Frag a Friend
Maybe I’m just anxious, but it feels as if news about Uncharted 3 is just barely trickling in. We finally got our hands on the game at E3, but we were only able to play Team Deathmatch. Now, the open beta has arrived, and the curtain has been lifted on a few of the other multiplayer game types. Of course, we here at Cheat Code Central were anxious to dive right in.
Co-op Arena is definitely the fastest way to earn cash to help you level up and purchase those upgrades. It has up to three players work together to accomplish specific goals. Once a goal is accomplished, you will move on to the next round. There are three different types of goals. Survival has you battle against large amounts of A.I. foes. The Survival round ends when all the enemies have been defeated, and this sometimes means you’ll have to hunt down a soldier that has wandered off somewhere. The Siege round has players defend a specific area. There is a glowing square on the ground, and all the players on a team must be inside this square in order for kills to count. Standing inside the square also causes a timer to count down, and the round ends once the counter expires. Lastly, there is Gold Rush, which requires one player to carry a treasure across the map and deposit it in a box while the other two hold back the enemy troops. Once the treasure is deposited, the round ends and all enemies still roaming around will instantly drop dead.
These three round types are randomized to keep things interesting, and the more rounds you survive, the more difficult the A.I. enemies become. Eventually, you will face off against riot gear-toting soldiers and soldiers with RPG launchers.
The slowest game mode for earning cash is Three Team Deathmatch. This mode separates players into three teams of two, and the first team that can rack up 20 kills wins. I was surprised at how much this actually changes the way you need to play the game. In standard Team Deathmatch, you are focused primarily on your own kill/death ratio. If you run off and abandon your team, you can score a bunch of kills. However, in Three Team Deathmatch, sticking with your partner is essential for survival. The lonely solo player will often get double-teamed by a duo that is actually working cooperatively.
However, Three Team Deathmatch has a few problems. The worst offender is the matchup system. Unless you decide to team up with someone on your friends list, you will be paired with someone completely random. And the game won’t necessarily take into consideration the skill level of players. For example, I was at level 12. I was paired with a level 2 player against a team of two level 24 players. In fact, at one point in the match, my partner had a “Eureka!” moment upon discovering he could use the L1 button to aim. Now, I don’t have a problem helping a newbie learn the ropes, but pitting one against players almost at level cap is just silly. (The beta level cap is 25.) It’s pretty obvious who’s going to win in that situation.
Another time, I was teamed up with a player who promptly bailed on me as soon as the match started. That left me going solo against two other teams of two. I was eventually joined by another player, but as soon as he saw how few kills I had scored while playing alone, he bailed as well.
Three Team Deathmatch is something you’ll want to do with someone you actually know, preferably via splitscreen or with a headset. If the matchup system isn’t made a bit more balanced, I’m afraid this one may not get the active community required to keep it afloat.
The other modes are less remarkable. Free For All was a much-requested addition to the game, and it’s nice to see that our cries did not go unnoticed. It’s an every-man-for-himself frag fest, and provides a great way to blow off steam after being stuck with a jerk of a partner in Three Team Deathmatch.
Hardcore Team Deathmatch allows you to play the standard Team Deathmatch mode, only without any kickbacks or boosters.
One feature I found incredibly useful was the addition of splitscreen co-op. Playing Uncharted 2 was always a lot of fun with a friend, but that meant there would be a lot of taking turns and handing the controller back and forth. We were always inventing strategies that would have been a lot of fun to pull off if we could both play at the same time, yet these went largely unfulfilled. With Uncharted 3, two players will be able to play at once, and that’s awesome. The one drawback, however, is that the maps in Uncharted 3 emphasize verticality. When playing on a screen that is squished vertically, it makes noticing things above you a lot more difficult. I suppose this comes as a double-edged sword, as you are able to better work together with your partner, yet have a slightly disadvantageous field of vision.
My time with Uncharted 3’s beta was definitely enjoyable, and the full game remains on my “must-have” list for November.
Welcome (Back) to the Jungle
Uncharted 3 is one of the most anticipated games of this year. In fact, it’s probably the most anticipated PS3 exclusive. I finally got to spend some time with it at E3, and I must say it’s shaping up quite well.
I got to play two maps in team deathmatch mode. Airfield begins with a convoy of jeeps chasing a plane in a scene very similar to the chase scene toward the end of the single-player campaign in Uncharted 2. You’ll either fight in the beds of the trucks or inside the plane. After a bit of time, the plane takes off, and players still inside get to keep fighting as it takes flight. This eventually transitions into a cutscene—yes, there are cutscenes right in the middle of multiplayer matches—and players will then fight in a warehouse area.
