Review / Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception multiplayer (PS3)

Uncharted 2 made a great case for online modes in Naughty Dog’s franchise. By no means was it perfect, but the capable competitive modes captured the spirit of the single player adventure and the coop addition made for many nights of curse words and grenade throwing around TVGB camp.

Seeing these offerings return in Uncharted 3 was never going to be the highlight when stacked up against the exceptional campaign, but it’s nonetheless reassuring to see the Dogs build upon what made the last game’s multiplayer fun here. But the new bells and whistles don’t quite cover up some of the problems that still persist from last time around.

The crux of the competitive multiplayer centres around team-based matches of various sizes, with a maximum of 8 players in a game. Other modes like free-for-all are included too, making for a larger selection of game types than last time around.

It’s the maps that see the biggest change, trying to replicate the cinematic aspect of the campaign. One of the more elaborate includes players chasing after the plane seen in one of the game’s bigger set pieces, which eventually boils down into a fight in the surrounding area. It’s essentially two maps that switch over half way through. It’s a nice idea to have this progressive experience, but the two areas don’t feel especially linked and leave you wondering why you can’t just play a full game in either setting.

Central to the progression aspect is levelling characters, something that’s achieved through doing pretty much anything in either competitive or coop. A medal system is in place to net you extra XP for doing things like gaining hand-to-hand kills or kills in quick succession. Gaining enough medals will grant kickbacks like bestowing an RPG upon you. Add this to the perk-like boosters that return from last game and you’re granted a large degree of customization over your character.

Earning XP also serves as earning cash which is spent on extra boosters, characters, taunts and the like. You’ll get money for nearly everything which can feel a little patronizing in a match where you’re getting your butt handed to you.

But throw all of these quirks out and there’s still a competent online TPS in Uncharted 3. It’s given its own twist thanks to the character’s ability to climb around, making maps multi-layered and dynamic. It also helps that gunplay has been given more weight, allowing it to compete with the likes of Gears of War. Released in between Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, it’s unlikely to take much of your time away, but it’s more than capable of entertaining you post-campaign.

Chances are that you’ll want to see the coop campaign through to its end though. Offering five chapters, this rehash of Uncharted games both old and new can be played by up to three players. It gets some of the campaigns charm, with chapter headings and better attempt at story (one which will surely please fans of past games), but the adventure is still an unbalanced one.

During one game with fellow TVGBer Rasmus, we drew comparisons to those over the top moments in a Call of Duty game where you just knew you were meant to die, but here you were somehow expected to survive. Enemies pile on while you make your way through a level, often spawning behind you with powerful weapons.

Even with a generous smattering of 15 lives the mode is a punishing experience, as if Dark Souls had been translated to a TPS. Just when you think victory nears its blocked by an armoured RPG soldier and a laser-guided sniper rifle.

It’s a frustrating experience that’s saved by quality of the gameplay and the interaction with friends. There’s a strong sense of togetherness as the enemies pound you into the ground, one that is hopefully strong enough to see you through the experience. Just be prepared to replicate some of controller-throwing moments you had with the campaign here.

On the whole, online in Uncharted 3 shapes up much like it did in its predecessor – fun but flawed. It’s far from claiming the multiplayer crown as its single player has done, but it’s a decent offering that will satisfy anyone looking to squeeze every last penny out of Nathan Drake’s latest.