games / Previews

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Multiplayer Open Beta Preview

March 11, 2016 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Uncharted 4

Last weekend, Naughty Dog and PlayStation 4 surprised gamers with an open beta “stress test” for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. While Naughty Dog has recently pushed back the game’s release to May 2016, this offered Uncharted fans a chance to finally get a taste of the game, at least where the multiplayer mode was concerned. As a huge Uncharted fan who was all over the Uncharted 3 Subway Multiplayer Beta promotion, this was a can’t-miss opportunity to get a sample of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End two months early.

The multiplayer beta offered one gameplay mode in Team Deathmatch, which features matches of five versus five. There were three different multiplayer maps, including some ruins and caves in a jungle-like setting (Island), the rooftops of a nice, rustic city area and a village township featured in the E3 2015 demo (Madagascar City). There were a number of different skins to choose from for the villain and hero sides. Like the previous games, their overall look and clothing items can be tweaked and customized (sunglasses, suits, etc.)

Longtime Uncharted fans will notice the control scheme has been altered for Uncharted 4. Hopefully, a classic controls option will be added later. The new control scheme isn’t terrible, but it does take a bit of a learning curve and some getting used to. What’s a little jarring is that that the triangle button is now used for reload instead of the square button. The R1 button is used for throwing grenades now, and square is now used for melee combat. It seems this is not the best and most intuitive control set for the Uncharted series, but it’s definitely not a deal-breaker.

Movement, running, jumping and climbing certainly plays and feels like Uncharted of old. Those were not so problematic. However, there is definitely a want for the classic control scheme, since I was constantly trying to reload by pressing square only to punch air. The actual third-person shooter combat works well for the most part, and I’ve always enjoyed Uncharted’s third-person shooter combat and cover system. Both of those still work well here and were very satisfying during multiplayer.

However, one of the biggest noticeable changes for the multiplayer system is an element that I’m somewhat ambivalent over. Rather than being able to kill another character, you first have to “DOWN” them. When a player is in a DOWN state, they are still alive and they can still crawl, but they can’t fight back. In this state, their teammates can revive them. You have a limited amount of time to then finish off the enemy player with your weapon or punt them in the face, Randy Orton style. This is a new element that I’m not too crazy about. There were moments during multiplayer sessions where kicking another character in the face can be fun and satisfying, especially if you can ambush three at a time and do three punts in succession. However, it also takes away the fun of one-shot and one-hit kills. It seems you can no longer do a stealth attack by sneaking up an enemy behind them and choking them out. The game will give you a button prompt to pull off a melee kill, but it seems these are available if you are hanging from a ledge underneath an enemy or run up to the ledge and knock the enemy down. In general, I preferred the system for the multiplayer in the last two games over this one.

The grappling hook feature is a decent addition to the overall game. It does offer a bit of variety in how you can approach the map and combat. The grappling hook and rope swinging does allow you to shoot from the rope. In addition, if you can time the movement right, you can destroy an enemy off the jump of a grappling hook swing. The actual grappling hook can also be used for melee combat as well. The mechanics and controls of the grappling hook worked fairly well, and I look forward to getting more creative with it in multiplayer and seeing how it will function in the actual game.

I’m glad to see the Booster system from Uncharted 3 is back for Uncharted 4. A lot of the Booster packs this time around are new and very different from the last game, and there were multiple types to choose from for the beta. In addition, players could add the Mystical Items and Sidekicks for the loadouts. The Mystical Items offer a nice bit of fun to the combat, especially the Wrath of El Dorado, which spits out evil spirits that damage enemies. Sidekicks present a Sniper or Brute character to help you out in the field. For once, it was actually fun to have a Brute on your side in the gameplay. Besides the Sniper and Brute, there is a Hunter who chases after and tries to strangle enemy players. And finally, there is the Savior, a field medic who will revive downed players. I’d definitely like to see more Sidekicks get incorporated into the multiplayer mode later on.

The open beta did have a points system to unlock more items for the Custom Loadout. Each multiplayer session had a cash system, and players earn cash if they down or KO an opponent. Oddly enough, in the beta, you receive $100 for downing an opponent, but only $50 for a KO. It should probably be the reverse. Once you reach certain levels with the money is how you unlock a heavy weapon, use a Mystical Item or call for help from a Sidekick. Each time you use one of these features, the cost of the price to use one goes up each time. In Uncharted 3, the heavy weapons would drop in at various points. This is a change I’m not too upset about, since I enjoy using the rocket launcher. So it’s a bit easier now to access one instead of going through a mad race to secure the heavier weapon. Like with Uncharted 3, there are random treasure and Relic drops. There were also Daily Challenges to earn points and Relics.

From a visual standpoint, the game looks great. At times there were some lag issues during the multiplayer sessions, but nothing too terrible. Even load times came off slightly quicker than previous games. Graphically, this could be the best Uncharted has ever looked.

My main impression from the beta is that it almost seemed like Naughty Dog and Sony wanted this multiplayer mode to be closer to the multiplayer for Call of Duty than what the multiplayer modes for previous Uncharted games brought to the table. Some of the new elements and controls are a mixed bag. That being said, the open beta stress test was only a sampling of the multiplayer content, with only one actual gameplay mode. Hopefully, the final product will offer a better impression. But a classics control option would definitely be nice.

Uncharted 4 hits the shelves on May 10. The game will be available exclusively for the PlayStation 4.