The multiplayer beta for Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is underway and I managed to snag a few hours with the game and come back coloured impressed. The beta started this week for PlayStation Plus subscribers and inFamous 2 owners getting first access. The full beta goes live next week for everyone else as a free download on the PlayStation Store. The beta currently features a wide variety of modes, which we’ll get into, but for the first two weeks, only two maps.
The first mode I tried out was the classic Team Deathmatch. The controls feel a lot tighter, the movement seems more fluid and there’s already an addictive element to capturing all the medals (rewarded for special kills or events) and plundering the random treasure box throughout the game. This is your standard 5v5 mode and it seems refined to a beautiful pulp.
The second mode (which is discussed in Game Critique Corner) is called Three Team Deathmatch and it has three teams of two players each and involves you working together to beat the other teams. I went on with a buddy of mine and it has quickly become my favourite game mode of the lot. It was seen in Gears of War 2 but it never stuck well given how grounded you were all the time, but now in Uncharted 3 your partnet can cover you while you get to high ground, or you can both jump around the map covering each other and killing dudes.
I have yet to get my hands on Deathmatch but I managed to fit in a few matches of Co-Op Arena with resident Screenjabber writer Adam Stephen Kelly and a mutual friend. Co-Op Arena is a mix between Gold Rush, Siege and Survival from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and its respective DLC poured into one mode. It alternates between each set objective of grabbing an idol, defending a control point and surviving waves of enemies a la Horde from Gears of War 2.
I found the co-operative element of Uncharted 2 to be the most challenging and rewarding given the pace it puts you through. It reminded me of the campaign from its predecessor. There’s a true sense of freshness to each round as the enemies grow tougher and your objectives twist, meaning you have to adapt to survive and thrive. It’s probably one of the tightest co-op modes around next to Portal 2.
The maps deserve a special mention with the first two featured this week: Airstrip and Chateau. Naughty Dog wanted to push the interactive cinematic experience of the campaign into the multiplayer and so has employed an intro and outro for each map. For Airstrip it’s a cargo plane on an airstrip about to take off with the heroes inside and the villains in pursuit with trucks zipping around.
Airstrip then shifts into the actual meat of the map in the airport, which is a shame since I imagined a more dynamic terrain inside the cargo plane such as multiple levels, gravity shifts and perhaps sliding trolleys used as cover or to climb up a rotating plane. Chateau starts with a little cut-scene and both maps end with another that changes depending on which side won, such as the heroes locking the villains up or being taken hostage by the opposition.
Along with this is a massive tree full of random treasure drop collections, weapon modifications, boosters (perks) to unlock, a 25 level cap and many other treats to get you hooked. The beta also shows off some Facebook connectivity along with the much treasured Cinema mode from Uncharted 2, which can be used to go over old matches, take screenshots and send clips to your friends.
Overall this beta feels very, very familiar to last year’s for the previous game in that I’m already sensing a serious opponent to Portal 2’s game of the year place. Uncharted 3 feels like a tighter and more brutal Uncharted 2, and fleshed out greater like all good sequels are. There’s zero innovation here but that’s just a spin-word and, quite frankly, a series such as Uncharted doesn’t really need it.
I’ll be back with some thoughts next week of the new modes and of classic Deathmatch along with the likely fixes that patches will bring.
• The multiplayer beta for Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception can be downloaded from the PlayStation Store right now if you're a PlayStation Plus subscriber or purchased a copy of inFamous 2. If you don't currently have access, the beta will be available for all gamers from July 5-14. The full game launches on November 1 in the USA and November 4 in Europe.