A few weeks back, Sony opened up the multiplayer beta for this fall’s hotly-antcipated “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.” For the last fortnigh or so, PS3 owners have had a chance to test drive two initial maps and a variety of modes for Nathan Drake’s third globe-trotting adventure.
IFC’s Matt Singer and I teamed up last week to try out the beta and both came away very pleased with the preview. Multiplayer plays much like the single-player portion, with cover and tactical traversal being key to any kind of success. Anyone taking a run-and-gun approach in the wide-open areas of, say, the Chateau map will just be doing the die-and-respawn tango, even if you have a buddy trying to provide cover fire. After some frantic Team Deathmatch to get warmed up, Matt and I moved on to Team Hunter one of the new “Uncharted 3” multiplayer modes. If you play as the game’s heroes, the goal of the mode is to place treasure on certain areas of the map. Meanwhile, those playing as the villains Heroes get the benefit of both pistols and long-range weapons while villains get only pistols. That inequity’s balanced out by the extra AI bots who’ll also be working to stop the heroes from achieving their objectives. After playing either side for a few hours, it seemed like, at this point, things in Hunter are weighted more towards the heroes. Villains may have the advantage of numbers but being able to shoot from a distance felt more powerful. The maps all show much promise. The Chateau map comes packed with hidey-holes and parallel pathways, along with turrets which serve as both bait and super weapon.
The fundamentals of the multiplayer experience will be familiar to anyone who’s played online shooters in the last five years or so. You’ll get attacked by waves of thugs across a huge environment, but “Uncharted 3” adds some differentiated classes of enemies that will require co-op co-ordination. The Choker, for example, can only be punched from behind and, if he grabs one of your buddies, you’ll need to attack him before your partner suffocates. If you revive a partner, you also will get full health back, too. Taunts are another new feature that let you brag over the body of someone you’ve taken out. Aside from looking hilarious and pissing off the other guys, they’ll give you an extra added chunk of XP. Buddy Taunts, like high-fiving over a fallen foe, benefit both players the same way. You’ll also be able to respawn on a buddy’s position, a great little tweak that keeps the flow of the game moving. One new feature being added to “Uncharted” multiplayer are the power-ups called Kickbacks. Kickbacks buff individual elements of the game experience for a limited time, so the Militia Man gives you unlimited ammo and Power Hunter reveals the location of the deadliest weapons on the map.
Developer Naughty Dog’s added additional modes and maps as the demo’s rolled on. The latest of those–also the last to debut before the demo ends this Thursday–is the combo of Yemen and various Co-op modes. I played a bit of Co-op Adventure and experienced firsthand some of the new mechanics that the mode’s going to offer. Players inhabit with series hero Nathan Drake, mentor/sidekick Victor “Sully” Sullivan or girlfriend Elena Fisher, starting off in a submerged part of a castle-like structure. The first part of the mission involves hunting down idols in corners of the environment and planting on them specific pedestals, in classic Indiana Jones-style. Of course, you’re being shot at by hordes of bad guys as this happens and the best strategy tends to involve two partners providing cover fire for the person lugging the treasure around. Once specific tasks like that are achieved, everyone needs to gather at glowing red group checkpoints to move the mission forward. The other part of the Co-op Adventure mode shows off the vertical combat system which blends the climbing “Uncharted” games are known for with cover-based gunplay. As you ascend the outside of a parapet, thugs rain down gunfire on you and your pals. Picking the right timing to move and when to fire back made for extremely tense and satisfying moments.
“Uncharted 3” might deliver the most beautiful environments of any upcoming shooter. The jungles looks just as vibrant and lush as they do in the single-player campaign and the Yemen map feels like a real marketplace recreated from the other side of the world. Overall, the most impressive thing about “Uncharted” multiplayer is how it still manages to channel the Hollywood blockbuster energy of single-player but spreads it around so that everyone feels heroic. The quiet tension of the hunt combines with first-class derring-do and clever humor to make for a strong offering. If the beta’s any indication of the final product, “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception” will be a great multiplayer destination for PS3 owners when it hits in November.