Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
You can’t fail to be aware, as you conjure and apply a full-body coating of flame in order to grant yourself temporary powers of short-range teleportation, that Uncharted 4’ s multiplayer portion is merrily incinerating even the loose rules that formerly governed Nathan Drake and co’s dalliances with the supernatural. But a set of paranormal abilities makes sense given Naughty Dog’s intention to introduce more organised teamwork into its PVP play, even if that means empowering us with a litany of items, buffs and boosts unsuitable for the campaign.
“It’s a culmination of ideas spanning Uncharted 2, 3, and The Last Of Us,” lead multiplayer designer Robert Cogburn says, and A Thief’s End’s incendiary new abilities do seem indicative of Naughty Dog’s increased confidence and experience in crafting a thrilling five-on-five, class-based contest. But they also bespeak a series looking to funnel almost a decade of history into an explosive finale. “It’s most likely going to be the studio’s last Uncharted game,” Cogburn says. Perhaps that explains the abandon with which items, locations and characters are being smashed together like action figures on playsets.
So short-range hops through space are granted to the bearer of the Spirit Of The Djinn, one of several mystical options you can select for your loadout, which also gives your melee attacks the power to kill with two hits instead of three. The Wrath Of El Dorado is another, a grenade-like weapon that summons a red-and-gold sarcophagus wreathed in smoky red spirits to attack nearby enemies. Alternatively, there’s the Cintamani Stone, which revives the fallen to full health with a pulse, then lingers and speeds the recovery of downed teammates inside its radius. Although
matches are overtly chaotic and full of lurid colour, there’s clear attention to balance, too. You can’t take cover while using the Spirit Of The Djinn, for example.
Extra on-map bustle comes from your sidekicks, AI-controlled mercenaries who you spawn by using the pool of money earned through kills and assists. There’s the Sniper, who acts like a turret and perforates enemies who wander into her line of sight. The Saviour trails you to keep you and other teammates stocked with ammo. He can revive players who are downed, too, helpfully automating the often-ignored support role.
The remaining sidekicks are the Hunter, who sprints at opponents to grab them in a hold so you can get a clear shot in, and the Brute, a straightforward heavy who can take lots of damage and dish out plenty of firepower in return. Some sidekicks are more effective than others, but the amount of in-game currency they cost is weighted accordingly. “The Brute’s expensive,” Cogburn explains. We’ve seen people buy him late game, and he just turns fights.”
Since everyone can spawn one sidekick, there’s the possibility for 20 characters – ten human, ten AI – to occupy any of the eight launch maps at any one time. Although this has the potential to turn Uncharted 4’ s multiplayer into a massive, confusing freefor-all brawl, that isn’t the case during our session, which is largely down to the map design. Instead of skirting rounded arenas, levels emphasise forming and reforming fronts. This means you’re rarely shot from behind by unseen foes, and play is more about judicial use of totems and sidekicks in order to make your collective firepower overwhelm grouped opponents and push the line forward.
Stages are all built with agile motion in mind, too. You can slide, zipline, climb, and now more easily interrupt animations, with fewer finicky moments in which you get stuck on walls or ledges. The downside of this is that it’s not immediately apparent what you can scale – several times we leap at craggylooking walls only to slide down face first. The new rope swing is more delineated, designated by specific environment spots you can target. If an enemy wanders underneath your swinging, press square in mid-air to land on them for a slick-looking instant kill. It’s a scrap of connective tissue between
Uncharted 4’ s multiplayer scrum and its more focused campaign that serves to illustrate how two fundamentally connected movesets can be differentiated by context. Whereas the singleplayer’s thrills operate within a scripted framework, Naughty Dog has reconsidered map design, added cooldown-limited powers, and emphasised team interplay to make
Uncharted 4’ s multiplayer a more freeform, and thus more replayable, offering.
Although matches are chaotic and full of lurid colour, there’s clear attention to balance
Characters from across the series appear in Uncharted
4’ s multiplayer, all with new quips and contextual dialogue. Elena has her own lines for when a grenade lands near her, for example
ABOVE While traversal is smooth, Uncharted4 will be relying on peer-to-peer servers, which may affect real-world performance. The lack of dedicated servers is especially troubling given that microtransactions are ostensibly being included here to support the game’s multiplayer. Still, it has been promised that nothing will be gated off via the Naughty Dog Points currency, nor will it affect the game mechanics
TOP LEFT Maps emphasise establishing and moving fronts, leading to fewer scenarios in which you’re shot in the back and more exchanges of gunfire. Rather than chase each other in circles, teams push back and forth against one another.
ABOVE To maintain 60fps, Naughty Dog is rendering the multiplayer at 900p resolution. Singleplayer increases the resolution to 1080p, but reduces the framerate to 30fps
LEFT These relics add to the multiplayer an overt mysticism that the main series tends to use more sparingly. More powers are promised, but Naughty Dog isn’t ready to reveal them
The emphasis is on team play as five-strong squads clash in exotic locales. There’s no story attached to the multiplayer, nor is it concerned with alliances or history, so you might very well see Lazarevic fight alongside Sully or Drake