If you had to read the title of this article twice, we certainly can't blame you. Few would have expected Naughty Dog to deliver co-op in Uncharted 2, let alone co-op and multiplayer. After all, the first game used its charming characters and lighthearted adventure story to such success that most would have assumed the Santa Monica-based developer would settle for sticking with what works in the next game. And while the single-player portion of Uncharted 2 looks every bit as fun as the original--as our most recent impressions can attest--Naughty Dog has elected to take a turn for the unexpected, a decision revealed at last week's PlayStation event in West Hollywood. We were at the scene to talk to Naughty Dog and get some hands-on time with both gameplay modes.
After Naughty Dog made its announcement in the form of a video trailer, it immediately set the press loose onto a bevy of demo stations to get hands-on time with the game. We started by jumping onto one of the stations with co-op mode on it. In a nutshell, Uncharted 2 co-op is designed for two to three players to take part in a number of environments from the game's single-player campaign. You won't be able to play the entirety of the game's single-player portion, but rather a select number of levels that Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells says work best with the increased number of players. Basically, the levels are handpicked and slightly reworked to provide a good balance between the cover-based gun combat and slick platforming that make up the yin and yang of Uncharted 2's gameplay.
But that's over the duration of all the co-op levels, because the one we had the chance to try focused very much on combat. It was set in the same Nepalese warzone Naughty Dog previously showed off in our last look at the game, but this time Drake was joined by his old pal Sully and the new female protagonist, Chloe Frazier (we played as Drake, while our co-op partners played as the other two). The action plays very much like Uncharted: you take cover, pop up to shoot your enemies, and proceed forward until a new swarm of bad guys comes your way. What differs, though, are your ability to revive fallen teammates and the new co-op goals that require the full group to convene at a single point to, say, lift a heavy bookshelf blocking the path or give one another boosts to get to a higher location.
Another key difference is that the narrative has been scaled back quite a bit for co-op. A quick smattering of dialogue at the beginning of a level sets the table for your goal, but from there you won't see many exchanges between characters. You might think of co-op as a distilled, arcade form of the single-player gameplay right on down to the points you can collect and put toward the game's overarching economy of unlockables. An example game designer Justin Richmond provided for us were the boosters used to add to your multiplayer abilities (think Call of Duty-like perks that boost your aiming and damage), though he also hinted at the possibility of using them toward comedic single-player cheats like the first game had.
Multiplayer is quite a bit more straightforward than co-op. The stations running at the event alternated between cut-and-dried deathmatch games and another mode called Plunder, which is a variation on capture the flag. Multiplayer maps are inspired by locales from the single-player game, though they've been significantly reworked to account for balance between competing sides. They're arranged in such a way that climbing around plays to your advantage just as much as hiding behind cover. With a bit of leaping and shimmying, you can make it up to a rooftop perch to pick off enemies from afar, or just leap from building to building to avoid the deadly foot traffic down below.
All the weapons in multiplayer are those included in the single-player game. That means you'll have the option to use a number of guns such as pistols, AK-47s, shotguns, and even a minigun (which, naturally, makes you slow as a snail). The playable teams are described by Naughty Dog as heroes vs. villains, which means one squad is made up of good guys you'll recognize from the story, and the other side is composed of bad guys. It looks like that roster includes people from the first game, too, as one of the hero characters in our matches was Elena. We're told there's no functional difference between any of these characters, a decision Naughty Dog made to keep things balanced. It makes sense, though seeing grizzled-old-man Sully dashing up buildings with the same athleticism as Drake takes a bit of getting used to.
Altogether, though, it looks like Uncharted 2 multiplayer incorporates a lot of what makes the single player gameplay so appealing--that combination of measured firefights and freewheeling acrobatics--in a competitive setting. The unlockable boosters should add some longevity, too, though it would be a stretch to say you'll see as much staying power as games such as Killzone 2 or Resistance 2 have. Still, Uncharted 2's multiplayer seems like a worthwhile option for PS3 owners looking for a different form of online shooter. You can expect plenty more coverage on Uncharted 2 leading up to its late-2009 release. In the meantime, you can snag yourself a code to access the upcoming public multiplayer beta by picking up a copy of fellow first-party Sony game Infamous.