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Joystiq hands-on: Uncharted 2's Deathmatch and Plunder multiplayer

Kevin Kelly

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Joystiq recently attended a Sony Gamers Day event in Los Angeles, where we got hands-on time with a lot of upcoming titles that we can't speak about just yet. However, the event that capped off the day of gaming was our first hands-on time with a title that we know you're eager to see more of, along with a surprising (although not entirely unexpected) reveal: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has multiplayer. Not just any multiplayer, mind you, but three-player (!) co-op, plus five-on-five Deathmatch and a mode called "Plunder."

The good news? It rocks. Randy took a long look at the co-op mode, but you couldn't pry me away from Deathmatch/Plunder with a crowbar. Read on to get the full rundown, including the weapons you'll be using, what Naughty Dog copied from Call of Duty 4, and why Plunder is much better than traditional Capture the Flag.

Gallery: Uncharted 2: Multiplayer | 13 Photos

Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells was a bit cagey about multiplayer when we interviewed him back in February, telling us, "As far as other online elements, we will see what the future holds." As it turns out, both he and the dev team were biting their tongues and keeping a big secret from all of us. It wasn't a big stretch to imagine that they were working on adding multiplayer to Uncharted, especially given the success of the original, but they really dropped jaws in the room when they showed us a multiplayer teaser video. They just didn't tell us about its frightening, addictive properties.

First off was Deathmatch, which is set up in a five-on-five fashion with Heroes battling Villains. You have access to different skins of the classic "heroes" from the game like Drake, Sully, Chloe, and so on, and the Villains side gets nasty hooded and masked baddies. You can choose your favorite default skins a la Gears of War, and you can look at a rundown of weapons, including pistols, sniper rifles, assault rifles, a grenade launcher and a massive chaingun. Grenades too, just in case you're wondering if you'll be able to sit back and hurl death from afar.

You're as vulnerable as a naked mole rat while you're clambering up the side of a building or hauling your butt up a ladder.

We only got to play around in one map, though we still struggled to find all its nooks and secrets. It was composed of a big central square in a war-ravaged city, with multiple stairways, concrete embankments to duck behind, a central tower with an RPG in the basement and a busted building to climb into. Speaking of climbing, there are plenty of plenty of spots to scurry up and leap over. Though there was a sniper rifle prominently placed in the bed of a pickup truck nearby, no one was ever in a rush to grab it and and climb high up above ... probably because you're as vulnerable as a naked mole rat while you're clambering up the side of a building or hauling your butt up a ladder.

There's a running score at the top of the screen (we were playing to 25 ... not sure if that's standard), along with plenty of deathmatch staples like melee attacks (sneak up and melee an enemy from behind and it's an instant kill), plenty of weapons scattered around the map, friendly fire and multiple spawn points. They've also taken a page out of the Call of Duty 4 book and added Boosts to the game, which are exactly like Perks. You have two Boost slots, and you can fill them with things like the ability to carry extra ammo, to "sense" enemies through walls, to have better hip-fire accuracy and so on. It's unclear if you'll unlock perks as you go -- and there are certainly plenty to choose from. Sadly, we didn't spot anything like Last Stand or Martyrdom.

We also got to play around with Plunder, which is Uncharted's version of Capture the Flag. This was on an entirely different map, with many ladders leading up to multiple rooftops and vantage points, perfect for raining fire down upon your enemies. Each team starts on separate sides of the map, with a gold icon on your screen representing the location of the treasure. If a teammate picks it up, that icon turns green, and your "base" location is highlighted (also in green), prompting you to support that teammate as he hoofs it back. If an enemy picks it up instead, it turns red and the enemy base icon will appear as well, so you can try and get there before they do in an effort to get the treasure back.

When you're carrying the plundered treasure, you're slowed down tremendously (it's a chunky statue made out of solid gold!). If you're in dire straits and about to get taken down by the other team, you can hurl the treasure away from you, either in order to get it closer to your base, or to toss it up on a roof out of the enemy team's immediate grasp. It's easy to imagine teams daisy-chaining treasure throws in future matches, but our team just wasn't coordinated enough to get that going -- plus, we were mostly overcome with a desire to shoot everything in sight. Each team plays to three captures, and there's a nice little animation of your character tucking the treasure away in a chest if you successfully get it back to base.

Do not let the enemy team pick up the chaingun. Ever.

The best thing about all of this is that it doesn't feel like Naughty Dog tacked it on as an afterthought. There's a ton of solid gameplay here, which is going to do wonders for the replayability of this title. Once you finished the original Uncharted, chances are you probably didn't pick it up again unless you wanted to nab some Trophies, but with Deathmatch and Plunder, you'll be slipping this disc in over and over again. We're not yet sure if the game will offer any other multiplayer gametypes, or if it will support A.I. bots or not. There was a Store in multiplayer that we didn't get to fully explore, but it did offer things like Boosts and Skins for sale, and there's some sort of money/gold element per kill that didn't seem fully realized yet. We'll bring you more news on the multiplayer as we get it, and by now you've probably heard that if you pre-order inFamous, you'll be able to get in on the Uncharted 2 multiplayer beta.

For now, we'll leave you with this important Deathmatch nugget: do not let the enemy team pick up the chaingun. Ever. The RPG only has two shots, but that chaingun has about a billion bullets packed into it, and if they get it you're going to feel like your character is dead-set on absorbing every one of them. In the face.

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