It’s magical. No really. And it’s got grapples and guns and beards and grenades.
When you accidentally leap off a cliff thinking it was just a small ledge and then quickly grapple-swing across this unexpected chasm away from certain death, you know you’re playing something cool. Recently I got a little hands-on time with the multiplayer experience in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I’m just going to rattle off about my experience, to give you an idea what to expect from it.
First up is character selection (everyone from Drake himself to Sully, Elena and other recognisable characters are available to play as) and customisation options. As usual, more of these will unlock as you play, because giving players access to everything right out the door is so 1989. You can also choose from a wide selection of taunts, many of which are hilarious because they simply don’t fit with your chosen character’s personality. Drake grabbing both bum cheeks and blowing a kiss at the camera is unexpectedly funny.
After playing through a quick introductory tutorial that shows you how to move around and use your grappling hook, it’s time to shoot at other people. We played on two maps; one a town setting (called Madagascar City) and the other a remote jungle setting (called Island), both with climbing bits and grapple points. The levels themselves look good and the city one in particular is colourful and vivid. On the other end, the jungle features god rays and little insects buzzing around in the light – it’s very atmospheric. Both offer many different ways of getting around and enough free-flowing space to balance things out.
The games played out five-versus-five (or five iconic Uncharted characters versus five random mercenary thugs) in a team deathmatch format. You’re able to choose from a selection of predetermined load-outs packing sniper rifles, assault rifles and more – and of course there’s an SMG class. You can also make you own unique class by balancing the available 25 load-out points across weapons and perks – similar to the Call of Duty games.
Matches begin with players on opposite sides of the scenery, and after a quick jog the bullets start flying. You can crouch behind cover to regain a bit of health – essential when facing more than a single opponent. Dive-rolling out of danger is also available for those run and gun situations. Navigating around levels feels fluid and you can climb to higher positions for some spotter advantage. From here you can also grapple between buildings – and if you just miss a ledge you’ll catch on anyway if you match a button press that performs a rescue climb up. All this high swinging leaves you venerable to enemy fire so pick your moments carefully or you’re going to come up short in more ways than one.
One nice last bit of hope if you do take too many hits and go down is that you can crawl around on all fours for a while (until you inevitably die), calling for help and requesting that your teammates come to your aid. Helping a fallen comrade requires holding in the triangle button until their health bar is replenished. This little mechanism is pretty fun, and unaware teams can actually lose a few members if they spend too much time worrying about reviving their buddies.
A nifty touch is that if you do come across an enemy in need of reviving you can simply kick them into the afterlife – lovely stuff, and it brought back Gears of War memories. The upside of working to revive teammates is you’ll earn money which can be used during the game to purchase things that benefit you and your team. You can also earn money by collecting items that spawn around the map at predetermined locations. On the shopping list of rewards you can buy are things like a built-to-kill Brute soldier who slowly moves around the map killing the other team, and a rocket launcher should you need to quickly clear out a sniper nest. The rewards differ for each class you play so if you’re playing assault you’ll get the Brute, but if you play another class you might end up with different mercenaries to recruit (like a Savior (field medic), sniper and even a stealthy Hunter that choke holds enemies for you to kill at your leisure).
There’s plenty coolness here and players can also buy a few mystical abilities based on Drake’s adventures in previous games that add some unique variation to the usual bullet, beard, gun and grenade dynamic. There are different mystical abilities for each of the different classes. The Wrath of El Dorado is a totem that unleashes spirits that damage nearby enemies. The Spirit of Djinn gives players a short-distance teleportation ability, and the Cintamani Stone revives players within its area of influence. The last two are the Staff of Ayar Manco (which is essentially a UAV) and Indra’s Eternity, which slows enemies.
Overall the action is acrobatic, fast and fun. Sometimes the action centres on focusing all your attention on taking down a powerful grunt, and other times the varied level design makes for fun, frantic gun battles and daring grapple escapes. I had a great time exploring the possibilities of the multiplayer component coming in Uncharted 4, and so far it looks like it’s going to be a fun experience when it launches next year.
Developer Naughty Dog hasn’t had the best track record when it comes to putting on a long-lasting multiplayer experience. There’s been entertaining multiplayer in the last two Uncharted games, but nothing that had people playing for years and entering eSport tournaments. It’s pretty clear that they’re trying to change that with this new game, but it’s ultimately going to be the community that decides if this is going to be an evergreen hit or not. The mystical abilities and other tricks are great, but it’ll be the different modes and maps and any other tricks they haven’t revealed yet that’ll decide how much of an impact A Thief’s End’s multiplayer will make. The game is out in March 2016, so we’ll find out soon.