Early Impressions: UNCHARTED 4
In this Crossfader series, video games editor Ed Dutcher takes a look at early versions of upcoming releases so that you can know which hype trains to board.
A small disclaimer: while I have played previous Uncharted games, it wasn’t until the singleplayer-exclusive NATHAN DRAKE COLLECTION that I actually got my hands on the series. Going into the multiplayer beta for UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END, I had nothing to really compare it to, save for my time spent on THE LAST OF US: REMASTERED’s surprisingly fun competitive offering.
As it turns out, however, that other Naughty Dog shooter is all I needed to understand UNCHARTED 4’s online beta. Multiplayer follows the exact same formula as THE LAST OF US, though this time around it’s 5v5 rather than 4v4. For those strange few who didn’t grab one of the last generation’s greatest narrative experiences for the express intent of rubbing nuts on digitized strangers, here’s an overview: traditional team deathmatch sees heroes fighting villains for the first side to reach 35 kills (sorry, I meant “KOs”). Slain enemies drop ammo, sure, but even more important is their money, which can be spent during matches for powerups. There’s customizable loadouts, perks, and challenges for which to aim during games. Nothing earth-shattering here.
But there is still a lot of bone-shattering going on
To be fair, UNCHARTED 4 isn’t a complete carbon copy of THE LAST OF US. The platforming aspects that the series is known for are fully featured in multiplayer, complete with an all new grappling hook that can be used to cross gaps or deliver a powerful finishing blow to opponents. Players can also now use their cash to summon Sidekicks, NPC allies that fill standard niche roles like medics and snipers. Mystical relics can also be wielded, effects ranging from team-boosting buffs, personal upgrades, and massive area attacks.
UNCHARTED 4, understandably, also plays much faster-paced than THE LAST OF US. Players constantly swing around and leap from wall to wall, and with money stockpiles randomly spawning across the map, most will be moving at all times. Automatic weapons and greatly increased ammo capacity means that spraying wildly is not only viable, but encouraged, given the mobile nature of matches. These expanded gameplay options, combined with regenerating health and AI backup that can be summoned at the press of a button, mean that most players can realistically go lone wolf and still win matches.
Unfortunately, this makes UNCHARTED 4’s multiplayer feel like generic brand “team” deathmatch, as opposed to the unique, survival-driven experience in THE LAST OF US. In that game, you would only have a handful of bullets, equally precious for their scarcity and their lethality. Managing resources was just as important as outmaneuvering the opposition, meaning that planning and strategy were key. All of that goes out the window in the mindless fracas of UNCHARTED 4. Characters are simply too powerful to necessitate cooperation.
Fingers CROSSED that the devs are taking note
The beta only included one mode shared on two distinctly opposite maps, but if the similarities between Naughty Dog’s two big shooters continue to hold true, then there likely will not be much more variation in gametypes on release. Locales themselves should prove to be more of a variable on the action, as the deadly pits of the Island map necessitated the grappling hook much more than in Madagascar City, where rooftop control typically decided the victor. Both maps required markedly different approaches, with Island’s long firing corridors favoring snipers and Madagascar’s cramped alleys rewarding SMG and shotgun use. In a game that I could best describe as bland, it was refreshing to see some real thought was at least put into the environments.
I won’t pretend I’m not disappointed that Naughty Dog took the safe route by copying the success of THE LAST OF US’s multiplayer, but I also admit that I, like most others, will not be picking up UNCHARTED 4 for anything other than its cinematic storyline. It is ironic, though, that in pursuing the franchise’s trademark charm, Naughty Dog lost the distinctiveness of its best multiplayer product. UNCHARTED 4 multiplayer isn’t necessarily bad, but I can’t imagine it will maintain a following in the months after it launches. For those hoping for an engaging thrill ride, Nathan Drake’s own adventure will have to suffice.