Naughty Dog pulled back the curtain last week to give us an E3 Sneak Peek at things to come for Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, and the big surprised ended up being the multiplayer reveal. Those of you who have been playing through Nathan Drake's adventures since the beginning know that the original Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was a single-player experience, and that they added multiplayer in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. While not as robust as the campaign experience, the multiplayer offered up new gameplay for those who had finished Drake's cinematic solo experience. Naughty Dog didn't just release that into the wild by itself, either. They've kept multiplayer fresh with additional DLC, and by introducing "The Lab," which lets the developers try out different modes and playlists with the masses.
One year after launch, over 125 million matches had been played, and it's now been nearly two years, giving the development team plenty of time to figure out what they're going to do to continue that multiplayer experience. In their words, they want it to be the "best in class" multiplayer game on the PlayStation 3. The disc that you leave in the tray all the time, because you're that addicted to it. While that level of popularity remains to be seen, they have clearly spent a lot more time focusing on the multiplayer this time around. "But that's not to say that we haven't been focusing just as much on the single-player!" one of the developers assured us. So don't worry. Drake won't get short shifted because the game wants to dislodge Call of Duty.
In order to trophy its way to domination, Naughty Dog has pumped lot of new content into multiplayer. In all honesty, this is what the multiplayer should have been in Uncharted 2. That felt like a valiant effort, but still came across as a shoehorned effort to try and get a slice of the multi-pie. Now the team has had a lot of time to consider things, and what they showed off reflects that. So what did they show off? I'm glad you asked.
The team has used Uncharted 2 as a foundation, but they've added several stories worth of construction to it. Their emphasis has been on bringing that same cinematic feel from the single-player into multiplayer, and they've also taken some obvious cues from other multiplayer games. To that end, Boosters are back, and you can select up to three of them. But they've branched out into different categories. Boosters can affect just yourself, like Renegeration, which lets you heal 70 percent faster. Or you can pick up a Booster that will share money between you and your buddy while playing together. Some Boosters require you to spend medals to activate. I chose a grenade booster that turned my one grenade into multiple grenades. The problem is that you can only use it when you have collected enough medals. Once you have 11, hit up on the d-pad and your Booster is active for just one use.
There are tons of Boosters in the game, and we didn't have time to run through all of them, but they range from increased ammo, to the ability to see your opponents for a brief time after you respawn, to reducing the "pain wobble" when you get shot and "Take A Knee," which will put your character on one knee instead of dying. If a teammate makes it to you in time, they can revive you. It also turns you into a sitting (or kneeling) duck, so you have to watch yourself with that one. It's probably best suited for snipers. For the "Paid Boosters," which are the ones requiring medals, you earn those medals by opening the treasure chests on the map that become active at certain times, or sometimes enemies will drop a treasure, usually consisting of a few medals. These Boosters are much more powerful, and spreading them out via medal collection is a smart way to keep things balanced.
Speaking of balance, Naughty Dog has added several features to keep gameplay tighter, since no one likes being blown out during a match. The game will now introduce an "Overtime" mode that kicks in if the score is really close at the end of a match. An extra minute will be added to the playclock, giving you a last-gasp effort to go over the top. If things are tied up at the end of a match, you'll also go into a sudden death "Elimination" mode, with the last man standing winning it for their entire team. Also new are Power Plays, where a team who is far behind gets an opportunity to complete a task, or keep the enemy from completing a task, and doing so will give them a way to get multiple kills quickly and even up the score.
Additional tweaks that look to underline the multi in multiplayer include Late Join, meaning you can join a game in progress, so you won't have any more empty games, to split screen (broken up horizontally, with big black boxes on the top right and bottom left. Naughty Dog told us that this was a space to watch, with a possible TBA feature filling in those blank spaces. Split screen will also allow multiple PSN IDs to sign in as well. They're also adding a buddy system to the game, meaning if you party up and join a game with a friend, you'll instantly be "buddies" with each other. There are buddy specific events you can trigger (like high-fiving over an enemy corpse when you both hit the square button), and buddy specific rewards as well like Buddy Bucks (shared cash). They want you to feel like you're really partnered up with someone, rather than just being another slot on a team. Plus, the ability to spawn on your buddy comes in extremely handy when your partner is about to get ambushed in a firefight.
In gameplay modes, they've also added a Free For All deathmatch mode, which everyone had been asking for. So breathe easy. You'll now be able to kill random strangers. There is also a three-team deathmatch this time around, giving you two vs. two vs. two gameplay. We played this extensively at the event, and since every teammate automatically becomes your Buddy as well, it was extremely fun. It was a good way to force cooperation, and plays very quickly. There will be more gameplay modes on the way, and that's all we were able to see at the reveal.
Customization is one thing that players of certain other FPS titles enjoy, and Uncharted 3 has added it in spades. You can now customize your entire loadout, down to your guns, pistols, and grenades (as well as up to three Boosters), but you can also customize the look of your Hero and Villain characters. I slipped a sweet pair of aviators onto my Drake avatar, making him look like a badass in the process. You can customize arms, legs, torsos, feet, and heads, giving you entirely different looks for each standard character model.
Also new are emblems, straight out of Call of Duty, featuring multiple layers, colors, pieces of clip art, and more. These will appear on your weapons and your character in the game, and in some modes they will also appear inside the level itself. If you're in the lead on the boards, your emblem will look like it's been spray-painted over different locations throughout, and it's a nice visual reminder that you're in the lead. People will be vying for the top slot just to see their graffiti tags all over the place.
Weapon mods are in as well, and you can upgrade your weapons with different unlockables throughout the game. You can also access new weapons by picking up treasures or by completing "missions" in multiplayer that pop up from time to time (like getting three kills in the next 30 seconds) . Missions can be instant, long-term, or friend based, and they earn you extra cash. Missions and treasures will also unlock new weapons, character pieces, emblem shapes and more as you progress throughout the multiplayer.
Finally, they've added a deep social experience into the game. They readily admit that they dropped the ball with the Twitter integration last time around, and now they're putting in Facebook and YouTube functionality. If you're friends with someone via Facebook, and not on PSN, you'll still be able to see that they're playing the game, and can join them. You can also send out your videos to Facebook video, or YouTube to feature anything from an awesome kill to a funny highlight. There's an enhanced cinema mode that now features rewind, event marking, and the ability to generate clips, which is what you'll upload to Facebook and YouTube, which might also get featured on Uncharted TV, which is a channel inside the new game.
Interested in playing this game early? Naughty Dog also announced that there will be a limited beta starting on June 28 if you buy inFamous 2, or are a PSN+ member. That same beta will go wide to everyone else via the PlayStation Store on July 7. It might seem like a long way off, but it's a nice cap to the summer. We'll be looking for more Uncharted 3 details at E3. Be sure to read our full hands-on writeup on the Uncharted 3 multiplayer as well to whet your appetite for destruction.