Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Multiplayer Beta) on Playstation 3 Hands-On Impressions

Ever since our blow-out coverage of the multiplayer portion to Naughty Dog's super impressive third-person shooter the scepticism has been apparent. Thus, we're pleased to console those with milling anxiety - take our word for it; you're going to want to play the multiplayer in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

The beta comes with two competitive multiplayer maps: Plaza - a gritty, almost castle like setting - and Village - a murky, shanty-town being battered by a raging storm. Naturally both maps look amazing, from the subtle lighting of Plaza to the gorgeous rain fall of the Village.

After a few teething troubles with the matchmaking - these things are to be expected in a beta - we were able to dip into a Team Deathmatch game on the Village map playing as Drake. There are two factions in Uncharted 2: the Heroes and the Villains. Naturally the heroes include Drake, Chloe, Sully and Elena but the villains have much less personality, opting for typical "terrorist" designs. It makes sense, but it's more fun playing as the Heroes.

Settling into the controls will literally take a minute - all the controls are where you expect them to be save for Reload being mapped to R2. What's instantly recognisable about Uncharted 2's multiplayer is that the maps are designed with platforming in mind. Many expected Naughty Dog to craft some flat maps, focusing on the gunplay rather than the other hook of Uncharted - the climbing. That's not true - there are enough ledges and houses to climb to make it worthwhile. This also gives you the tactical advantage of being able to shoot ground troops who are hiding behind cover, but of course, leaves you wide open to enemy fire.

We were, unsurprisingly, annihilated in our first Team Deathmatch game and headed off to try out co-op. In co-op you'll partner with two other players in order to complete simple objectives. In the Nepal Warzone campaign we played, our Drake was joined by Sully and Chloe. Much like Resistance 2, the co-op campaign in Uncharted 2 is based on scenarios from the single-player but told from a different perspective. It's particularly light on story actually, as you'd hope. The scene starts out with Drake reading a map and suggesting a direction - from there on out it's the gritty business. You'll be taking out enemies from behind cover, and there are lots of them. The game likes to drop enemies all over the various battlefields too, so you'll need to work as a team to cover all bases. Players can be revived by team-mates and there are also simple objectives such as destroying walls and creating makeshift ladders.

The most addictive part of the co-op campaign though is the multiplier. Every enemy you kill will rack up your multiplier and subsequently result in a higher score for the next enemy. It's something that allows the game to rank your co-op performance upon completion but also adds to your profile's $ total.

Essentially, Uncharted 2's answer to XP are $'s; a solution much more relevant to the actual theme of the game. Earning $'s will increase your rank and subsequently unlock new perks, which you can equip two of. Yes, it's Call Of Duty 4, and no it doesn't develop the idea any further. But hey, it was always a good idea in the first place and it's no less than that here.

Further $'s can be earned by completing certain tasks in a mission - for example killing two enemies successively in a row or killing the idol carrier in Plunder.

Plunder is the secondary mode in Uncharted 2's competitive multiplayer. It's essentially one flag CTF, except the flag is replaced with a more appropriate golden treasure. Carrying the treasure impairs movement, but the idol can be thrown - opening up the possibilities of pass the parcel style gameplay. Playing Plunder on the Plaza map, we also found that the idol had to be thrown up a building to be captured — meaning it's handy to have someone waiting to catch it and capture it, rather than wasting time climbing up the building yourself and risking an enemy taking you out before you can successfully capture the treasure.

As you'd expect from Naughty Dog the game pushes the Playstation 3 to the edges of limit. We're kind of amazed actually, because the beta is only a 1.2GB download. Naturally we expect the finished game will be polished beyond belief when it launches later this year.

In terms of functionality; you can invite friends, create parties and it looks like you'll be able to record matches and watch them back at a later date. Naturally that functionality is locked out of the beta mind.

All in all though, if Naughty Dog can fix the matchmaking problems the beta is designed to pick up on, we can safely say we'll be spending quite some time with the Uncharted 2 multiplayer. Right after we've beaten the single player campaign 3 or 4 times over.