Uncharted 2: Beta Impressions

Uncharted 2 is still months away from a full retail release, but that’s not stopping developer Naughty Dog from building hype for the game’s new features early on. Last week at E3, the Uncharted 2 multiplayer beta launched to much hype; seven days later, it’s still going strong. When I first heard that Uncharted 2 would have a multi-player component, I wasn’t particularly excited. I figured that it would be a shoddy tack-on game experience designed as nothing more than a bullet-point for the back of the retail box.

I was wrong.

The beta is very limited in gameplay options, but that doesn’t stop it from being an absolutely fantastic experience. Team death match and a neutral-CTF style game mode called “Plunder” are both currently playable online, and they’re both a blast. Naughty Dog has borrowed heavily from both Halo 3 and CoD4 in designing their multiplayer setup: players can vote on which map and gametype to play, and they can modify their characters with unlockable “boosters” that do things like add ammo capacity or increase weapon accuracy. Levels are tracked via an XP system that assigns money for kills or other relevant gameplay performances; additionally, medals are awarded for things like kill streaks or assists.

As a third person shooter, Uncharted 2 sticks to the core competencies of the first game. Each level (there are two currently available: Plaza and Village) has numerous vertical elements that can be free-climbed by any player. Accordingly, I’ve found that camping can prove to be quite an effective tactic when you’re trying to rack up kills. However, the layouts of the maps are quite clever, and even the best sniper perch can easily turn into a deathtrap for anyone brave enough to stay there for more than a minute.  On that note, the cover system from single player is carried over into multiplayer, and it can make for some interesting moments. I was even occasionally reminded of Splinter Cell (weren’t expecting that, were you?) when enemies happened to run right by the place where I was taking cover without ever noticing me.

But wait, chaps… the fun doesn’t stop at team multiplayer. There’s also an objective-based, three player co-operative mode available in the beta.  This is, I would say, where the fun’s at. All of the best aspects of Uncharted’s single player carry over here. At times, one individual or another is required to take on the responsibility of completing platforming tasks for the group. A Gears of War style revival system helps to keep the action going, even after a comrade is downed; however, you’ll need to act fast as waves and waves of enemies pour out from every corner of the individual kill boxes that make up each segment of the co-op level. Happily, the bad guys are easy to kill, so long as you don’t get overwhelmed. The AI in co-op seems to be slightly flawed; a nearby enemy won’t always gun for the closest player. Rather, it seems to search out (and lock onto) the most visible protagonist at the time. As such, you can literally be four feet away from a baddie, and he’ll seem to never notice you. Somehow, I don’t see this as a bad thing; it’s quite fun to pop an unexpectant merc in the side of the head with a Kalashnikov.

Overall, this beta has greatly increased my anticipation for the final product. From my point of view, Uncharted 2 is looking to be a balls-out, nonstop archaeological adventure the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Suck it, Laura Croft; Nathan Drake is the new boss around here.