We've been spending the past few nights teamkilling Plundering, Deathmatching and Co-opping in the Uncharted 2 multiplayer beta, and it's been extremely fun. Right now the game is limited to custom parties of 5, but at launch it will support parties of 10, so you can take two teams of friends head to head in Plunder and Deathmatch, while Co-op supports 2 or 3 players.
So what did we think about it? Head beyond the break to see the writeup and to watch video from our sessions, and to see the list of what we liked and what we didn't like. Naughty Dog is asking for feedback on the beta, so maybe they'll be able to tweak some things before launch. However the "fun" knob was definitely turned up to 11, so we weren't complaining (much). Except when we got pwned.
The beta is limited to two maps, Village and Plaza. Plaza is a large square with a large central structure and a couple of buildings you can clamber up into. It's the darker of the two levels, and offers you the chance to blend into the shadows a bit. Village is a larger rectangular map with lots of places to climb and snipe from, as well as several buildings with multiple entrances. Village is definitely a better map for both Plunder (rudimentary Capture the Flag, with a heavy gold idol replacing the flag) and Deathmatch, and we're hoping they add more large levels.
That's not to say Plaza is a bad map, it just plays a lot faster and we were looking to extend our in-game experience. Plaza does include one highly-defensible balcony that can be murder when combined with the Dragon Sniper rifle, although thankfully everyone seems to be armed with Nolan Ryan's pitching arm when it comes to grenades. Seriously, you can toss those things extremely far. But watch out, because they'll kill friends and enemies alike. Naughty Dog released a patch for the game a couple of days ago, right after our matches, and they made a few tweaks ... as well as resetting all of our levels. Curses.
As far as weapons go, both maps offer the same guns: the AK-47 (which you'll spawn carrying, along with a 92FS pistol), a FAL rifle which has a simple red-dot sniper aiming mode, an M-4 rifle, the Dragon Sniper, an M-79 Grenade Launcher, the Portable Gatling Gun, a Desert Eagle pistol, and a Micro 9mm automatic handgun. You'll also find grenades handily arrayed in sets of two throughout the maps, which is fortuitous since you can carry two at a time. You can hold one rifle and one pistol, although if you're carrying the massive Gatling gun around you won't be able to switch to another weapon unless you drop it.
Although we weren't always extremely successful during our first forays, and had our butts handed to us from time to time, we eventually nailed things down and started cleaning up, especially in Plunder. Although it's hard to get the hang of firing your pistol while lugging the treasure around, it's a skill worth learning. While Village has your treasure-storing chest inside a room at the back of the map, Plaza puts those on upper levels, requiring you to toss the treasure skyward, and either climb up yourself or have a teammate waiting upstairs to dunk it. Tossing the treasure is actually a good way to keep it moving, especially if you're about to die somewhere.
Co-op was more of a teaser level, because you fight your way through waves of bad guys, including one who looks like he took a smoke break from Army of Two to appear in this game. There are a few Co-op moments where you have to stand together and hit the triangle button to make something happen, and in two instances that involves turning bookshelves into makeshift ladders. Good thing they're so well-read. After the end of the last wave, a thug hops over a low wall carrying a Gatling gun and ... "to be continued" appears on the screen.
Uncharted 2 uses "Boosters," which are exactly the same as the Perks in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and World at War. Although there weren't many available in the beta, and they didn't seem to affect gameplay, we suspect this will change in the retail release. Favorites tended to be "Down the Irons" for better aiming with long guns, and "Bandoleer" for carrying extra ammo. You can only slot them in while you're inside the game lobby (where you can change your avatar as well), and they can't be swapped out during a game, also just like CoD.
Plunder. Much more fun than Deathmatch
Sneaky from-behind melee and environmental kills. Pulling people off ledges is satisfying
Variety of weapons
Climbing. Lots of climbing. The platforming and environment navigation is great, although it would be nice if you were a bit faster
"Ka-ching" noise when you kill someone (it's the little things)
Scoreboard pops up while you respawn and are spectating, should be defaulted to off
Speaking of, this game really needs a Spectator mode
Perks didn't seem to influence gameplay much
Balance issues with melee
Being rewarded much less for kills in Plunder than in Deathmatch
Small amount of bonuses to choose from
Getting killed by Kevin's grenades ... when we're on the same team
The invite system. Can't it be done through the XMB? *grumble*
Much thanks to Naughty Dog for getting us in here, and to Joystiqers Xav de Matos and David Hinkle for their video expertise. Stay tuned, we'll have some Uncharted 2 multiplayer beta codes to give away soon.