With the first three Uncharted titles (or at least their respective single-player campaigns) now available on the PS4 through the Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, and with Uncharted 4’s presence at this year’s Playstation Experience, it’s fair to say that now is a good time to be a fan of Naughty Dog’s action adventure series. Better still, until December 13th, the multiplayer beta for Uncharted 4 is up and running for those who own the collection!
Or in the case of myself and a friend, for those who won a competition to play the beta and eat copious amounts of pizza at IGN HQ. Not that we’re bragging or anything. So what did we think?
During the three hours we had to play the beta, we had the choice of playing two maps: Madagascar City (MC), a compact favela akin to the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 map of the same name; and Island, a dense jungle area – an Uncharted standard, it seems. From the rustique, sun-kissed visuals of the former, to the vibrant greens and ancient ruins of the latter, they certainly looked a treat – but how were they to play?
As mentioned above, MC is quite a small map in comparison to Island, but its layout opens up many different gameplay scenarios. The rooftop on one side of the map is conveniently placed closely to each of the team’s spawn points, allowing the battle to become quite contested at times. Although the blue team had access to a clear vantage point thanks to a tower facing the rooftop, the red team had the opportunity of scampering over the rooftop, using the slope of the rooftop as cover, to bring the fight to the blues in a ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ scenario if they stayed in their tower too long.
This wasn’t the only area of the map that demanded some tactics when contested. Fighting in both the long street next to the tower, and the marketplace area situated in the middle of the map, began as a session of a whack-a-mole, with each side taking cover behind the street’s concrete slabs, or the marketplace’s stalls, and simply waiting to pop a bullet when the enemy team raised their heads. However, thanks to overhead ziplines and grapple swings in the former and latter map areas, the cover-based gunplay never went on for too long, ensuring that the action became a more intense and close-quarters affair.
“Hang on, since when did Uncharted have a grapple swing?” I’m glad you asked! Let’s take a short interval on the map discussions to introduce this new multiplayer feature. Both MC and Island have grapple points dotted around the map and, thanks to the simple touch of L1, players can take to the skies and unleash their fisticuff fury on their enemies from above.
Or at least it should be that simple. The two of us, despite being able to grasp the multiplayer controls pretty quickly, took a while to learn that L1 was to swing, that we should press and not hold L1 to swing, and that our jumps needed precise timing as to not descend to our deaths. It takes practice, so we recommend taking some time out to ‘learn the ropes’ with this one (eh? eh? Nevermind).
Meanwhile Island, the larger map of the two, was difficult to get used to after playing MC for a while. Again, though, there were several well-crafted areas that created pockets of action across the map, from the cover-laden cliffsides on both sides of the map to the long, narrow passage situated in the middle of the map.
This was where things got interesting. Unlike in MC, both teams on opposite sides of the map could see each other as soon as they spawned, which changed the gameplay each time. One game, players would try and pick each other off from a distance; another game, both teams would run directly towards each other, and work their way through the ruins as cover and engage head on. Every match felt different gameplay wise, which was quite a blessing.
Now for the game mode we were playing – Team Deathmatch (TD). As with any TD, the team that reached the target number of kills won – or in this scenario, KOs. Borrowed from The Last of Us’ (TLoU) multiplayer (another game produced by Naughty Dog), players now have to repeatedly hit the enemy player once downed to get a KO. 35 KOs and a team wins. We’ve yet to know what other game modes Uncharted 4 has, but adding this feature made what can be seen as a very tired and overused multiplayer mode quite fun.
In terms of our loadout during the beta, we had access to five custom-made classes, each with their own unique loadouts. We chose the Support class, as it seemed like the most well rounded of the lot. Equipped with a semi-automatic rifle, the Mettler M-30, and a heavy pistol with a slow rate of fire, quite possibly the Pistole, the gunplay felt good and easy to get the hang of, especially with one of us having never played the series before. Our guns also felt like they packed a punch – the M-30 in particular, whilst effective at mid to long range, also held its own at close range.
The loadout, as with the others, had two features that were new to the series: a sidekick and a mystic. The sidekick, once enough in-game cash was acquired, could be bought using the in-game store, and spawned alongside the player on their next respawn. Our sidekick was the Saviour, whose sole purpose was to revive us and fellow players when downed. Whilst not a unique ability, as any player can revive a fellow player when downed, it did allow us to focus on fighting when the medic was reviving our teammates. In return, he could also put up a fight when we were reviving players; sadly, he didn’t manage to kill a single player, nor shoot players when we needed him to. At one point, we saw someone else’s medic sprinting across the map – what for, we don’t know, but some work might be needed on the sidekick front.
Although we didn’t have chance to play as the other sidekicks (an armoured gunman called Brute, a close-combat fighter called Hunter, and your standard Sniper), we did encounter them several times during our matches, and they certainly helped to mix up the gameplay. Whilst we were occupied with taking on a Brute, his “master” could flank us and take us down. If we were busy escaping from the clutches of a Hunter, we were exposed to enemy fire. What’s better is there’s an added incentive to kill sidekicks, as they count as KOs when killed and contribute to the overall team score.
The mystic, too, was a nice bonus feature to the multiplayer. Taking the place of our Gear, or in our case a revive pack, players could either throw the mystic where they stood, or activate it to use a special power. We had the Staff of Ayar Manco which, when placed, revealed enemy players and highlighted allies in its vicinity. Other mystics we ran into were less passive, particularly the Wrath of El Dorado (any hardcore Uncharted fans will get the reference), a sarcophagus that releases ‘homing spirits’ and damages players, and the Spirit of Djinn which, like Dishonored’s teleporting ability, allows players to zip round the map at high speed. Like the sidekicks, these were purchased through the in-game store, and were a nice substitute for killstreaks.
There are a number of other features of the beta we could talk about, namely the in-game challenges, the level progression system and the multiplayer store, but we didn’t have access to these during our three hours, so we aren’t able to comment on them. What we can comment on is how the beta ran. We’re no experts on frame-rate (which is in this case 60fps), but the performance felt quite smooth, with minimal lag to break up the gameplay. The minor letdown was on connection, with us losing connection in one match and being disconnected from another. It also took quite some time to be matched with other players and enter a game. Apart from that, all good on the performance front.
While we’ve already mentioned the visuals maps-wise, the character visuals were also worth noting. Though graphically impressive, Uncharted has never been the most visually striking game, but there seems to have been a conscious effort made to give the characters a degree of finesse that was lacking in previous games. This was, however, inconsistent. So whilst Sully looked barely recognisable, his usual cartoonish demeanour replaced by a grizzly, manly look, series villains including Zoran and Katherine looked overly similar to their former counterparts. Maybe they didn’t need to change, we just expected a next-gen reimagining of the characters, especially considering the detail placed into Drake, Sully and those who’ve popped up in gameplay segments of the single player campaign.
And it’s with that that our Uncharted 4 beta impressions come to an end. Despite a few nagging gameplay and performance issues, we found ourselves, as primarily single player and non-Uncharted players, quite hooked for the duration of our time playing the game. Overall, we left the IGN office pretty happy, and looking forward to the game’s tentative release date of March 18th next year.