This summer’s multiplayer beta for Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was the most successful beta ever in the history of the PS3. The demo not only served as a proving ground for Uncharted 3‘s multiplayer component, but it also whet the appetites of players the world over – who are eager to jump back into Uncharted.

Last Saturday, Naughty Dog, in conjunction with Subway restaurants, launched a promotion that granted players access to a new Uncharted 3 multiplayer demo. There’s a lot going on in this demo so we’ve put together our impressions of the pre-release beta to help new players and Uncharted veterans alike quickly jump into the fray.

The new demo offers six maps – including three new maps (in addition to the ones from the original beta). The new maps include Syria, Desert Village (which was actually seen in at Naughty Dog’s panel at Eurogamer Expo this year), and London Underground. Unfortunately, several of the returning maps are missing the action-cut scenes from the original beta. Whether or not they’ll be absent in the final game however, is still unclear. That said, each of the new maps do feature similar random action events during each match. As an example, Syria has a helicopter that will actually fire rockets from time to time – and the Desert Village map features a sandstorm that decreases visibility.

Uncharted 3 - Desert Village

One of the coolest moments has to be the start of the London Underground map – where both teams are in two different trains traveling parallel to each other. As the trains speed to the station, they move closer together, and also change elevations – allowing one team to board the opposing team’s train. Generally speaking, the maps are enjoyable – but smaller areas, Syria and Desert Village, feature problematic spawn locations (causing players from opposing teams to suddenly appear right next to each other). It’s not game-breaking but certainly isn’t fair for returning players who, before getting their bearings, are greeted by the barrel of a gun.

Uncharted 3 - London Underground

This demo, unlike the earlier beta, also gives players the chance to choose any of the available six gameplay modes. The multiplayer demo also handles treasure set rewards differently. In the beta, the rewards were mostly items of clothing but this time, players are rewarded with unique guns.

The unique guns are handy because they come with two, and in some cases three, pre-selected mods already attached. The standard stock weapons only allow for one weapon mod attachment at a time, but a unique weapon, like Flynn’s G-Mal for instance, comes with increased clip size and increased max ammo mods already attached. These weapons also have a different default look compared to the standard stock weapons.

The demo also features another useful addition – a list that not only tells players which treasures they still need in order to complete a set but also which mode must be played in order to obtain the necessary treasures. As an example, if I wanted to unlock Flynn’s G-Mal, I would need to complete the treasure set for that weapon – but treasures for that weapon will only drop while playing Three Team Deathmatch.

Uncharted 3 - Syria

Players can also customize their loadouts by assigning boosters and medal kickbacks. For example, the “Fleet Foot” booster (making an appearance again from Uncharted 2) allows for faster movement while aiming down the sites. Currently, there are only two levels for each booster, but there is space for a third level’s description – so it’s entirely possible that Naughty Dog has not implemented every booster feature yet. Also, because of the way that the game assigns a buddy during matches – some boosters also utilize this relationship. “Stealth Buddy” allows a player to instantly fill up their entire medal kickback if their buddy performs a stealth kill and “Sugar Buddy” allows players to gain 25% of the cash raked in through medals by a partner. This can be particularly useful for kickbacks with high medal requirements or when a player needs cash to buy something that they really want. Paid boosters are back  as well, but now there is a level requisite that must be met in order to use them.

Challenge “Missions” can also be purchased which,  if completed, give the player cash rewards. The missions can be purchased once a certain level is reached – but each one has a set time limit for completion. For example, “Have more kills than deaths in a Hardcore match” has a duration of 30 minutes.

Kickbacks are also back and the demo features a few that actually give weapons instead of special abilities – such as the kickback “Shottie” which gives players a double-barreled shotgun when activated.

Uncharted 3 - Multiplayer Menus

There is certainly a plethora of content within the competitive multiplayer experience. A quick look at the levels required to unlock some weapon mods goes into the mid-50s  despite there being a level cap at 35 – meaning that there will still be plenty for players to do when the game releases.

That said, the demo may undercut the value of Amazon pre-order bonuses for Uncharted 3 – since the online retailer is offering early-access unlocks for the Para 9 pistol and G-Mal rifle clip size mods as well as a code for the “Carpet Bomb” kickback. All of the mods are available in the demo and, by level 35, a player will have the ability (and very likely the money) to purchase all three. Since unlocks from the demo carry-over into the retail game, regular Uncharted 3 demo players may find that their pre-order bonuses aren’t all that exciting anymore.

Overall, the competitive multiplayer experience is very smooth (with minimal lag issues). The  new demo builds upon many of the great ideas the beta had already established and shows that Uncharted 3‘s online offerings will be an attractive alternative to all the FPS war multiplayer games arriving this holiday season.

Follow me on Twitter @VivasKaul

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception releases November 1st for the PS3.

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