by Matthew Thompson
Earlier this week, I posted Part 1 of my look at the Uncharted 4 beta with a focus on the core mechanics and loadout system. Today I am back to break down the maps and a slew of other things from my hands-on time with the competitive multiplayer. Here it goes!
Based on the three maps I got the opportunity to try in these two betas, I feel like the map design here is just inferior to what was found in Uncharted 2 and 3’s multiplayer. These simply lack the complexity I have come to expect from Uncharted multiplayer maps. The Lost City’s underground tunnels perfect for flanking enemies. The Sanctuary’s verticality. The many floors and layers of The Highrise. I think it is those layers that are lacking the most. Places where two players can be in the same X and Y coordinates, but different spots on the Z-axis are actually pretty rare in Uncharted 4’s multiplayer so far.
Of the three I have played, Rooftops – the one new to the stress test – was the best. It is a beautiful, nighttime location that feels a little reminiscent of Uncharted 2’s museum chapters. An area near the center has some of those paths winding around and underneath that most reminded me of that multi-layered approach that I covet in Uncharted MP. There are also some great opportunities for flanking by dropping down and clambering around on the side of buildings above alley pits that surround and cut through parts of the map.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Jungle map which, to be honest, is a bit of a stinker. It is essentially three big lanes without a lot of paths connecting them. A couple of those paths are even one-way because of the new slide mechanic. The result is far too simplistic with too much of the action getting congested at one end. Its most redeeming quality is a trio of grapple points where you can Spiderman-swing across allowing for plenty of sweet, aerial rope kills. Otherwise this map leaves a lot to be desired.
The third map, Madagascar City, is based on the E3 demo location and lies somewhere in-between the other two from a quality standpoint. While it lacks the layering I have been talking about, it does have a bunch of ways to cut corners or skirt around the more open spaces that large firefights between teams seem to break out in. This allows for much more strategic maneuvering than what is available in the Jungle map as well as more varied encounters which makes for a solid map.
I’m not real hopeful the rest of the maps available at launch will be significantly better. There was obviously a change in philosophy when designing them that resulted in flatter, less complex maps. But given that I am not alone in my feelings and plenty of fans have voiced similar thoughts after playing the betas, perhaps they will step things up for the DLC maps.
The Last of Us Influence
This beta definitely felt like a mix of all of Naughty Dog’s recent multiplayer modes which includes not just Uncharted 2 and 3, but The Last of Us too. I’m a big fan of TLOU and while the multiplayer wasn’t really my thing, I could appreciate it for what it was. It did a lot of things right and felt like a good fit for that franchise. That doesn’t mean you want to necessarily bring those elements over into a series like Uncharted. So TLOU’s influence here feels like a mixed bag.
Some of the things from TLOU that have rubbed off on Uncharted 4 multiplayer I have already talked about. For example, while I am still not keen on loadouts, the TLOU system seems like a step up from Uncharted 3’s. However, the flatter maps are a step down. The biggest change that seems to be brought over from The Last of Us is certainly the new down/revive system and I remain on the fence about its inclusion. On the one hand, it helps promote teams to play together which I can appreciate. On the other hand, it clumps up battles and lessens the diversity of encounters as well as slightly slowing down the pace of action. My feelings about the radar are along the same lines. As a tool to help you find your teammates to further promote playing together, it seems like a good idea. But as something that gives away the position of enemies, I didn’t care for it.
So, are these changes a net positive? I’m not really sure. And given that this is looking to be Naughty Dog’s last Uncharted game, I am also unsure if it is the right time to add some of these features to the game. I can say that after a second go with the game during the stress test, I started to become accustomed to them and am not down on them as much as I was initially. Change isn’t always easy to accept at first, so perhaps they will grow on me more when I play the final game.
There are a bunch of other things I’d like to touch on from the beta as well as a few questions I’d like to ponder in regards to what the full game will bring, so I am going to tackle them in this section.
