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Eight unconventional additions to Uncharted 3's multiplayer
by Parker Scott Mortensen

This past week, Naughty Dog revealed the multiplayer component of their much-anticipated Uncharted 3, and it appears to be a massive expansion of the multiplayer in Uncharted 2. While the second Uncharted's multiplayer was surprisingly robust and lasting (around 40,000 players still play daily, a year on from release), it mostly conformed to our expectations for what a multiplayer game should be.

Based on Naughty Dog's reveal of Uncharted 3's multiplayer, it looks as if they're aiming to really add some new ideas to the conventional multiplayer experience. This is still a cops-and-robbers shooter, but with some new ideas that may prove to preserve onward in multiplayer experiences to come.

Before perusing the nuances of Uncharted 3's multiplayer, make sure you watch Naughty Dog's reveal video to get a good snapshot of all the additions.

1: Three Team Deathmatch and the 'buddy system'

Along with the tried-and-true Team Deathmatch, Uncharted 3 puts an emphasis on tight-knit team play with Three Team Deathmatch, a game mode which pits three teams of two against each one another. By constraining the size of the teams, players are forced to cooperate with one another, resulting in a 'buddy system' style of play, which is further encouraged by the ability to spawn on your teammate so long as they're not in the middle of combat. Team play has always been the quickest route to winning in multiplayer games, but in most games it's hard to communicate with a large team, even using voice chat. The 'buddy system' could do wonders for keeping players coordinated, partied or not.

2: Two-part maps

Dynamic maps are not a new idea, and Uncharted 2 even had its own few map fluctuations, such as aeroplanes swooping down and knocking off large strips of cover from the map, or helicopters coming in to attack both teams. But Uncharted 3 takes this idea and jumps ten steps ahead; in the above video, players are shown fighting on an airstrip between accelerating convoys and an aeroplane, pre-take off, and then later at a more traditional, cover-based airbase-hangar arena. These two maps are actually connected. After the plane sequence (lasting presumably about half the match), all players are transported to the hangar and the match continues.

This two-part map system really spices up the traditional multiplayer formula, making it something more cinematic and more exciting, hopefully whilst still retaining the balance between team advantage. If the timing between the shift in gameplay environments is reasonably predictable, perhaps players can use the switch strategically, giving dynamic gameplay environments much more bearing on gameplay than we've previously seen.

3: Emblems

If there's one thing video games have proven in this era of multiplayer, it's that players love validation. They want to know when they're doing well, and they want everyone else to know it, too. Emblem editors can be found in games like Call of Duty and Halo: Reach, where you can design your own insignia to be shown on your character, or to pop up alongside other players when you've killed them. The new take on emblems in Uncharted 3 is to display the top player's emblem in the playable, natural environment, smacking the map with personality.

You can see this in action at about 45 seconds into the mutliplayer trailer, where a custom emblem is embellished onto the hangar map. Presumably, these emblems can change as the map goes on, meaning the top player will dominate the map aesthetically, as well as putting bullets into your skull.

4: Medal Kickbacks

At first glance, Medal Kickbacks seem like the equivalent of killstreaks, the ubiquitous multiplayer mechanic pioneered by Call of Duty that rewards a string of successive kills with more killing power. In reality, Uncharted 3's Medal Kickbacks are a more refined version of this killstreak mechanic. Instead of rewarding players for racking up as many kills as they can, Medal Kickbacks reward players for specific types of kills, such as kills on opponents who are currently attacking one of your teammates, perhaps kills with an unconventional firearm, or maybe headshot kills.

In the above video, you can see Drake activating a Medal Kickback to use an RPG at the most opportune moment. Fine-tuning the criteria for killstreaks discourages the 'kill as many as possible as quickly as possible' mentality, and instead rewards more finesse with a bigger payoff. Hopefully, the mechanic will discourage techniques that focus on getting the most kills with the least effort, such as camping near spawn points or 'spamming' quick-kill weapons.

5) Power Plays and Overtime

Power Plays kick into gear when one team is grossly dominating the other. What they are exactly isn't yet defined, but we do know that they give the losing team a chance to close the gap and the winning team a chance to close the game. If you've ever played multiplayer of any kind, you'll know the experience isn't all that enjoyable when there's a big disparity between the teams, no matter if you're on the winning or the losing side. It may feel good for the winners to steamroll another team, but after a while, domination gets stale. Power Plays work to prevent this snooze-fest from occurring.

Similarly, it's pretty frustrating when both teams are neck and neck but the match suddenly ends due to something that's happening on the other side of the map, irrelevant to you. Kicking things into overtime for ridiculously close matches helps ascertain the true victors.

6: YouTube and Facebook Integration

Facebook is integrated with nearly every service available in 2011, but it's rarely been done successfully in a video game. Both PSN and Xbox Live allow social networking in some form (be that Twitter or Facebook), but neither are particularly quick or presented in an interesting way. In Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog included the ability to tweet whenever players levelled up or completed a campaign chapter, and the result was pretty annoying.

This time around, Naughty Dog has really gone the extra mile to make sure Facebook integration with Uncharted 3 is done in a compelling and tasteful way. From the Uncharted 3 multiplayer menu, you can see which of your Facebook friends are online, what they're playing, and what media they've uploaded, all of which is viewable from your console.

Similarly, YouTube integration lets users edit and upload videos seamlessly from their console. It's a small step, but the effect is a much smoother, more encouraged experience.

7: Uncharted TV

Possibly the most interesting addition to multiplayer is Uncharted TV. The best clips and images will be selected by Naughty Dog and broadcasted over Uncharted TV, a small reel of clips playing the corner of the screen between matches in multiplayer. It seems innocuous, but the logic behind it is actually pretty ingenious.

"If you watch a football game, you talk about it the next day because everyone watched the same game," says Christophe Balestra, co-president of Naughty Dog. "This is (to) get people who play to have a better experience."

Simply by creating a common feed of content, Naughty Dog is looking to tie the community together in a more meaningful way than a common set of mechanics. This way, players can commentate outside the game to their friends about what they've seen online, which pushes the Uncharted multiplayer experience out of the living room and into conversation.

8: Crotch Kicking

The benefit of this addition is self-evident.

Are you one of the many eagerly anticipating Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception's release? Have you lost sleep due to sitting up until unholy hours, looking at screenshots and videos? Do you simply love the way Drake can climb a building? Give us all your thoughts in the comments section below.

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- Parker Scott Mortensen

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