Uncharted 2 is widely considered to be one of and if not the best PlayStation 3 exclusive currently available for the platform, with most players and critics alike (including us) praising the title for its glorious visuals, great gameplay and engaging storyline. It also had a pretty decent multiplayer offering that combined with co-op offered a decent amount of replayability along with what you could call an acrobatic and faster paced version of something like Gears of War. Now that Uncharted 3 is on its way, the public and the press were recently given a taste of what's to come through the Beta which is now closed, and though quite impressive on a level of polish, it's not quite as wow worthy as Uncharted 2 was when unveiled to us.
Perhaps it is the astronomically high standards that Uncharted 2 set up that makes the game feel a little less spectacular, but nonetheless we couldn't help but feel the multiplayer portion is trying to be a bit more like other multiplayer titles out there with more enhanced levels of perk systems (known as boosters in the Uncharted series), and it's much more of the same that we've witnessed in the previous game anyway.
That's not to say it's a bad beta though - it is actually quite rock solid both in performance and in mechanics. Controls are pretty much the same as Uncharted 2, although the third also adds in a sprint option which allows you to get to objectives and cover a little faster this time around. You're given the option of playing through three maps across multiple game types, and each show some great level design which includes vertical based gameplay, adding a lot of interesting strategic moments and situations when in game. The airfield level in particular was the highlight, where you actually have to jump onto a plane which eventually takes off to fight, and if you don't actually make it on you end up in a hangar to fight in. It's fairly creative and can keep the pace of the match high, so it's nice to see Naughty Dog playing around with map design and coming up with interesting ideas.
Boosters as previously mentioned have made a return which allows you to customise your character to suit your style of play. Boosters can now be levelled up as well to further enhance your abilities, so there's even more levels of progression as you play the Multiplayer. The most interesting addition though is the Medal Kickback kind of boosters, which basically reward you for medals you receive as you destroy your opponents. Earn a specific amount of medals and your kickback will 'kick' in, allowing you to instantly reward yourself with whatever the kickback was designed for. As an example the first kickback available to you in the Beta is an instant RPG, so after accumulating enough medals in a match you simply tap the d-pad and you'll instantly receive your RPG. It's a nice addition to the perk system and something a little different, though it's very much similar to the killstreak system in games such as Call of Duty, albeit this time more with weapon additions and stat boosts rather than air strikes and nuclear bombs that win you the game without trying.
Customisation seems to be a big thing on Naughty Dog's list as well, as Uncharted 3 allows you to get fancy with your looks and emblems in a lot of ways. While initially locked away, through levelling up online you can unlock more outfits and emblems for you to use, so you can further make your character a little more unique and suited to what you like. We didn't get too far into the beta to unlock too much, but from what we've seen and played there seems to be a lot there to play with, although the emblem system seems a little simplistic for the amount of features everything else has.
Uncharted 3 has all the right assets and areas covered to come out as a great game by release time. Hell, the beta already is mechanically very solid and polished, and there was enough content released over the days of beta for it to technically be a stand-alone title without the single player portion.
The only issue we had with the Beta was that it seems to try be a lot like other multiplayer titles out there, in that it saturates the player with rewards rather than carefully lay them out and even the progression across the board. Kickbacks while interesting reward players that are already excelling, so there's a potential issue of balance if that ends up being too rewarding. Then there are the power plays, which can temporarily enhance the abilities and power of the team that is losing in order to try turn the tide. This is an interesting concept, but can potentially defeat the purpose of a hard working team that is winning when the other team suddenly gains a huge advantage like seeing through walls.
At the same time though, this is still only a Beta so there's a long way to go when it comes to balance and pacing in progression. The foundation that Naughty Dog has here is excellent and better than most games out, so the end package will likely end up of a high quality. Just don't expect anything too radically different from Uncharted 2 come release time.