June 12, 2009 – The first Uncharted was an excellent single-player experience that really showcased what the PS3 was capable of. At the time when it was released, the PS3 was hurting for good software, especially exclusives, and Naughty Dog really hit a home run with its new IP in terms of its presentation and gameplay. Due to this, Uncharted quickly became one of the most popular and best-selling PS3 games which, thankfully, has resulted in a sequel slated for a release later this year.
While the first Uncharted focused entirely on the solitary exploits of Nathan Drake, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves will be coming with a host of multiplayer options right out of the box.
However, the addition of multiplayer components to a typically single-player series can sometimes be a cause for concern. There is often the fear that these modes will feel tacked on, that the gameplay you enjoy in single-player won’t translate well into a multiplayer experience, or perhaps worst of all, if you do wind up liking it, that it will be difficult finding matches to play in. Thanks to the recent chance to play a plethora of rounds in the Uncharted 2 multiplayer closed beta, these fears have certainly been put to rest for me.
Although this closed beta doesn’t include all of the features and modes that we’ll see in the finished game, it gives a good taste of what to expect. As far as the competitive side of the beta goes, players are given the option to play in either team deathmatch or plunder matches on one of two maps. One map is named The Village and it consists of plenty of buildings to hide in and travel through, perches great for sniping, and a ton of barricade walls to quickly duck behind to regain life or gain a tactical advantage. In contrast, The Plaza is more open with a large raised area at its center, has some barricade-littered corridors, and is much darker than the sun-drenched Village. Both maps felt very good while playing and provided a sense of verticality and exploration that isn’t often present in multiplayer offerings, since you can pretty much find a way to climb onto and up just about everything.
Team deathmatch is a fairly standard mode, which pits a team of five heroes against a team of five villains in a race to score fifty kills first. The cover mechanic found in the original game works really well here, as you’ll be able to hide behind objects and walls and either peak out for a few accurate shots or blind fire in order to stay more concealed. The ability to sneak around the environment while playing also creates some interesting situations, since, if you manage to get behind an unaware foe, a single tap of the melee button will grant you a quick and spectacular one hit stealth kill.
The plunder mode, as you may expect, is basically Uncharted 2’s version of capture the flag. The biggest twist here is that the flag isn’t just a light and easy to carry object but is instead a hulking box of treasure that must be lugged back to your hideout in order to score. Because of its weighty nature, players are also only able to wield their pistols while in possession of the treasure chest. Actually getting this box to your scoring destination definitely requires a total team effort, since you are so limited while carrying it. But, the process does go a bit easier if you hold down the L2 button and toss the chest towards your goal instead of just carrying it.
During these modes, players will earn money for various things such as scoring kills and capturing treasure that will increase their level. While I’m not entirely sure how your level will affect gameplay in the final version of the game, one could speculate that it will likely help with matchmaking and perhaps grant different boosters for the player to use. In this beta there are two slots available for adding boosters to your character, which can grant a variety of improvements to different skills; think perks from COD 4. Some of the highlights here were more precise aiming with the pistol or rifles, improved accuracy while blind firing, the ability to carry more bullets, and having more bullets in each clip, which allows for lengthier firefights between reloads. These boosters were definitely interesting and useful, and I’m sure there will be a ton more that can be unlocked/purchased in the finished version of the game.
Rounding out the multiplayer beta was a cooperative mode that allowed up to three players to team up as Nathan, Chloe, and Sully. Rather than retreading the single-player experience with friends in tow, the co-op mode instead focuses on completing a series of objectives in order to make your way to some treasure. The only playable scenario in the beta was the Nepal Warzone, which is broken into several stages of killing waves of increasingly more difficult foes, with better weaponry becoming available as you progress as well. Each segment has you clearing out a horde of foes and then completing an objective such as hoisting a cabinet to climb to the next area or using an RPG to blast through a wall to continue on with your quest.
Teammates will frequently get downed by your enemies, with a depleting meter appearing above their heads, which will require you to find them and hold the triangle button until they are fully revived. If you fail to save a downed teammate before their meter runs dry, they will have to wait roughly twenty to thirty seconds in order to respawn. Worse yet, if everyone happens to die, your whole team will need to restart from your last checkpoint. You’ll be given a few chances to restart from your last checkpoint, but if you continue to fail, you’ll find yourself starting the whole scenario over from scratch. While this mode can be challenging at times, it definitely seems like it will be a fun addition to the single-player and competitive online experiences.
