed to give the losing team a chance to turn things around. During my play time, I encountered two. The first marked an enemy player on everyone’s radar, and gave us triple points every time we killed him. The second turned on friendly fire for the winning team and made it impossible to tell who your teammates were. To compensate for the fact that the winners are getting royally screwed, they’ll get extra cash for every kill they make during the power play.
Though I’m sure there’s a large segment of the gaming public that will hate them, I adore the power plays. I’ll admit that they remove an element of skill from the proceedings, but I’d rather have my games be fiercely competitive than blowouts, and that’s really what Naughty Dog seems to be aiming for. If they’re balanced well, it should reduce the number of ragequits and help to make the experience more accessible and less frustrating. In a world where multiplayer shooters are trending towards positive feedback loops, it’s refreshing to see the opposite approach.
Unfortunately, some of my gripes about Uncharted 2 are back as well. As much as I appreciate the incorporation of platforming, it still doesn’t really work as well as I’d like it to. Climbing anything makes you a huge sitting duck, and it’s often far more effective to treat the game like any other third-person other shooter and stick to the ground, at least when it comes to the combat-centered game modes. Seeing as how I only got to try out Deathmatch, I’ll hold off on passing judgment until I get some hands-on time with the rest of the game.
Of course, what good would a sequel be without some new maps? Of the two I played, Airstrip was by far the more interesting. Things kicked off with one team in the back of a cargo plane mid-takeoff and the other team chasing behind in trucks. After a couple minutes, the plane took off and the fight moved to a junk-filled lot beside the airstrip with a warehouse in the center. It was interesting to change the scenery mid-fight, and both halves of the map provided different challenges. I’m quite curious to see if any of the unannounced maps take a similar approach, combining distinct combat arenas into a single round.
The second map I played, Chateau, was much more straightforward. It featured a large courtyard with a dilapidated mansion on one side. There wasn’t any one gimmick that stood out, but there was an overall nice sense of verticality and a lot of back routes for flanking. I’m more interested in seeing how it plays out with the non-Deathmatch game modes, since I think it’ll make for some interesting rounds of Plunder.
If the rest of Uncharted 3’s maps and game modes maintain the variety and excitement of the small slice I played, Uncharted 2 fans will have a lot to look forward to this fall. If you can’t bear to wait that long, Naughty Dog will be launching a public beta on July 3rd, featuring everything that was on display at E3.