The other map I got to play looked a lot like a cross between the Lost City and the Temple maps from Uncharted 2. It was a jungle setting with scattered climbable ruins. One major difference, however, is the burning cabin in the middle of the map. I never got the chance to get into it before it burned down, but apparently as it burns it opens up new rooms that hide weapons and things.
Uncharted 3’s team deathmatch definitely keeps what worked in Uncharted 2—which is pretty much everything—and ads some new features into the mix. One of the things that is most exciting is the kickback system. By increasing your score—cash in the Uncharted world—you will earn kickbacks. These are sort of like the boosters you earn in Uncharted 2—which are also back, by the way—except they can be applied in-game. One of the kickbacks you can earn is the cluster bomb, a grenade that explodes and scatters three more grenades that will explode shortly after the first one. There are definitely some interesting strategic uses for this, like forcing opponents out of cover when you just can’t quite angle a grenade toss that will reach them.
Another great new multiplayer feature is character customization. As some of the villains, you can even change skin color. The major heroes, like Nate and Elena, don’t have various skin tones, but you can change their clothing. For example, Nathan Drake has a “French sweater” he can wear, and he can even sport aviator shades.
Since this game relies more heavily on co-op play than its predecessors, some of the co-op features have transferred to the deathmatch mode. For example, when you die in co-op mode, you get the option to simply respawn as you normally would or to respawn near your partner. Respawns in team deathmatch function similarly, only the player you can respawn near is the player your camera is following as your spawn counter ticks down. If the player gets into combat, however, you can no longer respawn near them.
The only thing I’m a little worried about is that some of the maps might be a little too large. The Airfield map often will have players running around searching for opponents for what seems like far too long. If Uncharted 3 follows its predecessor and limits multiplayer to 12 players, this might make the map a little dull. Uncharted 2 did very well at limiting map size to keep the action fairly intense most of the time, and larger maps could slow the pace of the matches.
I didn’t get to try any of the single-player, but Sony showed off some gameplay footage and a brand new trailer. One thing that is clear is that Naughty Dog has not run out of ideas for this series. The gameplay footage showed Nate on a sinking ship. During one part of his adventure, there was a bit of combat while the water was slowly rising, meaning he had to finish off the baddies quick to keep ahead of the flood. Another scene showed a power box of some sort fall from the wall and pin Nate underwater. This triggered a “rapidly press triangle” quick time event as Nate struggled to escape.
The trailer confirmed we’ll be seeing some familiar faces: Sully, Chloe, and Elena are all back. Of course, this leaves us wondering what will come of the Nate-Chloe-Elena love triangle that was never truly resolved at the end of Uncharted 2.
Most surprising of all, however, was that Nathan Drake rides a horse in Uncharted 3. That’s right, a horse. This probably won’t be any sort of major gameplay mechanic, but it definitely makes Nate that much more of a badass.
My time with Uncharted 3 was way too short. This is a title I look forward to sinking dozens and dozens of hours into once it launches in November.
Follow in Drake’s Footsteps
To be honest, I never expected the Uncharted series to take off. I mean, it was a no-name series from developer Naughty Dog, whose only real claims to fame beforehand were Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter. (There’s also Math Jam if you are old enough to remember the Apple II.) Back in 2007, if you told me that these guys would make one of the best-selling action/adventure PS3 exclusives, I would say you are out of your mind, and I would steal your limited edition Crash Bandicoot t-shirt for saying something so dumb. Yet Uncharted was great, and Uncharted 2 was even better. Now it looks like Naughty Dog will do it again with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. You were right, and I’ll have your t-shirt sent back to you in the mail.
Uncharted 3 takes place about a year after Uncharted 2. Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan (otherwise known as Sully) are on a mission to discover the mythical city “Atlantis of the Saints,” which supposedly holds wealth and treasure beyond any man’s wildest dreams. (Of course, for Nathan Drake, there’s the added bonus of becoming the subject of every fourteen-year-old girl’s next slash fanfic.) Unfortunately, the city was buried at the bottom of the ocean by the gods because of the wickedness of the people who lived there. Drake, on the other hand, figures that raiding the lost city for its gold is far more virtuous, so there’s no way anything could go wrong. Right?
Of course, this is Uncharted we are talking about. In the tradition of Indiana Jones, Nathan is harassed at every turn by random thugs, international crime organizations, and strange clandestine orders of ancient tribal religions. Nathan and Sully only have the old writings of Sir Francis Drake to guide them, and by following his path they hope to eventually reach the ruined city. It’s just a shame that his path frequently puts them in gun fights in the middle of burning buildings.
