Hands-on: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves multi-player

ReviewBefore I begin, I have a confession to make – I’m not the biggest fan of multiplayer. While this social aspect of gaming has its brighter moments, I have always rated a solid story over the trigger-happy experience of a hectic fragfest. My discomfort with multiplayer gaming only went up a couple of notches when the single player experience was compromised to deliver a more thorough multiplayer component in many games. I’m always game for a deathmatch, as long as it doesn’t cut into the quality of the single player campaign.

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So while many screamed with joy when an early video of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves showing Nathan Drake traversing a seemingly desolate village plaza turned into a raving bloodbath, I let out a howl of despair. Drake’s Fortune is one of my favourite games this generation for its beautifully crafted story and characters, and the last thing I needed was Naughty Dog caving in to the pressure of including a multiplayer component to extend the replay value of the game.

Thus began the grand scheme of abducting the development team responsible for the multiplayer component and transporting them into an alternate space-time dimension. However, with no means in sight, I had to settle for downloading the first multiplayer beta back in June and bitching about it on the IVG forums.

And boy was I wrong!

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As Nitin’s preview of the earlier beta indicates, Naughty Dog knew what they were getting into, and planned all along to do things in style. In my short time with the beta, it was evident that the multiplayer component of Uncharted 2 had no intention of leaving anything short of a mark, much like its single player campaign. The current multiplayer beta, with its truckloads of additional features, has only cemented that belief. However, I still had my doubts. The biggest being – will the multiplayer mirror the gameplay experience we have come to expect from the single player? More on that later.

Let’s first open the package and see the contents. Joining the Village and The Plaza maps from the earlier beta, the current beta also includes the Temple and Ice Cave. The former is a set of rooms within a temple (duh!), while Ice Cave is set upon an open area nestled among mountains and huge idols in derelict state, with another level of passages underneath the plane. The clever design ensures that all maps require a different approach, with the verticality to be taken in account by the players in every map i.e. a good shot and a high vantage point can spell doom very quickly. Add weapons such as grenade launchers and RPGs at specific points of the map to the mix and the competitive multiplayer quickly turns into a strategic and compelling experience.

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The current beta also includes more game modes; Chain Reaction and Elimination join Deathmatch and Plunder. Elimination is a reminiscence of Counter-Strike, with two teams engaging in a team deathmatch with the objective being to eliminate every member of the opposing team. Victory in three out of five rounds is required to win the game. Chain reaction is Naughty Dog’s take on Capture-The-Base, with each team tasked with capturing 5 bases. However, to make things more interesting, one team is required to capture base 5 through 1 and the other is required to do the exact opposite.

The cooperative mode also returns with the earlier mission extended in this beta to include the fight with the chaingun wielding boss, as well as higher difficulties. This fight really requires a lot of teamwork, because not only is the boss a bullet sink, but other enemies keep dropping in who are more than happy to choke you to death. The key to survival here is watching each others’ backs. The inclusion of higher difficulties is also a good thing, because in my opinion, the cooperative mode was the weakest suite of the earlier beta. Players seemed to be more intent on racking up kills than to work together, which completely defeated the point of this mode. However, such an approach will not float on higher difficulties. Enemies take a lot more bullets to drop, and the only way to succeed is to work together and cover all entry points. A well executed cooperative game now is nothing short of exhilarating.

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The other cooperative mode is Gold Rush, where a team of 2-3 players is dropped onto a map, and is required to collect gold statues (similar to Plunder), while battling waves of AI opponents. The challenge progressively gets tougher with more and more enemies spawning in subsequent rounds, with one round even featuring the chaingun boss. However, compared to the other multiplayer modes, Gold Rush appears to be more of an afterthought. It does not bring any new ideas to the table, with the gameplay being a mix of Plunder and the cooperative campaign. I expect Gold Rush to be the least popular of all multiplayer modes in Uncharted 2.

Next page: Upgrades, cinema mode, etc

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