A few weeks ago, I wrote to those still playing Gears of War 3, asking for some mercy on new players with the objective of growing the player base in spite of competition from emerging heavyweights like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. I don't know if my advice inspired anyone to change their ways, but I've since noticed that there are other new releases that are hurting as well; games on different platforms that still need to contend with Activision and EA's FPS juggernauts. In this case, I'm referring specifically to Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.
With the single player campaign done and dusted, I opted to trial the multiplayer suite for the better part of last week. While I could find a match in some of the more unconventional modes - like the ridiculously fun Team Objective, and the promising Co-op Hunter Arena - most of the lobbies were desolate. I had to wait five to fifteen minutes to find a game in Team Deathmatch, while other modes featured wait times that exceeded half an hour (if I was lucky enough to find a match at all). Things aren't looking good for Naughty Dog's latest effort in terms of longevity.
I can see why the game's having trouble standing out from the crowd. Hit detection is a bit inconsistent, and players can generally take a bit of damage (read: you're a bullet sponge) before dying. Further to that, the action is pretty unbalanced with the various Boosters and Kickbacks in play. Access to a limited arsenal early on also provides little reason to persist. I think if players were allowed access to a substantially expanded range of weapons early on, the developers may have been able to counter aspects of the steep learning curve.
I know that another issue that developers must account for is the need to reward persistent players, but perhaps this is where some cosmetic customisation options could have been used to better effect. Weapon skins, taunts, clothing items: elements that would otherwise not alter the gameplay dynamics are there for the dedicated members of the community, while a respectable range of kit can get n00bs standing on their own two feet. As it stands, however, I have access to just over a handful of different weapons and my contribution to my team's score is often underwhelming.
This should be an endgame pursuit
Finally, the Co-op Adventure mode is just flat-out disappointing. With a focus on repetitive combat and lazy narrative sequences, the oppressively-difficult levels feel slapped together and entirely unnecessary. I expected a lot more from this mode, particularly with the signs of promise shown by its predecessor.
There is a lot to like though. Vertical movement-oriented maps allow for a great variety of strategies to be employed. The fluid platforming mechanics also translate well to fast-paced multiplayer standards like King of the Hill and Marked Man. Team Deathmatch games often have some dramatic openings on moving vehicles, making for some awe-inspiring takedowns and breathtaking visuals that would not be possible in other, more conventional shooters. Stealth takedowns and convincing animations also add weight to the argument that Uncharted 3's mutliplayer component is well worth experiencing.
Incomparable thrills and (potential) spills
With that in mind, it's a shame then that Naughty Dog didn't think much about the plight of new players. Especially in the weeks and months after launch, where those more experienced players will exploit a commanding arsenal of weapons as well as passive and active abilities against new recruits.
What are your thoughts on Uncharted 3's multiplayer offering? Is it worth playing with all the other shooters on the market right now?