One notion that we here at Gamereactor maintain, is that a game can easily be worth the normal asking price, even if it only contains either a multiplayer or a single-player component. Rise of the Tomb Raider skipped out on multiplayer, and does so brilliantly, and Rainbow Six: Siege on the other hand does well without a proper solo campaign to speak of. Neither of these games needs what's not there, and perhaps they instead benefit from increased focus on the main course. There are exceptions to this, and some developers out there are capable of churning out fantastic single- and multiplayer content in the same title. Naughty Dog is one of these companies. Ever since Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, multiplayer has been a mainstay in their titles, and that's a good thing. Currently a closed multiplayer beta for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (open to all Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection owners) is up and running, and we've been sampling the multiplayer in order to see whether Naughty Dog can keep up this honoured tradition.
The multiplayer will feel instantly familiar to those who've played previous iterations. The dynamic mixture of verticality, a variety of gadgets, and a blend of beloved characters is a recognisable one, and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End keeps tradition close to its chest. You select a loadout, which can either be custom made or chosen from among a few presets, containing a large weapon, a sidearm, a grenade, a few boosters, a sidekick and a mystical. All of these are purchased via slot points, of which you have 25, so you could potentially have more boosters, if you chose not to run with a sidearm. The possibilities are many, the customisation is deep, but it never feels overwhelming.
The selection of characters in the beta offers both heroes and villains from the series. Of course Drake is there but there is also Charlie Cutter, Sully, Elena and bad guys Marlowe and Lazarevic to choose from. The characters are customisable; you can give them headgear with which to make your character stand out in the match. There is also an array of taunts and some of them are quite comical. Seeing Drake or Sully do the 'kiss' taunt is both hilarious and slightly disturbing.
The beta contains two maps, both previously seen during stage demos of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. One is Island, which is based on the PlayStation Experience demonstration last year, and the other is Madagascar City, which closely resembles the E3 2015 stage demo. Both are large and facilitate the use of all the new mechanics, in addition to featuring verticality, cover options and cash pickups used to buy upgrades, weapons, sidekicks and mysticals during a match. Each map has at least several points where a player can swing across a vast distance using the rope, which can both result in gaining the upper hand on an opponent, or simply landing a flying punch on an unknowing enemy. There are also slopes you can slide along, which work as shortcuts around the level.
Both maps are intricately designed, with several paths to each section, which creates duels around every corner. You never know where you'll face an enemy, as they almost always can come from below, above or just around the next corner. It ensures that there's plenty of tension. The same goes for the new destructible environments. Shooting up pillars, or throwing grenades close to structures now creates debris in glorious 60fps. It's a graphical showcase rarely seen on consoles, and, at least from a visual standpoint, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End multiplayer does provide you with what it sets out to achieve: creating singleplayer-like moments in a multiplayer setting.
The new mysticals add another tactical element as well, giving players a powerful tool that can turn the tide of a match in an instant. The Wrath of Eldorado sends out evil spirits that constantly damages enemies caught in the vicinity, and the Cintamani Stone creates an area of healing that can revive fallen allies. If you earn enough in-game currency during a match, you're free spend them on your mystical of choice, and these are beautifully designed, and work surprisingly well in a competitive setting. The sidekicks still need fine-tuning however, as some of them, like the trapper who spawns and searches for an enemy to put in a chokehold, has close to no effect on the actual outcome of a match. The heavies are way too powerful, and they can take down several players before tilting over. With a bit balancing these could be a worthy addition to the multiplayer, but for now their promise remains unfulfilled.
As for the gameplay itself, controls are as tight as you'd expect, and both climbing and dodge-rolling creates a certain flow, one you just don't see in other third-person online shooters. With the multiplayer in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End running at 60fps, this flow is as apparent as ever, and there's a joy in just moving around the map, climbing the environment, using the rope to swing between structures and rolling into cover from enemy fire. It is, however, a bit frustrating to both roll and take cover with the same button, as the game often confuses one intent for the other. It's definitely unnecessary, and hopefully this is either fine tuned or remapped as the final game rolls around.
Whether or not the multiplayer holds up in the long run is another question entirely, as the only mode available in the beta is Team Deathmatch, and while it does easily showcase the overall quality of the gameplay and its new mechanics, it does leave you with a question: what other modes does Naughty Dog have up its sleeve for the final build. For now we're incredibly impressed with Uncharted 4: A Thief's End's multiplayer beta, and the title remains one of our most anticipated titles for next year, increasingly so as we move ever close to launch on March 18. Naughty Dog seems to have pulled it off again, and so far we can confirm that this multiplayer continues the studio's proud tradition.