Multiplayer might not have been the most called-for addition to Naughty Dog's Uncharted 2, but--as Tom Mc Shea found out in his review--it was a lot of fun and attracted more than 2.7 million players after release. It should come as no surprise, then, to see multiplayer making a return in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, with new modes, maps, and more high-fiving Drakes than you can imagine. If you're a PlayStation Plus subscriber or an inFamous 2 owner, you can get your hands on the multiplayer mode now via a closed beta. If you're short one of the coveted access keys, though, read on for our impressions of the beta, which opens up to the public on July 5.
Before you delve into the action, the beta encourages you to take a look at the character customization options. These let you change everything from your character's outfit and facial features to weapon loadout and mods. New weapons are unlocked by leveling up your character, while you purchase weapon mods, such as larger ammo clips, faster reload times, or boosts to a weapon's accuracy, using money you've acquired during matches. Initially, you're limited to an AK47 as your primary weapon, but as you level up, you gain access to grenade launchers, rocket launchers, and the cockney gangster favorite: the sawed-off shotgun.
Once you've got your character suitably dressed and equipped for combat, you can get into a match. The beta features five modes: the familiar Team Deathmatch and Co-Op Arena, as well as all-new Free-for-All, Three Team Deathmatch, and Hardcore Arena. Free-for-All is--as the name suggests--a one-versus-everyone mode, in the vein of classic deathmatch. Three Team Deathmatch pits you and a friend against another two teams of two, while Hardcore Arena is a standard team deathmatch, minus any boosters or kickbacks.
Boosters and kickbacks are a form of power-up for your character. Boosters are equipped before a match using money you've earned, while kickbacks are activated during a match with medals that you've earned via different types of kills and assists. If you find you're dying more often than not, kickbacks are extremely useful and can restore the balance of a match. Too slow to escape gunfire? Active your speed-boost kickback. Tired of reloading? Activate the militia man kickback. Want to blow the living crap out of everything in sight? Spawn yourself a rocket-propelled grenade and blow everyone up.
If your team is seriously behind in Team Deathmatch, a new power play system attempts to level the playing field. When your team is ahead, you might incur a penalty, such as one member of your team becoming a VIP that you have to protect, with his or her death giving the opposing team more points. Conversely, if you're behind, you can gain the ability to identity the positions of your opponents through buildings for a limited time. Whether the power play system does a good job balancing matches is up for debate, but we found it injected some extra thrills into more drawn-out battles.
The beta contains just two maps: Chateau and Airstrip. You can read more about the latter in our previous look at the map, but for those with link aversion, here's a recap. Airstrip takes place on a moving plane, where you have defend the cargo hold from the opposition while it foolishly attempts to attack your team from an army of chasing trucks. This gives you the opportunity to indulge in some classic camping, picking off the poor saps as they weave around in front of you. Later, the action moves to the airfield, filled with disused crates and an old aircraft hangar, giving you plenty of places to take cover. The roof of the hangar is usable too, which is great for any snipers on your team.
Chateau eschews moving vehicles for a more rustic look. It's set within a crumbling stone building and features a garden filled with relics that lends itself well to small skirmishes. Small passages around the building are ideal hangouts for snipers, who can pick off unsuspecting victims. Elevated paths also provide good sniper positions and feature mounted turrets that you can use to lay waste to the opposition below you. They take time to get up to speed, though, so you leave yourself open to attack for a good few seconds. One other cool feature on the map is a zip line, which you can use to dive headfirst into a skirmish. Call us show-offs, but using the zip line to make a grand entrance before spraying bullets all over the opposition was a lot of fun and a great way to take our opponents by surprise.
We also had a lot of fun playing Co-Op Arena mode, which returns following its debut in Uncharted 2. It pits you and two companions against waves of CPU-controlled enemies. With each wave comes a different goal, whether that's defending an area in Siege, going on a killing spree in Survival, or gathering up treasure in Gold Rush. Like all online co-op modes, though, you're only as good as your teammates, and with friendly fire on, you run the risk of encountering some less-than-helpful players who love nothing more than shooting you and dancing over your still-warm corpse.
PlayStation Plus subscribers and inFamous 2 owners can dive straight into the multiplayer beta now, while everyone else gets access on July 5. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is due for release this November. For more on the game, check out our previous coverage.