Although I was initially skeptical of the multiplayer component of Uncharted 2, I have to say this beta certainly changed my opinion. The experience was every bit as enjoyable as most of the shooters I’ve played online, and the mix of shooting, cover, climbing, and exploration felt very natural. We’ll have to wait to see how the rest of the online package fairs once the game is finally released, such as the ability to record and share entire online matches, which wasn’t available in the beta. But, what is already here has certainly left me with a positive first impression.
January 23, 2009 – If you are a PS3 owner, then more than likely you have checked out Naughty Dog’s action adventure Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. If you haven’t, then I highly recommend you do so. It gave an early glimpse at some of the potential of the PS3, and the game itself was extremely fun to play. It also helped that the protagonist was a bit of an everyman in his attitude and the real way he approached situations. In fact, it was due to his attitude and overall view of things that a few friends of mine picked up the first title in the first place.
At the end of the first game, everyone was hungry and eager for more adventures with Nathan Drake. Naughty Dog has finally revealed that there will be another adventure for the character, called Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. This time around, the story may be a little darker than what some were expecting. As one might be able to guess, since the title has the word Thieves in it, Nate has not always been on the straight and narrow when it comes to his globetrotting adventures. Even though he has tried to leave that all behind him, some things never stayed buried. The basic storyline for this installment is that Nate discovers a mysterious artifact that leads him into a deadly game of cat and mouse with a ruthless fugitive war criminal, as they search for the legendary 13 ships of Marco Polo.
For those unaware, Marco Polo had spent more than a dozen years in the lavish exotic court of Kublai Khan. He left with the company of 600 sailors, gold, and riches aboard 14 vessels. When he finally arrived home in Italy two years later, he only had one ship and 18 men remaining. For centuries, historians have wondered what happened to those other 13 ships. Whether it was scurvy, cholera, pirates, or something more unexplainable, no one has ever really discovered the truth.
Of course, Nate is on the trail to discover the truth in the same fashion he did with Sir Francis Drake in the first Uncharted. It’s because of these real world mysteries with plausible and feasible discovery methods that I truly enjoyed Uncharted and look forward to Uncharted 2. Though these are not the only reasons why I am eager to check it out.
One of these new elements will be the pacing. If you thought the story moved along with near break-neck speed in the first Uncharted, you are in for a treat this time around. After spending time studying Hollywood screenplay techniques, the team at Naughty Dog has discovered how to improve upon the already impressive storytelling capabilities they had in the first Uncharted. The biggest thing that will aid in the pacing of the game will be the “no loading times.” It’s a big claim, but if it can be done, Uncharted 2 could set the bar a little higher for every game in the industry.
The graphics of the game are also looking to set new levels for future game developers to reach. All of the footage we have seen is reported as real-time, which may not shock many considering the real-time graphics in the first Uncharted, but this time around things appear to be amped up even more for that realistic flair. One such example is how the shader they used for the water in the first is going to be used in order to display snow and ice in the game. However, aside from the technical feats this Uncharted looks to set, there is one other aspect that truly deserves mentioning: character interaction. Instead of looking and playing like the characters are separate from the physical world around them, everything will feel grounded and the objects in the world will be very much real in the game world. For example, Drake will move how you expect him to move in the real world. His move sets will change depending on the situation he is in.
The platforming and shooting aspects of the game will be returning as well, and Naughty Dog is not faltering in polishing these areas either. Introducing the new “free climb” feature, they have allowed Nate to scramble along monkey bars and leap from poles to reach his destination. One of the hindrances of the first was the use of the Sixaxis controller for the balance beam parts of the game. This element has been removed in order to provide a more precise and fast experiences for the player.
Nate won’t be alone in his adventure this time either. However, Naughty Dog has kept quiet about characters Sully and Elena returning in this title to help Drake out. Confirmed to be joining him this time will be Chloe Frazer, an equally seedy individual wrapped in the depths of the treasure hunting underworld. Nolan North returns to voice Nate and Claudia Black from Stargate SG-1 and Farscape will be providing the voice of Chloe. Instead of traditional motion capturing, Naughty Dog had the actors perform the scenes in their entirety in order to capture the chemistry between them.
There are a lot of hopes for this upcoming sequel both from Naughty Dog and fans. With an interactive storyline that will draw you in, compelling voice over work, stunning graphics, and gameplay that will be familiar and new at the same time, there’s no doubt they will be able to deliver. This one will make this holiday season feel like a summer action movie.