Graphics: I think prioritizing 60fps for the multiplayer was the right call, but some people are going to be disappointed with the graphics. Resolution took a hit to up that framerate. And you have to consider that more of Naughty Dog’s resources are going to go towards the single-player campaign (comparing it to Battlefront for instance isn’t really apples to apples). All those things considered, I thought the multiplayer looked pretty impressive. Little details stood out to me. Like the various animations characters had for hunkering down in cover. Or the way models reacted realistically to explosions even when bumping into nearby ledges and walls. It doesn’t match the mouthwatering visuals of the singleplayer, but it looks good and runs well. If they can get the framerate more consistent throughout in the full game, I will be happy.
Characters: I love how Uncharted brings personality to its multiplayer through characters’ unique quips and the beta featured plenty of funny lines from the cast. I’m a huge Elena fan and she is my go-to multiplayer character. Along with her new look for Uncharted 4 she had another skin that was a nod to the first game with a similar purple tank top. I hope they include her winter look from Uncharted 2. That was always my favorite. On the villain side, I swapped between Lazarevic and a new character named Knot. Laz’s frustrated comments towards having to revive his teammates were hilarious and I just liked the look of Knot’s character. I look forward to being able to use my go-to multiplayer villain Eddy Raja in the full game though. It is worth noting that Flynn has a new voice actor which will take some getting used to for long-time series’ fans. Other available characters included Nate, Sully, Sam, Cutter, Marlowe, and another new UC4 villain.
Melee: Melee was always kind of a mess in Uncharted multiplayer. As cool as knocking someone out with a steelfist combo or getting a sneaky neck snap was, lag for the former and camera position dependency for the latter made them a little messy. Even messier were those melee vs. melee duels you’d have sometimes. Changes here make standard melee kills a bit harder to come by, but cut back on those awkward melee scuffles. And a charged attack with your grapple acts as a one-hit takedown essentially replacing the stealth kills with rolls acting as a nice counter for the defender. Thankfully, pulldowns and kickoffs return. Overall, this feels like a step in the right direction for the melee component.
Modes: Only Team Deathmatch was available in the beta (5 on 5, first team to 35 KOs wins). I’m really curious what other modes will be in the full game and how some of the new elements will mesh with those modes. Team Objective – my favorite non-deathmatch mode – and Plunder I would expect to be back. But I don’t see Sidekicks playing nicely with those types of matches. I am also very hopeful they will bring back Three Team Deathmatch and Free For All. Three Team was another favorite of mine and would seem to work swimmingly with the new revive mechanic. On the other hand, FFA would probably need some tweaks to UC4’s new mechanics to work. I’d welcome a classic mode too. Something that brought back my beloved weapon pick-ups and axed things like Mysticals and Sidekicks. I still yearn for that simplicity, so I certainly wouldn’t mind a chance to try that out with UC4’s improved mechanics. Finally I’m excited to see how the co-op has evolved for this next Uncharted outing.
Cinematic Setpiece Moments: Setpieces are very much at the heart of what Uncharted is at this point. I really loved how Uncharted 2 and 3 tried to incorporate them into the multiplayer. As cool as Uncharted 3’s map-opening sequences were in theory, they didn’t really work in practice. Things like helicopters and tanks rolling through a map were always good fun though. They were used much like they are in Uncharted campaigns, adding an interesting twist to encounters and bringing a little of that cinematic spectacle to the multiplayer. There wasn’t much of that here. You could blow up some structures and get environmental kills on your foes (or if you are like me you might manage to kill yourself too!). But I’d love to see more of those cinematic setpiece touches in the full game.
I have covered a lot of ground here. Whether they are new features or carryovers from previous games, some things work here while others do not. I found myself addicted all the same and I really think that goes back to my love of that core Uncharted gameplay which is the best it has ever been here. It is just an absolute joy to play. It is that core gameplay that will keep me coming back. Uncharted is obviously about its story mode first and foremost. That won’t change with this next entry, but this beta shows that the multiplayer will likely be a nice addition to the package once again.