If you've read all about the new stuff that is coming to Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception's multiplayer experience in our previous preview, then you're probably wondering how it plays. We were able to play through two of the maps coming to the game, Chateau and Airstrip, and they're both based off of locations in the campaign. We also got to take the new mechanics and upgrades for a spin, so read on for all the details. Naughty Dog is pulling out all the stops this time around in multiplayer, and there's no denying that it easily trumps Uncharted 2: Among Thieves in that department.
First of all, you can sprint this time around. It's a bit awkward, because you have to push down on the right stick to activate it, but once you get the hang of that you'll be using it all the time. It has a limited use, and you'll tire out after a few seconds, but it recharges quickly and is indispensable when getting you around the map. Either when you're racing to seek revenge (you can see where your opponents are for a few seconds after you respawn), or hauling ass to get out of the line of fire. It's a welcomed addition, and something that players asked for consistently in Uncharted 2.
You'll need that sprint ability to book yourself around the two maps we played, most especially on Airstrip, which takes places on an airstrip (natch) with lots of straightaways and multiple flat levels. Chateau has fewer open areas on the map, and the one main open area can be seen by two useable turrets and multiple levels, making it a deathtrap. In which case, sprint will save your ass by getting you the hell out of there if that's where you happen to spawn.
Chateau is based on the same Chateau level we've seen already, and part of the building is on fire. Sounds like a bad place to have a firefight, right? Parts of the building are already collapsed, and others will actually collapse during gameplay as timed events. I was engaged in a gunfight in a room with an enemy, taking cover behind different items in the room, when suddenly the roof above us collapsed, killing us both. If you're on the floor above as it crumbles, you'll die as well. Personally, I wouldn't be hanging out in here, no matter what I was armed with, but these upper floors offer up the best vantage points for taking out enemies across the map.
Naughty Dog gets big bonus points for constructing and balancing this map extremely well. There is no perfect spot to be in, and every sniper's nest or turret location has multiple access points, and just when you think you're in a perfect spot, someone will blast you immediately from behind or yank you off of the edge you're standing too close to. Multiple tiers, a zip line, the turrets, and the environmental effects all combine to make this a great map, especially for the newly introduced Three Team Deathmatch mode. One other note: since the level is on fire, you'll see burning embers throughout the map. These glow bright red, and look uncannily like the grenade warning indicators. Meaning you'll be freaking out a lot thinking that you're about to explode.
Airstrip is a much more angular map, with several interior locations and levels that you can access via ladders or scrambling. Running may be new, but the same climbing is back, and you'll be pulling yourself up over multiple locations throughout each map. Chateau offers higher vantage points, but Airstrip has many better opportunities for sniping, including a scaffolding you can climb to access a turret. If you buddy up in Three Team Deathmatch here, your pal can either climb up with you and watch for incoming enemies, or stay on the ground below and protect you as people try to climb up to take you out. Just beware that being in that turret makes you a pretty juicy target for a sniper.
Airstrip also has a triggered event in the map, where your team can load up into trucks, and take off after a cargo plane lumbering down the runway. There is truck to truck combat, truck to plane combat, and even combat inside the plane itself. You can spawn in the plane or on the trucks, and there are plenty of edge-of-your-seat moments as you jump from truck to truck, or from the trucks to the plane. It's a dynamic event that ratchets multiplayer up several notches, instead of just taking place on a static map. There are also fighter planes that will strafe the map, taking you out if you're in the open. Naughty Dog told us they wanted to bring the same cinematic element from the single-player to the multiplayer, and events like this fit the bill perfectly.
Besides sprinting, multiplayer feels a lot like it did last time around, and run and gun (literally, this time) is still the name of the game. Close quarters combat still devolves into a game of "who hit melee first," and players are still bullet sponges somewhat, requiring several hits until they go down. Grenades still behave the same way, but the emphasis on verticality changes the game a lot, at least in these two levels, and you'll be relying on your other players a lot in Team Deathmatch (five on five) and Three Team Deathmatch. As in most multiplayer experiences, communication is key.
Customization is also a game-changer, with the three Booster slots (two normal and one paid) wildly changing the game for players. As you rank up and acquire more cash and rewards, you'll unlock new boosters, new weapons, and new mods. Matchmaking will be based on levels, but look for these boosters and weapons to radically affect your gameplay depending on your own loadout, and the loadouts you'll be facing. In my time with the game, I honed my loadouts down to a ranged rifle with burst shots, the micro Uzi, frag grenades, the Regeneration Booster (heal 70 percent faster), the Multiple Grenades paid booster (one grenade bounces into multiple grenades), and additional ammo mods for my weapons so I wouldn't run out of ammo.
We only played over a few hours, so we didn't have time to run through all of the boosters and upgrades you can get, and that time will probably turn into weeks and months spent developing your perfect loadout. The way that Naughty Dog likes to tinker with its playlists, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a “No Boosters” playlist once the game launches, so people can play the game at base level when things boil down to pure skill. But plenty of boosters, especially the paid ones, provide so much fun that it’s well worth the time to unlock or acquire them. Listening to people around the room freak out when my one grenade would hit the ground, explode, and then launch out more greandes was priceless. Actually, that price was 11 medals, but the reactions were worth much more than that.
One additional note: Sony had one television set up with the game running in stereoscopic 3D, and that was where we first jumped in. I’m a self-proclaimed 3D naysayer, but Uncharted 3 in 3D (Uncharted 3D?) definitely looks impressive. The scoreboard at the top pops off the screen and floats above the gameplay, and while I found aiming to be more difficult in 3D (ironically), it certainly looked terrific.
If you never dove into Uncharted 2’s multiplayer experience, make sure you allow time on your dance card to play it when Uncharted 3 comes out. The game is based on the single-player adventures of Nathan Drake, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun in here. Everything about the multiplayer has been upgraded or enhanced, and it provides an extreme amount of fun that will keep you coming back for more.