Uncharted 3 is a game made entirely for co-op play. Nathan and Sully will be together throughout most of their journey, and most of the time neither can progress without the other’s help. Sully carries his own firearm and will attack the enemies around you with pretty decent aim, ala Resident Evil 5. However, unlike RE5, your co-op actions are not limited to random footstool jumps or switch puzzles. There will be frequent points where both characters will assist each other: providing cover fire, developing interesting ways to cross impassable chasms, and even doing such small things as helping each other when a player’s foot falls through a floor or wanders into a pit of quicksand.
More interesting is how Naughty Dog is playing with the Uncharted gameplay expectations we already have. For example, many ledges may not be sturdy enough to jump to or hang off of, but there are only subtle visual clues to tip you off to their instability. So there will be plenty of times when Nathan will jump to a ledge, just as he has so many times in the past, only to find it crumbling underneath him. Not to worry, because these crumbling platforms aren’t instant death; they are just branching pathways. For example, falling off a ledge can cause Nathan to drop into an underground cave, taking a more roundabout way to his destination. Sully will then have to take a different path, splitting the two up and making them weaker as a consequence. Similar split-ups can occur when you fail cooperative actions as well. Sully may reach for your hand before you fall, only to miss you at the last moment.
Drake has a couple new moves to throw around in Uncharted 3. Stealth kills gain a renewed focus, with Drake now able to leap at his enemies from tall places Assassin’s Creed-style. Drake also gains a variety of new close-combat maneuvers, including clinched and grapple fighting techniques that allow him to fight two enemies at once. If, say, one enemy grabs you from behind, there’s still nothing preventing you from kicking another enemy in front of you. It makes gameplay feel much more cinematic.
Multiplayer is also a big focus in Uncharted 3. Multiplayer modes are chiefly built around two-person teams, with major modes like deathmatch being variations on 2v2v2 and so on. (Of course, there are free-for-all modes included as well.) Two-man game mechanics saturate every mode. For example, you always know where your partner is on the map (outlined by a green square that shows through your surroundings) and you can choose to respawn next to him if you die (although you can’t do this if your partner is currently involved in a fire-fight.) Thinking together strategically will earn you more rewards than simply going at it alone.
Uncharted 3 is yet another game that is succumbing to the FPS craze of rewarding players with multiple loadouts and gun mods. Want a more accurate AK-47 or a faster firing pistol? Just tweak your gun to your exact specifications and you are good to go. Loadouts also include “boosters” which are basically player perks for your character. Boosters award you with things like increased speed, HP boosts, tweaks to the two-player team formula, and one-time use skills that destroy the area around you. If you’ve played Uncharted 2’s multiplayer, many of these boosters will be familiar, while there are some new ones in the mix as well.
Most of the pieces of your loadout are bought with cash, which can be earned during any gameplay mode. However, as you play multiplayer matches, you obtain medals, a different form of currency that can be found in treasure chests or obtained by completing certain objectives. Medals can be spent immediately on “Medal Kickbacks,” abilities that further customize your character. Some Medal Kickbacks allow you to do strange things like vanish in a puff of smoke, jam your opponents’ guns, or throw three grenades at once. Each kickback costs a different amount of medals to use, but you can only bring a limited amount of kickbacks into combat. Put all these system elements together, along with an in-depth character creation system that lets you tweak Drake’s and Sully’s appearances, and no two-man team will be quite the same.
But there’s so much more to the multiplayer than just that. There are still locations where guns spawn on each map, and you can pick up guns from downed enemies. The environments are interactive and destructible. Many environmental hazards, such as bomber planes or out-of-control trucks, will attempt to kill you even as you try to kill your opponent. There are new modifiers called “Power Plays” that change the game rules or even game type during big blowouts. Power Plays greatly increase the amount of cash you earn, so losers can catch up or winners can strengthen their lead. Some of these power plays are as simple as sudden death or overtime, but others involve things such as airplanes that spray the field with gunfire. There are treasure chests to open, mini missions to complete for extra cash, unlockable items, customizable emblems, traps, ambushes, and much more.
Even the maps themselves are cinematic in nature. Two maps have been revealed thus far: Airship and Chateau. Airship starts with players on the back of trucks that are trying to chase down a huge cargo plane. If they reach the cargo plane, they can fight inside it as it takes off and eventually lands in an airfield where the battle continues. Chateau takes place inside a burning building which crumbles as time passes, offering fewer safe areas to fight. Outside the burning building you’ll find turrets, treasure chests, and sniper perches, as well as pathways that let you assassinate your opponents from behind.
Even if you don’t consider the spectacular graphics—which once again show just how strong a piece of hardware the Playstation 3 is—Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception looks to be an action game with great gameplay and a phenomenal story. Once again, Naughty Dog proves that they can make games about things other than spinning marsupials. (A bandicoot is a marsupial right?) Now the only question is: how can they possibly outdo themselves this time?