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Charting the Uncharted
It is a unique feeling to play a game that hasn't been released yet. I've played my share of unreleased games, from being a focus tester, to full on working for a studio, and of course by sending in an application. However I got my invite code for the Uncharted 2 beta from being a Qore Subscriber for the playstation network.
There were a good number of people that got to play Uncharted 2, there were tons of screens at E3, Comic-Con, and a few other conventions. Along with all those people who bought inFamous, the PSN Qore subscribers, plus all the websites giving out a limited number of invites. Yet for all those folks who did play, we could only have that wonderful feeling because there are still those of you who weren't in any of the groups I just mentioned. So thank you for being patient, heres what you are missing in Uncharted 2:
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Uncharted: Drakes Forutune (the first game) had only a single player mode, however in Uncharted 2 there will be co-op modes, and multiplayer modes. The first Uncharted follows Nathan Drake, an adventurer/treasure hunter who seems to be in the worst place at the worst possible time countless times.
You wont really be missing much, but while Uncharted 2 isn't out I suggest you go find the original in case you haven't played it. It's a great single player experience for those ps3 users out there with nothing to do this summer.
That being said, this article focus's on the sequels multiplayer, from which I got a taste of thanks to the closed beta. There were two modes, on two maps available, which was plenty for a free taste of Uncharted 2.
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What do you see?
Since graphics are ultimately the first thing you see, we'll start there. Unparalleled is a good adjective to describe the graphics of Uncharted 2. The great thing: they are still working on it. The effects, the textures, the character models, and the levels themselves are just beautifully crafted and put together. The weather effects blend together differently and set different moods depending on the type of day and the setting. Together with the character animations, the environment seems to flow gorgeously together.
But you've all seen pictures, let move on.
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Audio is key
I'm not going to rate this paragraph because it is so difficult to determine at an early stage of gameplay when sounds are still being tweaked and added. However, I wanted to note the sound of the game because I feel it is such an important aspect of games that some gamers don't take seriously enough.
Having surround sound on in this game seemed to help, hearing footsteps behind me, or a sniper shot going off in the distance, to hearing my footsteps in water, the sound quality was very good, along with the sounds of the weapons. However, in my opinion it sounds best when you turn your sound system up to eleven.
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Gunplay: Duck and Cover tactics
There were about eight guns in the beta of Uncharted 2. Two pistols, three assault rifles, a sniper rifle, a shotgun, and a mini gun. Since the beta the developers have been noted saying that the AK was too inaccurate and the FAL (another assault rifle, with only a burst type fire mode) was used in close combat all too often, which is not what the developers had in mind for that specific weapon. I assume they will tweak things to allow guns to be played with differently, but I do agree that the AK felt like a very ineffective weapon. It was almost as if I had a spray can instead of an accurate assault rifle. I somewhat disagree with the FAL rifle, as I always used it in a long distance manner.
The actual tactics, and gunplay of the matches were rather consistent though. Think Gears of War style cover without having run and cover mapped to the same button, or like the game killswitch if you've been a playstation fan all your life. However the animations for the cover is much more fluid and natural looking than most games I've seen, save for a game that got canceled named 'Eight Days'.
A tip while loading the game suggests "Think vertically, all maps have some place to climb to". Sure enough in each map there were about two or three places that could only be accessed by scaling a wall, or jumping across balconies. However in the two maps that were in the beta being in the high spots often meant being very vulnerable. This hopefully will be different on the other maps, but it could be that everyone just wanted the king of the hill spot. Who knows if that will change though.
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Game Modes, Same Modes.
Unfortunately it seems as though Naughty Dog is new at this multiplayer thing. It shows in Uncharted 2. Seeing as the first Uncharted game had no multiplayer component it is only natural for this to feel new. I, of course, have not played all the game modes, only the two in the beta: Team Deathmatch, a treasure hunting mode AKA Capture the flag.
I must say that after playing 64 player online matches in Uncharted 2, and hearing about MAG's 256 player experience, I can't help but be excited about any Team Deathmatch game with only 16 players. The maps were small enough so it didn't feel empty, but it felt like a very small skirmish rather than a deathmatch.
The capture the flag mode was worse though. The flag in this shooter is a golden statue that you have to lug around with one hand as you use a pistol in the other to fend off enemies. You move slower, and theres a bright flashing icon on the enemies screen that shows everyone where you are. If you are the first one to pick it up, more often than not you die rather quickly.
The only innovation in this capture the flag mode actually hurts the game mode more than enhancing it. The map and treasure is placed so that you must throw it up ledges/cliffs or other things you need to climb. Here's how it hurts gameplay: I was hobbling along with the treasure and I get close to my teams capture point ( a treasure chest, how clever ) but there is a problem. It is a story above me, and there are no stairs, the stairs are collapsed and there is a gaping hole in the area above me. So, I throw the treasure up, and start to climb, however by the time I was halfway up my teammate had already captured the treasure, and the point went to him.
Now tell me, if you were trying to create a game mode to instill team work, why would you leave such a large loophole in the scoring process. I literally did all the work, until the design in the level forced me to give up the gold. There should at least be points for doing all the traveling, or maybe a tip? *cough cough*
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Its hard judging seeing as there was only two maps, however the layout was thought out quite well. One was symmetrical and the other was almost there, however there was a combination of high and low ground fighting, and being out flanked or having your cover rendered usless was a common thing that made gameplay fun on the run. There was very little time for sniping or taking precise shots unless you found an area with no one in it. However a snipers peace never lasts long.
I'd say one of the only design flaws is that spawn killing was made far too easy. Hiding, changing cover, in close proximity to where the whole team spawns (at least in one of the maps) gives far too great an advantage. It was only noticeable in one of the two maps, but since there is no design rules to keep spawn killing at bay I fear for the absent minded spawners, or drifters, or people who like to get snacks when they die in a multiplayer match, for which I am guilty.
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To sum it up, Uncharted 2 was exactly what I expected: an excellent shooter with good graphics, statisfying shoot-outs, with smooth animations, and some refreshing third person shooter glory. The only draw backs being the lack of game modes and the Call of Duty perk, I mean booster system. Essentially boosters are small advantages you get to choose for your soldier. Think larger clip, or picking up more ammo, or better aim with a pistol. Keep in mind however I have only played two game modes, and there will be more.
I stray. It was an excellent game, I was glad to be apart of it. Naughty Dog has announced there will be a demo so that everyone can try it out. I don't envy the guy working Sonys servers the day that demo launches.