Naughty Dog’s Plan For Uncharted 3 Multiplayer: Best Ever?

Oh, Uncharted. I wish I could quit you. but I can’t… and I won’t. You love it. We love it. Most of us have spent far, far too many hours with Nathan Drake, which is why we were ecstatic when we found out the final night of this week’s Los Angeles leg of Sony’s Worldwide Studio tour focused solely on the upcoming Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The chance to preview arguably the most anticipated game of 2011, 6 months before release? Hell jeah fool!

Cool your jets homies, because it wasn’t quite like that. We were among dozens who attended the Uncharted: Drake’s Deception event, and though a little short on the uptake, we soon remembered that the theme of the week was the multiplayer aspect of each of the games we previewed. We’d already seen Ratchet and Clank: all 4 One, Resistance 3 and the new Twisted Metal, but based on what Naughty Dog is promising will be in their game, the Uncharted 3 multiplayer presentation showed perhaps the greatest promise.

We entered the studio, just north of Chinatown, and were hotboxed into a small area with dozens of other journalists. It was hot, crowded, full of dorky dudes (ourselves included), and the sound system was… wonky. We had to squint to see Naughty Dog’s spokesman and lean our ears to hear him, but we can’t help but wonder if the point was to simulate the typical Uncharted setting. Hot, sweaty, a total sausage fest. Whatever. We were treated to the new Uncharted 3 Multiplayer Trailer and then to Naughty Dog’s plan for world multiplayer domination. They claimed they were out to make the best possible multiplayer experience – and while we readily admit that no one plays Uncharted for the multiplayer, after seeing their presentation (and experiencing Uncharted 3 multiplayer hands-on). we think they might actually be onto something.

Here’s a few of the highlights they spoke on during their presentation.

* Capturing the cinematic experience of the game.

They described their desire to make the multiplayer as close to the cinematic experience of the single player campaign as possible. To that end, they’ve created co-op scenarios intended to put the online gamer into that mode. According to their presentation, the multiplayer game mechanics are essentially ported wholesale from the single player campaign. Climbing, diving and fighting are intended to be identical to the main game. They claim to aim for total immersion, and to player progression similar to the in-game accumulation of Playstation trophies. Sounds great. We approve.

* New Features.

We’ll cover the nuts and bolts in our Hands-on, but we can report that during their presentation, Naughty Dog took pains to note how popular the Uncharted 2 Multiplayer was, but admitted several problems players complained about, particularly balance. Apparently, a lot of players complained about being completely blown out during play. They vowed to fix this for Uncharted 3. To fix it, they’ve added a dramatic new mode to multiplayer team deathmatch. Their solution was the introduction of power play – now, if one team seems to be losing, and badly, the game rules will change, giving that team the chance to earn points by killing as many of their opponents as possible. By their admission, it won’t compensate for a terrible team, but given somewhat competent players, it evens the score enough to take the frustration out of the online experience.

The new features include additional semi-do-overs, like extra time if two teams are nearly tied at the end of a match. Minutes will be added to give the losing team the chance to catch up. That might sound like a cheat, but as someone prone to getting my ass handed to me online, I definitely approve. Other new features include the ability for players to join a game already in progress, a new booster system that includes new powerups (both found, and purchased), and co-op missions that require real cooperation by team members. Best of all, the multiplayer will support splitscreen play on a single TV. As they put it, “You can have that couch experience” that console owners enjoyed back in the day. Of all the advances they touted, this was the one that pricked our ears the most.

* Customizable features

Possibly the biggest change, one our hands-on reviewer actually got to experience, is the vastly increased amount of customization available for multiplayer gamers. These features include moddable weapons, the ability to customize your player character, and to choose your load-out weapon set. Whatever your preference, as far as they’re claiming, each player will be able to make their multiplayer experience entirely unique. That’s actually a big deal; most multiplayer features have a tremendous amount of things to do but not so much individualization. We won’t know for certain until the game goes gold but if even half of what they promised ends up in the final game, it’s going to be a big deal.

* Increased social experience.

Possibly the biggest new feature they touted during their presentation was the commitment to total immersion in social networking. Facebook being the biggest, but they also touted YouTube, featuring Uncharted TV. Uncharted TV will showcase enhanced cinema mode, recording individual players’ battles and featuring the best kills and battles on YouTube on a weekly basis (assuming you’ve agreed to have yourself recorded).

We won’t know anything for several months, but just seeing what they’ve promised, we’re looking extremely forward to finally getting our hands on the finished product. It’s safe to say that Uncharted fans who might not feel that there’s a point to a multiplayer feature in their beloved game might find instead that they have a whole new reason to keep coming back. It remains to be seen if Naughty Dog’s ambitious plans are fully realized, but just based on what we heard in their presentation, we’ve been drooling for days. November can’t come soon enough.

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