Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End – Multiplayer Beta Impressions

uncharted4beta1Despite initial fears of a tacked-on multiplayer and claims that it didn’t need it, Uncharted and developer Naughty Dog have always excelled in the competitive scene. Both the series’ and the studio’s first steps into the online ring were an unexpected delight and all-round success back in Uncharted 2, and Naughty Dog made further significant strides by throwing customisation options, a buddy system and their trademark cinematic set-pieces into the mix for the follow-up. Even the Factions online mode in The Last Of Us turned out to be a winner, proving Naughty Dog to be just as capable and talented at producing multiplayer as they are single-player campaigns. Naturally, then, anticipation for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is high.

Recently, owners of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection were granted access to the multiplayer beta for Nathan Drake’s upcoming PS4 outing. It may have only been Team Deathmatch on two maps, but it was enough to suggest that Uncharted 4 is set to be another strong online offering. Everything Naughty Dog has learned from previous Uncharteds and The Last Of Us – from map design to the use of an in-game store – has informed the designers’ decisions here to create what they reckon will be their finest multiplayer to date, while adding in a few new things (which we’ll get to later) to give it a flavour of its own.


It helps, of course, that the foundations were sturdy enough as it is, and this time they’re even better. The cover system, movement and shooting mechanics, while more than serviceable in the past, now feel more fluid, responsive and refined. The jump to 60fps no doubt plays a part here, although the game will have to display at 900p to allow for it (the campaign will run at 1080p/30fps, though). Navigation is particularly praiseworthy, but then that’s always been the case. Whereas something like Gears Of War feels more grounded in comparison, Nathan Drake and co have always been a more athletic bunch, able to leap over a gap, vault across cover, or scale an object on a whim, meaning the map designers can bring an element of verticality to the table.

uncharted4beta3The two maps available in the beta, Madagascar City and Island, are both small-to-medium sized venues inspired by locales shown off in previous campaign demos, so as not to spoil things. If you hadn’t deduced already, Madagascar City is an urban-based map and features a market square situated in the centre, flanked by partly constructed buildings on one side and a road running down the other. Island, meanwhile, is more familiar Uncharted territory (that’s an oxymoron if there ever was one), a lush jungle setting permeated with ancient ruins to take cover behind and sheer drops surrounding the edges keeping the ten players running riot in check.

As you’d expect from Naughty Dog, these maps are designed in a way that keeps the match’s momentum flowing. There are particular hotspots in each where players congregate, but the pace of the battle never falters, players able to swiftly weave in and out of cover or attempt a last-ditch getaway via one of several potential escape routes. One of those escape routes might just involve the grappling hook, which looks set to play just as big a role in multiplayer as it does in the campaign. Employed at select points on the map, it’s an essential tool for closing the distance between you and your destination quickly, but can also factor in to your offensive too. If you’re lucky, you can rain death from above with an opportune aerial takedown, and if you’re skilled, you might be able to nail a headshot or two while swinging from one point to another. Bear in mind it does leave you open for attack yourself, though, so it’s best not to hang around for too long.


Also new along with the grappling hook are Mysticals and Sidekicks, both of which can be bought mid-match with the points you’ve earned from kills, assists and such through an in-game store brought over from The Last Of Us, accessed by pressing the Dualshock 4’s touchpad. By far the most game-changing addition are Mysticals, which ruffed up a more than a few feathers among the community at first. Mysticals are special abilities that take the forms of supernatural artefacts from previous Uncharted adventures. Of the five in total from the beta (it’s unclear if more are in store for the finished game), the most infamous is perhaps the Wrath of El Dorado, which spawns in the cursed sarcophagus from Drake’s Fortune to release evil spirits which home in on enemy players and bombard them with small amounts of damage. This was the clear favourite Mystical in the beta, and so was also the most hated, but once you learn to turn around and leg it, it’s really not as overpowering as you might initially believe.

As for the four other Mysticals, they are: the Cintamani Stone from Among Thieves which revives nearby downed players and brings them back to full health, the Spirit of the Djinn which turns the player into a fiery speed demon as seen in Drake’s Deception, the Staff of Ayer Manco from Uncharted novel The Forth Labyrinth reveals all enemy players on your radar, and Indra’s Eternity from motion comic prequel Eye Of Indra emits a time-slowing bubble which slows any opponents caught inside to a crawl.

uncharted4beta5Just as useful, if not sometimes more so, are Sidekicks. Replacing the buddy system of Uncharted 3 it appears, you can spend your hard-earned in-game currency on calling in one of four AI helpers. The Sniper will defend any given position with their long-range rifle; the Saviour will act as support, reviving players and replenishing ammo; the Hunter will speedily track down any nearby enemies and hold them in a lock for an easy kill; and the Brute comes packing heavy armour and a minigun, but won’t be getting anywhere fast. Of course, knowing when and where to bring in a Sidekick is the key to success. Ordering a Sniper to watch over the market from the relative safety of a nearby tower in Madagascar City proved to be a winning strategy, and bringing in a brute when pinned down by multiple enemies on the ground is a lifesaver. None are invulnerable, though, so you need to watch out for them as much as they do for you.

It’s easy to think all of this might result in an incredibly unbalanced multiplayer game, but it all actually works rather splendidly in action. Yes, some things may need a few tweaks more than others, but overall the Mysticals and Sidekicks are a well-balanced bunch complete with their own pros and cons for each map as well as in and of themselves. The Spirit of the Djinn, for instance, may allow you to teleport short distances, but at the cost of taking cover, and being set ablaze means you can’t exactly remain hidden. Plus, with every purchase, the cost goes up for the match, so even the best players won’t be able to constantly spam the Wrath of El Dorado. You don’t have the option to choose from every Mystical or Sidekick at any time either, your loadout be it custom or pre-set determining which ones you can call upon. With only four slots available for the store, and boosters and weapon drops also needing consideration, some serious loadout tinkering and experimentation is vital before you settle on your favourite combination.


If there are any gripes, you could say not all of the guns sound or feel distinctly unique from one another, and when sustaining fire the aiming reticule (a dot which wildly jumps around rather than the usual enlarging circle) is a little off-putting and gives the impression of inaccuracy. Uncharted 3’s multiplayer set-pieces are also missed, but who’s to say Naughty Dog aren’t holding these back? This was only a small slice of what’s to come, after all, and previous games have not only had a fully-fledged multiplayer, but also co-op missions to boot too. Come March 18th, then, there’s just as much reason to play Uncharted 4 online as there is off.

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