by Matthew Thompson
The Uncharted 4 beta looms and I suspect (or at least hope!) the game’s multiplayer will be unveiled at the upcoming Paris Games Week. So it is about time I talk about what I want from the series’ next foray into multiplayer. Before I dive into this, I want to say I realize I probably won’t get what I want. In general, multiplayer gaming has gone in a direction that is diametrically opposed to my sensibilities. But hey it is my wishlist! And I will ask for what I want regardless of how unlikely getting those things might be. Here it goes!
Get the Damage/Health Model Right
What sets Uncharted apart from many third-person shooters is the way you can move about the environment. If players die too quickly, they can’t take the risk of climbing walls and moving from area to area. I also loved that shootouts weren’t about who saw who first. If someone started shooting you from behind, a skilled player could roll and get away to find cover and eventually turn the tables on his opponent. So the health has to be at a certain level to promote these tactics and general movement around maps. This is mostly worth noting because of the infamous patch that got it so completely wrong in Uncharted 2. Early UC2 had it perfect and 3 got it right for the most part, but it is so integral to how everything else works I had to mention it here. Oh and get the hitboxes and corresponding damage for different body parts right too.
Ditch Loadouts for a Weapon Pickup System
I will admit upfront that I just prefer pickup systems to loadouts in multiplayer, but this is also based on the fact that I believe it fits Uncharted’s style of play better and that despite many tweaks Naughty Dog could never seem to balance loadout weapons in Uncharted 3. In UC3 multiplayer each patch would have a best weapon. Before long just about everyone would be using that weapon. You could use others, but be at a disadvantage. This meant that the varied playstyles of Uncharted 2 were gone. And due to the progression system not all players would even have that best weapon putting newer players or those who just don’t have as much time to play at an unnecessary disadvantage.
So I want a return to the pickup system of Uncharted 2. Everyone starts with the same weapons: the basic pistol and assault rifle. Then you have more powerful weapons placed around the map (plus a secondary non-fully automatic rifle like the FAL can be prevalent for those who prefer it). This helps to even the playing field. Everyone starts off the same. It is about your skills and knowledge of the map and not what you have unlocked. It encourages movement throughout the map to get better weapons. Not everyone will get the best weapon which means settling for other weapons which will bring back those varied playstyles I mentioned above. They tried to add a classic mode to Uncharted 3 to satisfy people like me, but that won’t cut it. The whole competitive multiplayer portion from the maps to the spawns to the weapons needs to be built with the pickup system in mind. And Uncharted 4 will be better for it in my opinion.
No Perks, Upgrades or Kickbacks
To further my point above about trying to even the playing field and not punish players who haven’t put in as much time, I’d get rid of all of these little things that give one player a step up on the other. No perks that help you see through walls. No gun upgrades that give you a faster rate of fire. No rocket launchers awarded to players for getting a kill streak. And no stat-altering head-gear. To me multiplayer is about the competition. It is about matching my skills against other players. So I want it to be about our actual skills not all of this other junk.
I will continue to come back to multi for the competition and fun, but I realize that modern multiplayer gaming is very much reliant on that carrot on a stick mentality. Players want to work to unlock new stuff. That makes this my least likely wish to come true. I did like the customizable characters in 3 though, so I’d love to see this further fleshed out and be the thing that can be unlocked over time. With four mainline Uncharted games, two Vita spinoffs of sorts, and various books/comics to pull from, they can have a myriad of skins to unlock. And then go nuts with how we can customize both created characters, generic grunts, and the series’ main players. Just make all of that customization purely cosmetic to keep that even playing field I am looking for.
Creative Map Designs
So far I have been pitching a simplified approach to Uncharted multiplayer, but the maps are where they can bring the creativity. Here they can push the series’ traversal aspects. That means lots of verticality. Here they can work in Uncharted’s trademark bombastic setpieces with unique map events. And here we can see Naughty Dog work some of the upcoming fourth entry’s particular flavor into the competitive aspects of the game. The PSX demo represents the most dynamic combat encounter in the series to date, so I hope to see them put some of the aspects present in that segment into the multiplayer. The slopes Drake can slide down seem like a good candidate for inclusion. The brush he can hide in as well as his grappling hook could be interesting too, but may be trickier to work into player vs. player scenarios. And circling back to the setpieces, more powerful hardware means they should be able to do bigger and better events like these in an online setting than ever before (worth noting I am thinking more things in the vein of the helicopter attacking or buildings being blown up brought to the next level and not Uncharted 3’s separate opening bits which weren’t very successful in my opinion). Finally I think the more symmetrical map designs have been superior in the series thus far given the focus on team-based modes. And hopefully more original maps and less remakes this time around. 3 went overboard with the latter.
I think the next logical step for the co-op is to flesh out the Adventure co-op levels into a mini-campaign. Uncharted 3 took steps in this direction by giving the five linear Adventure levels a loose narrative placed in a sort of alternate reality. But it was pretty light. Adventure co-op should remain its own mode, but a more robust story with more cutscenes wouldn’t hurt. Maybe even make it a side story about a couple of characters from the main game’s story. Perhaps about the game’s villains or an old adventure of Nate’s brother Sam. Nothing integral to the singleplayer’s story, but a fun little tale fans would get a kick out of. But I understand building whole new levels for this is a bit too much to ask, so maybe this isn’t really feasible.
I’m not sure how I’d tweak the Arena co-op. Uncharted 3 eventually added a mode where you fought the djinns, but they were basically suped up regular soldiers. I think having a wave or mode in Arena against the first game’s descendents would be cool because they actually made you change your tactics to a more run and gun style. I guess that would be a now pretty standard zombie mode, but it still might be fun in my opinion.
Finally I wouldn’t mind if they kept the upgrades and things like that in co-op. Since it isn’t competitive and players are working together having those kind of unlocks wouldn’t be so bad. I’d gladly sacrifice it here to make sure it isn’t in the competitive modes though.
A few more things:
- Modes: One thing 3 got right was some of its new modes. Three Team Deathmatch, Team Objective and Free For All were all great additions to holdovers like Team Deathmatch and Plunder. I’m not creative enough to dream up any new modes, but I hope all of them come back.
- Better Matchmaking: Some matchmaking that didn’t pit a bunch of solo level 10 players against a squad of top-level players would be a plus.
- No Silent Skins: I love the personality of the characters that come through quips, grunts and the like, so all characters should have these. Silent skins also gave players an unfair stealth advantage which is another reason to cut them.
- Melee: This is still kind of messy. Not sure how to clean this up, but I hope they can improve it.
- Sprint: I’d probably get rid of this, but I don’t feel particularly strong either way.
- Split-screen: I’d love to see this back at least for two-player co-op. Probably not happening, but I enjoyed playing it with my friends locally in Uncharted 3 and would love to do so again in 4.
- I like having pictures in my posts to break up text, but couldn’t find very appropriate ones for these headings so that is why they are a bit random! Mostly from the PS3 multiplayer as well since no PS4 multi screens are out yet.
So that is some of what I am hoping for from Uncharted 4’s multiplayer. I will likely be back for thoughts after the multiplayer reveal or the beta with impressions of my own. If you have any things you’d like to see in Uncharted 4’s multiplayer, let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!