'Uncharted 2: Among Thieves' Multiplayer Hands-On Preview
Posted by Billy Berghammer - Monday, April 27, 2009 9:30 AM
At Sony’s pre-E3 press event last week here in Los Angeles, there was the promise of being able to finally play Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for the first time, and being a pretty big fan of the first game, I was frothing at the mouth to get my hands on it. I had already gotten the eyes-on treatment a while back with some of the game’s new features, characters, and premise, but as the night rolled on it was apparent that Naughty Dog still had a few tricks up their sleeve.
As we were ushered into a separate party room of this hotel, we were handed mysterious Uncharted 2 passports. While there were numerous stations to play, we gathered around on giant HD monitor as Naughty Dog’s co-president Evan Wells greeted us all and said that he had a quick video to show us what we would be playing within a few moments.
As the footage began, Nathan creeped through a dilapidated city almost identical to the area we had been privy to during our first viewing of the game at Naughty Dog headquarters. Nathan slinked through narrow crumbled corridors, and suddenly multitudes of characters appeared on screen with their PSN names above them. To the surprise of everyone, the big reveal was that Uncharted 2 will have online multiplayer, as well as three player cooperative play.
Kept under wraps until the event, Wells explained that the reason why they took on the challenge of adding multiplayer was they “wanted to capture the essence of what made the single player adventure so great and bring it into the multiplayer arena. The result is such a unique combination of gameplay. Something that sets our game apart from any other online multiplayer game out there.”
As for the modes, on the competitive side, there were two different variants we got to play. A standard 5v5 team deathmatch mode, and a 5v5 single capture the flag mode called Plunder. However, I opted to begin my evening with a run through of the three-player cooperative mode, instead.
In cooperative, each player plays as a character from Uncharted, and for our demo purposes, the characters included Nathan Drake and newcomer Chloe Frazier, as well as Sullivan from the first game. We were told that with the final version of the game there would be numerous characters to choose from. In coop, players will not play through the events of the first game, but will actually play through sections of an all new storyline. Overall, it felt very reminiscent of playing through about half a scenario of Left 4 Dead.
The general Uncharted moveset is intact including being able to dive in and out of cover and blind fire, but players will also have cooperative moves such as moving objects obstructing paths, or destroying a wall with an RPG. Objectives of each section are clearly listed on screen to help players understand what they are supposed to be doing, but since the room we were playing room was pretty loud there was a general lack of communication between players. This made accomplishing level objectives a bit difficult since we weren’t using Bluetooth headsets.
Gameplay was frantic and intense, with our trio having to fend off multiple waves of enemies while we made our way through the level. Two important indicators will appear on screen if one of your buddies is in trouble – a red “bleed out” meter if a player has been downed, or a blue “strangled” meter if a player is being choked to death by an adversary. You can heal up one of your injured players before he completely bleeds out with a press of a button, however, in the build we played for players who are being choked, you would have to shoot the enemy attacking them. In the final version of the game, Naughty Dog promises that you will also be able to free your friends using melee moves, but it wasn’t present in the version we played. In each cooperative level, if a player dies, they will not respawn, and if all three players die, the effort will be a wash, and you’ll have to start over. Whether or not this will be based on a checkpoint system, or players will have to restart each level is unknown at this point.
Even though there was some a platforming section where one player might have to be vaulted to an area and climb around an area of the level and accomplish an objective, it felt a bit out of place. In my multiple plays of cooperative, it felt like we’d get to a section where the platforming portion was and we’d have to clear the area of baddies, and then lift a player to begin the platforming element, which sort of uncomfortably broke up the gameplay. We’re really hoping this gets smoothed out because platforming is one major facet of what could make Uncharted 2 cooperative stand out.
The 5v5 team deathmatch/Plunder kiosks seemed to get a lot more play, and the experience was much more fast paced. While team deathmatch is self explanatory, Plunder is Naughty Dog’s version of “one flag CTF” which involved two teams of five battling each other to grab the treasure (flag) and bringing it back to their base. Teams working well together and travelling in packs were much more successful, since carrying the treasure relegates the use of weapons to a single pistol for the treasure holder. Often times a group of players would travel with the treasure carrier until enemies were encountered, and the treasure was dropped until one side won the firefight, and then the treasure move was on again.
While each multiplayer mode we played was quite enjoyable, one thing became abundantly clear – communication is key. Especially in cooperative, I often found myself waiting to do a three-person objective with another player, with the remaining player running around blindly doing something completely different and not helping us out. If Naughty Dog doesn’t add some visual or audio cues ala Left 4 Dead to clue in team members that they need to work together to progress in a level, accomplishing needed objectives will become a chore. Considering the average PlayStation 3 user doesn’t normally use a headset, this could prove quite problematic. Finally, the new traversal gunplay that’s supposedly going to be added to the single player campaign wasn’t apparent in either the competitive or cooperative modes, either.
Also hinted at by Naughty Dog is a boost system, which will act much like “perks” from Call of Duty. While playing both the competitive and cooperative modes, players will earn money which will be spent in some sort of store and players will be able to purchase certain kinds of boosts which will assist them. While Naughty Dog is still figuring out how this will actually work, we’re betting there will be some sort of leveling up process where players can purchase upgrades, or even unlock new characters to play as.
The big question, however is whether or not Uncharted actually needs multiplayer. After playing both modes for a few hours, I’m glad Naughty Dog made the effort. Both modes play and feel like a much faster paced Gears of War since Uncharted characters are both much more nimble and have less armor than in the Gears world. Plus with the addition of Uncharted’s addictive platforming, if the team can balance combat and traversal gameplay, Uncharted 2’s multiplayer variants could prove to be truly unique.
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