My first few minutes spent playing Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception in the game's multiplayer mode was dedicated to making my Nathan Drake and my Victor Sullivan look different from all the other Drakes and Sullys I was fighting against. I put a fisherman's hat on Sully, gave him a blue Hawaiian shirt, decked him out with rings. My Drake wore aviator sunglasses and wore a brick colored shirt, half-tucked, of course.
This was just one of the things that made Uncharted 3 feel different from its predecessor and made my player character feel more personal, more customized. I toyed with different weapon load outs—Uncharted 3 multiplayer supports up to four—and new mods for my guns. I preferred more accurate aiming for my pistol, a faster rate of fire for my AK-47.
I selected my Boosters, the player perks that make a character heal faster, respawn more quickly, or carry more ammo. I breezed through the long list of Boosters, the ones unique to my player, the others that tap into the game's new Buddy System and the one-time use Medal Kickbacks that turn collectibles into power ups.
Uncharted 3's customization options were a highly entertaining diversion while I waited to join others in Three Team Deathmatch (that's 2 vs. 2 vs. 2) and eight-player Free For All. But none of that customization was as enjoyably time-killing or addictive as Uncharted 3's better than ever multiplayer modes.
We had access to just two maps during our hands-on time with Uncharted 3 multiplayer: Airstrip and Chateau. If you've followed Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, you're likely familiar with the latter. It's based on the single-player level that's been showcased for its fire effects.
The Chateau, a blown out mansion with a sprawling courtyard, burns in multiplayer like it does in single-player. Maybe not as dramatically, but you'll see that building go up in flames. Outside, there are mounted turrets and treasure chests. It's filled with great sniper perches, but is also laced with pathways that let players sneak up on each other.
Airstrip is unique for its cinematic introduction. The multiplayer map starts with a chase, with players riding in trucks that race down an airstrip in pursuit of a huge cargo plane. Here, players leap from truck bed to truck bed, hoping to make their way to the cargo bay of that plane where they'll have a better defensible position. Trucks explode and roll chaotically. A plane occasionally strafes that runway with gunfire. After a brief cut scene, players will be transported to the second half of that map, an airfield with tighter quarters, dozens of hiding spots and plenty of upward mobility.
Oh, and occasionally, that pesky plane will strafe the airfield. Like the trucks, it's not player controlled, simply an environmental hazard that can very easily lead to your death.
In Airfield, we got a sense of how instrumental the Buddy System, Uncharted 3's cooperative incentives, will be to gameplay. You'll always be able to see your buddy's location on the map, thanks to a unique identifier (a green square that shows their position). Perhaps the most useful aspect of the Buddy System is the option to respawn at their location, provided they're not currently engaged in combat with another player.
Three Team Deathmatch highlights the usefulness of the Buddy System, a mode that encourages players to stick together, to strategize as a pair and to high five over the slain bodies of your enemies.
Players can also tap their buddy to help them earn more ammo or medals, one of the currencies in Uncharted 3 multiplayer. Those collectible medals, which can be secured through treasure chests and other means, can be spent on Medal Kickbacks. I tried out Smoke Bomb, which with a tap of the d-pad upward, lets you vanish in a puff of smoke, should you find yourself outnumbered.
I also tested the Carpet Bomb Medal Kickback, which lets you toss three grenades at once. Others let you double your cash earnings or curse other players. (There's a long list of Medal Kickbacks, Boosters and Buddy Boosters, which we've listed out at the bottom of this post.)
Uncharted 3 multiplayer is quickly addicting, heavily customizable stuff. Mechanically, it's not that different from the multiplayer feature set of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Much of the action still plays the same, but is now complemented with new features like the Buddy System, environmental destruction, load outs and weapon mods. (Yes, you can still pick up weapons dropped by foes or nestled in certain spots on maps, but you may want to pick up better modded guns for a tactical advantage.)
During my hours with Uncharted 3 multiplayer, I never got a chance to experience the game's new Power Plays. They're the late game modifiers that will intervene during big score blowouts, granting the leaders a chance to earn more cash and the losers a chance to catch up. But since most of the matches I participated in were relatively close, all I saw were Overtime rounds and Sudden Death last man standing moments. Both were thrilling, white knuckle additions to already tense games.
Another aspect of the game we didn't get a chance to see much of were the Treasures and Missions multiplayer components. Players can collect dropped treasures from enemies and chests to unlock new items, including customization pieces for their character, emblem shapes for tags and weapons. Missions are bite-sized and long-term tasks that players can complete over the course of minutes or days, unlocking special rewards.
For the Uncharted fan, the next game's multiplayer mode will likely represent an even more addictive, more deeply personalized experience, built on the rock solid foundation created for Uncharted 2. You'll get a chance to play Uncharted 3's multiplayer mode as early as June 28, when the online beta kicks off for PlayStation Plus subscribers and owners of Infamous 2. The beta goes wide on July 5.
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception comes to the PlayStation 3 on November 1, 2011.
For the record, here's the list of currently available Boosters as seen in the playable demo. They're probably subject to change by Naughty Dog.
Booster Slot 1
- Come Here - See the opponent that killed you up to 15 meters until they die
- Let Me See - Every two deaths allow you to see all opponents for 8 seconds
- Regeneration - Recover from wounds 70% faster
- Beast Mode - Move faster with heavy objects by 10%
- Scoped In - Reduce pain wobble while scoped in
- Fleet Foot - Move faster while aiming
- Retaliation - Spawn with limited ammo when killed with a Power Weapon
- Cloaked - Opponents will not see your player arrow and you are difficult to hear
- Weapon Expert - Add on additional MOD slot to all pistols (Required Rank: 5)
- Explosive Expert - Carry an extra grenade
- Endurance - Decrease sprint recovery time by 20% (Required Rank: 7)
- Booty Buddy - Share what is found in chests
- Stealth Buddy - Fill your Medal Kickback when your buddy gets a stealth kill
- Sugar Buddy - Receive cash when your buddy does
- Thanks Buddy - Shared medals
Booster Slot 2
- Back in the Saddle - Respawn time reduced by 2 seconds
- Monkey Man - Climb faster
- Lucky Me - Increase the [chance] of getting goods from chest by 10%
- Bargain - Decrease Medal Kickback cost by 1
- Deposit - Earn more money for objective medals
- Treasure Hunter - Increase the chance of getting treasures from chest by 10% and see cursed treasures
- Ammo Award - Receive ammo for getting kills in a row
- Daredevil - Taunt over an opponents body to receive ammo (Required Rank: 5)
- Team Safe - Explosives do not knock you down and teammates only receive 1/2 damage from your grenades
- Overstock - Medal Kickback limit increased by 3
- Power Hunter - See the location of Power Weapons within 10 meters (Required Rank: 7)
- Kickback Endurance - Increase Medal Kickback times by 10%
- Revenge - Drop live grenade upon death
- Explosive, Buddy - Get a grenade for each of your buddies' explosive kills
- Kill, Buddy - Receive ammo for each kill your buddy gains
- For My Buddy - See the location of the opponent that killed your buddy until they die
- Militia Man - No reloading for 30 second. Costs 5 medals.
- Disruption - Nearby enemies cannot see player arrows for 45 seconds. Costs 6 medals.
- Smoke Bomb - Vanish in a puff of smoke. Costs 7 medals.
- Cursed Idol - Trow an idol that releases a cloud of gas that curses anyone who enters it. Costs 7 medals.
- Cash 'em In - Double your cash earnings for 30 seconds. Costs 7 medals.
- Carpet Bomb - Throw 3 grenades at once. Costs 7 medals.