Loot, Plunder, Repeat: Uncharted 2's Multiplayer
By Sterling McGarvey | Apr 27, 2009
Uncharted 2 reveals its big multiplayer surprise. But it's more familiar than you think.
Takes polished single-player and fleshes it out into an interesting co-op experience and a decent competitive game. Iffy:
Hopefully the multiplayer focus hasn't detracted from the single-player game, but we won't know till it's done.
StumbleUponRedditFarkEmail Sony Computer Entertainment hosted a massive pre-E3 event last week on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. One of the crown jewels of the event was the unveiling of online multiplayer for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. I entered Sony's suite expecting hands-on with the same Nepalese level that Naughty Dog showed off two months ago at its studio, and was in for quite a shock. And that's not just because SCEA had a mic'd-up play-by-play commentator watching everyone. The initial surprise has subsided now, especially after the multiplayer news leaked last week. The gameplay wasn't such a shock, either. If you've been playing some of the PS3's biggest blockbusters of the past two years, you'll understand why.
Uncharted 2's multiplayer is broken down into competitive and cooperative modes. Naughty Dog showed off two competitive match types and a level of co-op. I spent the lion's share of the two-hour presentation playing through competitive matches, but got a quick glimpse at co-op as well. I've been reading a lot of the response online, and it seems as through the announcement has been a polarizing one. Some gamers worry that a focus on multiplayer will take away from single-player, a concern many had with Resistance 2. Others seem happy, simply because they believe it will extend the life of the game beyond the single-player quest. As for me, I'm somewhere in the middle.
A friend mentioned that the gameplay resembled "Metal Gear Online made by Westerners." It's an apt description, as Metal Gear Online was a single-player game grafted onto an online template, and I got the same feeling here. It didn't take long for the muscle memory to kick in -- I had recently replayed some of Drake's Fortune -- and before long I was shooting and punching at everyone on the opposing team. Most of the rules of Uncharted still apply: Shooting feels smooth and precise. Nathan & Co. can still dive out of the way of danger, and too many wounds will sap the color out of the screen. I noticed Nathan's new traversal abilities more during co-op than in competitive multiplayer. That's probably because I was more worried about getting killed in team deathmatch than in trying to hang from a ledge and shoot people.
In Plunder, the treasure slows you down more than any flag would.
Looting and Plundering
I started my demo off with Plunder, Naughty Dog's version of capture the flag. In Plunder, I played alongside five or so teammates to grab a rare artifact and bring it back to a treasure chest at our home base. It was a bit disorienting at first; the map traversal was confusing, and as Sony's live play-by-play announcer pointed out, I picked up a gold mask and ran a safe distance... in the wrong direction. Needless to say, the round ended with a victory for the other team.
With my second Plunder playthrough I discovered that when I picked up the treasure I could toss it a short distance. In some cases, that might mean pitching it over to a nearby teammate to free up some weight; in other instances, it's possible to toss it somewhere high so that even when your demise is close at hand your opponents can't steal it. No one at the event came close to coordinating a smooth flag-passing strategy, but I'm sure it'll be a popular tactic in the upcoming multiplayer beta.
Perk Up Your Ears
After the CTF I switched gears to team deathmatch. Uncharted 2 uses a reward system that gives incentive for assists as much as kills. It doesn't blatantly throw XP numbers on-screen like R2 does, but there's a strong sense that everything you do contributes to earning ribbons. I discovered this as game director Richard LeMarchand walked over and gave me a few pointers. Naughty Dog is still fine-tuning a few elements, but players will definitely feel a sense of reward, whether they stacked up the most kills or just softened up an opponent for a buddy.
There's also a perks system ala R2 and Call of Duty 4. While playing around in the game lobby I accidentally hit a button and discovered abilities such as "see through walls," "extra damage," and "improved shooting." It certainly explained how I mowed through my opponents in the previous round: They probably didn't have perks activated.
More Fun with Friends
At the end of my foray into competitive multiplayer I checked out some of Uncharted 2's co-op action. On the surface it evokes R2's approach to co-op. It's detached from the single-player storyline, and pits you and two friends against waves of enemies before facing off with a boss at the end of each stage. It doesn't feel as class-centric as R2, but teamwork is fairly crucial. On a few occasions I watched as teammates split off and ran into "chokers," a group of mercenaries that soften you up and put you in a deadly chokehold. Once you're in their grasp, your teammates have limited time to save you.
It's hard to dress up Team Deathmatch as anything but Team Deathmatch.
There are some unique team-based moments. The co-op maps have red dots that indicate where you work together to overcome obstacles and barriers. For example, I found my way to a map dot (in this case, a locked steel door) and waited for allies. Once all three of use got together, one of us had to break down the door. In another case, a teammate had to lift an obstructive steel girder to let others pass into an area. Co-op provided a better opportunity to try out some of the new climbing elements, but those chances were rather fleeting, considering the waves of vicious mercenaries, from chokers to snipers, that permeated the map.
I'm a little ambivalent about Uncharted 2's multiplayer announcement. I understand the concerns of gamers who worry that extra modes will detract from a game that's so heavily invested in single-player storytelling. Grand Theft Auto IV is a prime example of how a great single-player title can suffer from sparsely populated online games. Yet some fans want something beyond a ten-hour single-player game, and welcome extra online modes. I'm giving Naughty Dog the benefit of the doubt for now. The team has a big challenge ahead of it but what I've played so far has been fun. I hope they can satisfy both fanbases, which could be almost as precarious as Nathan Drake traversing a waterfall.