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Beta Impressions: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
by Chris Hawke

Maybe I've played too much inFamous 2. Feel free to put my complaints down to that. Zipping around New Marais at a mile a minute, slicing through the dank air with thrusters or punching upwards on a shard of ice... it melts your mind, so that anything other than constant movement feels slow and irritating. That's why it was such an abrupt jolt when I leapt into the Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception beta: everything felt awkward and lazy. Well, I've spent a number of days with Drake and pals now, and I can safely say that the problem persists. In fact, the Uncharted 3 beta seems rife with little concerns, that build up to create a palpable air of disappointment.

You'll load up the beta, and you immediately get to customise your avatar. Great. It's something we've come to expect from all multiplayer games, and while the bits and bobs you can glue onto the gear is kept at a minimum for this beta, with clothes, badges, and guns to turn pink and draw a penis on, Uncharted 3 looks to have an impressive range of variation. There is the certain, unavoidable issue that absolutely everyone will almost always play as Drake, but hey - Naughty Dog are never going to stop that from happening.

There's also the inclusion of kickbacks and medals, Uncharted's answer to killstreaks. Get fourteen medals through killing or finding treasure, for example, and a brand new RPG appears in your hands. With only two rockets, it's overpowered enough to give you a reward but too fleeting to unbalance the flow of the game. You won't find any helicopters tearing down buildings or nukes wiping out humanity; the kickbacks are subtle and suitably weak for Uncharted 3, giving that extra goal to aim for but never giving anyone a major and unbalanced advantage.

You might be wondering why I've started with two quite low-key features. "Why, Chris, dost thou dance around the elephant in the room?" I hear your cry. Truth is, I don't want to talk about it. Because I know what I say won't be popular. Yet there's no denying it.

Uncharted 3's multiplayer isn't very good.

Whilst being able to put Drake in a funny hat or raining fire with an RPG for a few seconds is all nice and well, it does nothing to dampen the sudden realisation that smacks you in the teeth as soon as you attempt to kill an enemy: the game is just lethargic. Movement is excruciatingly slow, whilst two players trying to jump onto the same object or wall results in both bouncing off like dim flies. This might seem a minor grievance, but it'll reduce you to screams and tears on Airstrip. When aiming, Uncharted 3 isn't a 'twitch shooter' - in fact, it's not even a 'deliberate, forceful movement shooter'; swinging your gun around to face an enemy takes half an afternoon, by which time they've buggered off somewhere else.

But the main thing that attracts all my loathing of Uncharted 3's beta is the fact it takes so long to kill anyone. Nine shots with the G-MAL; yeah, I counted, and that's simply preposterous. Whilst other multiplayer games are fast-paced and exciting, with rewarding kills that require a bit of skill and cunning, Uncharted 3 is nothing short of a slog. You see an enemy. You shoot at him. He shoots at you. This will continue for a good number of seconds, as you wrestle with your gun's recoil and desperately hope that your headshots have some effect. Then, one of you will run away. It's just ridiculous. Any time there's a firefight, one player can just roll away, into a building, and no one gets a kill. In fact, this happens so often that it seems ninety per cent of your deaths are from two other players: the one that you're trying to fight, and someone else who's run up behind you and pumped half a clip into your back. Great.

Why not use mêlée, to stop them in their tracks? Well, as you move into position to punch someone, the enemy will be shooting at you. Since it takes two punches to kill a man in Uncharted, after you punch them, they will punch you, and thanks to those fresh new bulletholes he made in your face whilst you were lamping him, he'll very easily be able to merely knock your lights out. I've never seen the instigator of a fist fight in Uncharted 3 emerge the victor. Unless you get lucky, and happen to sneak up on them and crack their neck, don't bother throwing a punch.

I'll accept that this could just be me. Maybe I only like multiplayer games in which it takes one or two bullets to kill someone. If you want to call me names and denounce me as 'weird', or 'different', go ahead. There could be some odd joy in trying to shoot a player for a solid five seconds as he rolls and ducks away that I just don't 'get'. But any game that requires two full-blown sniper shots to end a life? That's not for me.

For all that, Uncharted 3 does hide a few surprises up its damp, dirt-ridden sleeves. The opening airplane battle on Airstrip is inventive and a superb taster with which to have some unique fun with, and dynamic maps - such as Chataeu slowly burning down - are a lovely touch.

The biggest surprise was co-op; it's by far the best part of the beta. The oncoming waves of enemies are easier to kill than human counterparts, it lasts a solid 15 minutes, so you become really involved, and the different game modes forcing teamwork perfectly emphasises how to do co-op well. With a focus on the co-operative.

It looks pretty. It does some new, fresh and exciting things. It's great fun with two friends. But Uncharted 3 has some huge competition in November, not only from the multiplayer components of Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3, but also from single player timehogs like Skyrim. With such weak, dull, apathetic and slow combat, Drake won't hold your attention for long.

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- Chris Hawke

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