Big AAA titles that have impressive marketing machines behind them cost millions upon millions to develop, and thus they represent huge investments for their publishers. Thus the pressure to appeal to the widest possible audience (and in doing so recoup that investment) has often seen traditionally solo adventures inhabit a weird middle-ground between multiplayer and single-player. This often results in a fantastic single-player experience like Tomb Raider shipping with a tacked on multiplayer, whereas the Battlefield games are great online shooters that come complete with mediocre campaigns that come across as an afterthought.
The Uncharted series, however, has avoided this problem, and ever since the launch of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves it has offered both an impressive adventure, and a well designed, action-packed, exhilarating multiplayer component. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is looking to replicate the tricks pulled by its predecessors, and simultaneously introduce some exciting new elements to the successful formula. We were invited to a behind closed doors demo of the multiplayer for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End after it was unveiled at the PlayStation press conference during Paris Games Week.
Let's get the numbers out of the way first. Uncharted 4 multiplayer runs at 900p, 60fps, whereas the single-player runs at 1080p, 30fps. Developer Naughty Dog is aiming to release the game with eight maps on March 18, and even though there are no direct microtransactions in the game, you'll be able to purchase cosmetic upgrades for your character by using so-called "Naughty Dog Points". With that out of the way let us swiftly move onto some of the new additions you'll be exploring when playing with or against your friends.
The session began with Naughty Dog lead multiplayer designer Robert Cogburn introducing the new sidekicks (AI controlled characters that can be called upon by the player), and using them to perform a couple of assignments on the battlefield. The sniper can locate a decent vantage point and fire at your enemies from above. The hunter will, upon spawning, locate the nearest player and put them in a chokehold, which makes them vulnerable to attack. Lastly we have the downer, basically a field medic. If you go down, he'll get you back in the fight. These sidekicks can be upgraded and customised as you level up, and made to fit your playstyle. In addition Naughty Dog confirmed that all three of these sidekicks will be available in the upcoming beta. The full game will feature more sidekicks.
It's an interesting mechanic which should put even more focus on the fact that Uncharted 4: A Thief's End multiplayer is centred on the team and working together. Cogburn underlined this during the presentation, and said that old Uncharted multiplayer levels were designed like arenas, where you could, in principal, get shot from any angle at any given moment. The levels in Uncharted 4 are more narrow and rectangular, better adapted to team play.
There are a couple of gameplay elements which should give the player the feeling of being immensely powerful. One of these, which also represents one of the major new additions, are the so called mysticals, powerful objects plucked from the Uncharted saga, which give the player a powerful but temporary ability in combat. These were shown during the press conference trailer, and then further explained during the presentation. The Wrath of Eldorado, a totem which harms any players around it, the Chintamani Stone which can either heal your comrades or revive them, and the The Spirit of the Jin, which allows the player wielding it to teleport around the map. These may also be upgraded and customised.
Another focus for Naughty Dog was to bring some of the personality that's a cornerstone for the single-player into the multiplayer, and this happens mainly through the various characters. Former iterations of the Uncharted multiplayer had a specific announcer (think of Destiny's Crucible announcer), who provides players with an overview of the on-going match. Now, it's your own personal character providing you with this information. This should, according to Naughty Dog, give the player more reason to bond with their multiplayer character - be it Lazarovitch from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves or Marlow from Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.
All of the above, from sidekicks to mysticals, can be found in the coming beta which kicks off in December, and after a brief hands-on on the show floor, these various threads appear to tie together to create a very unique multiplayer experience, one that not only belongs together the Uncharted universe, but also feels just as well thought out as the game's story campaign.