June 29, 2011 by Paul Curtin
The Uncharted 3 beta was released not even 24 hours ago and the official forums are already flooded with a mix of praise and complaints from fans of Uncharted 2‘s multiplayer. I had a chance to get my hands on the same multiplayer build at E3 earlier this month and voiced some of the same concerns that are now constantly being brought up on Naughty Dog’s forums. So is Uncharted 3 an evolution in multiplayer gaming or a trainwreck of new features?
Uncharted 2‘s multiplayer was praised for its simplicity: players fought in 5 vs. 5 battles where everyone started with the same stock weapons and fought to pick up more powerful weapons throughout the map. The only customization players had was choosing which player model they used when playing as a hero or villain and which two boosters they used. Boosters worked similarly to perks in Call of Duty, but almost everyone who knew what they were doing used the same two boosters and refused to use anything else due to how worthless the other boosters were, somewhat defeating the purpose.
While the Uncharted 3 multiplayer is filled with tons of bugs and glitches at the moment in its early beta stages (because it’s not a glorified demo), that’s not the biggest problem players are having. The problem that most are having is with the vast amount of new features and changes to how the game plays. Players who loved Uncharted 2‘s simple, yet perfected, multiplayer are up in arms with how complex Uncharted 3‘s multiplayer has become. Unlike most developers who tend to release the exact same version of their multiplayer year after year with minor tweaks, Naughty Dog has revamped just about everything in Uncharted 3.
The first thing different is the overall pacing of the game, which feels noticeably slower than Uncharted 2. Players now move slower and more sluggishly in order to empathize use of U3‘s new sprint feature. U2 had no ability for players to sprint, which allowed players to constantly run at a faster pace. Maps are also slightly bigger than in U2, which creates pauses in the nonstop action that smaller maps seemed to create. Since there are only two maps currently in the beta, there’s no telling how big or small the rest of the maps will be. Multiplayer games are also designed unlike anything else in gaming with matches on maps like Airstrip not only taking place on two completely different maps, but the first map featuring a moving plane that’s about to take off with vehicles chasing after it. Players can jump from moving vehicle to moving vehicle and even make their way inside the plane all in real time; it’s truly amazing and unlike anything you’ve ever seen in multiplayer.
One of the biggest changes is how weapons have been tweaked and allow players to pick and modify their weapons with upgrades before they enter matches. I mentioned in my E3 article how I instantly noticed a change in the accuracy of guns during my limited time with U3‘s multiplayer. That’s because I used the new AK47, which in its current state is almost worthless. Uncharted 2‘s multiplayer allowed players to use weapons like the AK47 at any range and with pinpoint accuracy. Uncharted 3 now features more realistic recoil when firing guns; however, Naughty Dog has gone a little overboard and made the AK so hard to keep on a target when firing that the gun now needs to be fired in bursts. Having to fire in bursts wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that there’s a more powerful gun called the GMAL (U2‘s FAL), which automatically fires in bursts and is more accurate and powerful at any range.
While players coming from U2 aren’t happy with the minor tweaks, the addition of Kickbacks and Power Plays are what seem to have people the most upset over balancing issues. Kickbacks allow players to use a custom power-up once reaching a certain amount of kills, similar to Call of Duty‘s kill streak system mixed with Homefront‘s buy-what-you-want-at-any-time during the game system. The Kickback system allows for abilities like speed boosts, no reloading, instantly equipping an RPG, and even the ability to transform into a swarm of spiders. To counter players getting Kickback power-ups, there’s also a new Power Play system that goes into effect when a match starts to become lopsided. Teams that are losing by a significant amount are given chances to kill players marked on the other team for extra points and can also be given the ability to see where enemies are. There’s even the ability to spend a significantly large amount of money before each game and purchase a one-time-use upgrade like bullets with increased damage.
One of the most unique new features is something I’ve never seen in a multiplayer shooter before and works like a role-playing game. Treasures can randomly drop from enemies after they’ve been killed, which players who made the kill can then pick up. But the treasures aren’t dealing with objectives or the score of the game; instead, treasures picked up go towards a player’s overall character progression. There’s an entire list of treasure sets that can be viewed from the menu, with each set unlocking new customizable items like clothing to dress your character in. It’s a really neat feature that will at times have you debating whether to run into the heat of battle to pick up a potentially rare treasure which could be the last piece you need to unlock that bad-ass face mask you’ve been wanting for your character.
With all the new features, it’s easy to see how Uncharted 3‘s beta can seem foreign to players coming from Uncharted 2 and be upsetting. Even experts from U2 will feel like noobs as they figure out all the new features and learn which guns they’re now best with. While the game still needs a lot of work, the overall gameplay and features look like an improvement over the last game. At first it might seem like Naughty Dog is trying to do too much with multiplayer, but with the point of the beta being to see how the community reacts to changes and for Naughty Dog to tweak the game to perfection, we’re sure to end up with another great multiplayer game, and not just a rehashed version of the last. The Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta runs from June 28 – July 13 and is available to anyone who has PlayStation Plus, a copy of Infamous 2, or a beta key.