The great thing about multiplayer betas are how tantalizing they are to the given player, considering the minimal amount of content available to demo and the short time frame that it’s open to the public. It’s just a small taste of what to expect when the game eventually releases, along with some minor tweaks and improvements in tow.
Last April, Gears of War 3 had a terrific beta that featured an impressive amount of modes that were mixed nicely with new guns and gameplay refinements that made it a success among fans of the series. Now, another threequel in a franchise has its flashy new multiplayer beta debut this week (only for Playstation Plus subscribers and Infamous 2 owners…the others will have to wait a bit), with similar impressions of excellence to the chainsawing carnage of Gears 3’s online experience.
PlayStation 3 owners can rejoice, the beta for Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is here, which makes the wait for the game even more painful due to how fun and accessible it is. The first thing that’s obvious right after downloading it, is how the whole interface of the menu is changed. Customization options, although limited, are present along with a separate screen that constantly streams footage of the game’s trailers and video tutorials detailed by the game’s developers. These explain what’s new this time around.
The ability to watch and record your previous game footage is still available, and adding friends to join your game is just as easy as it was before. The Facebook method of integration is somewhat pointless, as of right now, but may expand in scope once the game is released. Games have tried the whole idea of social media as a way to attain cohesion in the way friends and strangers to meet within online gaming, but if it didn’t work before, this new feature in Uncharted 3 won’t either.
Matchmaking is relatively quicker than the last game’s long periods of waiting for matches to begin, which is always a good improvement. Booster’s are back and from what’s provided in the demo, there’s a nice variety in what is worth trying out. Weapons customization is included now, adding more depth to choosing different load outs for specific game modes.
The new booster slot entitled “kickbacks” is the game’s version of kill streaks. Once a certain amount of medals (earned from kills or random treasure chests) are acquired, the ability to press a button to instantly gain a rocket launcher or to disappear in a flash of smoke is available. It’s gimmicky, but sure does add an edge to the battleground.
Those lucky enough to have the voucher code to unlock a special kickback are in for an interesting surprise that’s rewarding in nature but weird and silly in design. Gameplay feels instinctively familiar to anyone who played Uncharted 2, with only a few changes. A sprint button hardly adds anything exciting to the action, nor does the subtle new melee animations after wounding an enemy (though it’s more appealing to watch).
Everything from before is still intact, and it’s easy to jump right back into the mayhem of grenade tossing and wall climbing. The chance to toss back a foe’s grenade is welcome, but it still can’t cover up the fact that the explosives in multiplayer are heavily overpowered at killing groups with ease. The new guns are barely noticeable and don’t change up the dynamic of matches, instead they fit perfectly well into the shootouts of duck and cover.
Leveling up and earning cash in modes to spend on new equipment or boosters is the same as before, but this time random treasures can be picked up in matches that can unlock new clothing for your character. The addition of treasure hunting doesn’t fit however, and it just seems like it was included as a way to make players try to collect all the artifacts as a way of expanding their time invested, like the dogtags you pick up off of enemies in Battlefield: Bad Company‘s multiplayer.
The two biggest additions in the beta are the buddy system and the levels themselves. Every match (instead of free-for-all) you are randomly assigned a partner unless you have one already, which gives you the option of spawning off of them after being killed. The ability to fist pump after riddling an enemy with lead is also included, for some strange reason. It may not seem like much at first but tagging along with someone else, especially in the new three team deathmatch mode, proves to be a vital way of watching each other’s backs and preying on single opponents for easy kills.
The new design for team death matches is similar in approach to what Killzone 3 did with its multiplayer. A cut scene plays at the beginning of each match showing the heroes and villains at different starting points of the level. In Airstrip for example, one team is in moving trucks trying to board an open cargo plane about to take off a runway. The acrobatics of the gameplay are outstanding in this situation, with the battle unfolding in way not really seen in an online format. It’s in the same vein of the adventurous spirit and outlandish set pieces featured in the singleplayer portions of the Uncharted series, only with you shooting at other players around the world instead of the A.I.
The action eventually relocates to a hangar area where the rest of the match takes place with powerful turrets mounted up high and level-specific actions that occur to spice things up (like the attic in the chateau level burning to the ground). The small touch of adding the emblem of the player with the most kills on the walls of the levels is also a nice way of adding color and personality to the action. Hopefully each level in the game can have exciting well-executed moments like the airfield one included in the beta, it certainly makes the gameplay that much more involving.
Overall, Uncharted 3‘s beta is more of a refined experience than its predecessor, not much has changed, but what has is nicely implemented. More content is coming in the upcoming weeks that hopefully reveals new levels and modes. After a couple hours into the beta one thing is for sure, this is already poised to be a highly polished game and one of this year’s biggest games. It lives up to the series and its high reputation for success. The developers are constantly outdoing themselves, and the beta is a prime example of this.