Uncharted’s multiplayer has always been flaunted as a rather enigmatic expansion to the series more provocative singular presentation. A curiosity promoted to distract rather than attract. I was always more concerned with delving into the main campaigns story first and maintaining a consistency within its confines that would help me complete the game on it’s more challenging settings. I’d engage in an occasional flourish in team death-match, but nothing more than a periodic flutter. Only once I’d concluded Drakes story could I dedicate all my attention on maintaining a reasonable kill/death ratio in deathmatch, shouting and hollowing like a banshee that had stubbed their toe on a table leg every time someone got the better of me, which was a lot – with impunity. Chiefly though I prioritized Co op as I gained far more satisfaction from downing hordes of enemies when part of a small contingent. I relished exerting dominance over the artificial subordinates by collaborating with a formidable group that endeavoured to preserve the integrity of our assembled party. Whether it was healing downed confederates or providing covering fire to assist an infiltration of enemy resistance, I just couldn’t get enough. No two games were ever the same, especially if you yielded to the lottery of randomized partners. You had to gauge the temperament of your allotted team and either harness the awesome power of fidelity to ensnare the advances of opposing forces, or consolidate your position to prevent the less than proficient teammates from perishing. It was a delicate harmony that either endured or faltered, and I loved it. So you can imagine my disappointment when Uncharted 4 failed to incorporate a co-operative mode into its multiplayer…..until now.
It’s exclusion had been a lingering blight since its release so to finally play it felt a little daunting. You realise very quickly that this is a very different interpretation than what we’ve seen and played before. Primarily focused on wave based enemies – at least for the time being – the transition from Uncharted 3 to this are subtle, yet refined. Wave based Co operative play has always had its limitations in creative iteration, with many horde based multiplayer variations largely composed of similar, sometimes exact formulas. It’s not necessarily a criticism especially if you enjoy competing in progressively complicated duels, and it’s great that NaughtyDog has seen fit to at least engineer something slightly different from familiar mechanics. But it’s like favouring a stove to boil water as opposed to a kettle; in either case they both do the same thing. And even though Uncharted Co op veers off to separate tangent it ultimately leads to the same destination in the end.
The goal is simple; survive a varied range of tasks over the course of 5 waves, on 10 different maps, with increasing difficulty in the quickest time possible. You’ll be rewarded with a star rating ranging from zero (slow) to 3 (perfect) which you’ll need if you want to progress to the more difficult settings. You’ll also gain experience that will help improve gun and mystic efficiency as well as increase defensive capabilities. The waves themselves consist of a variety of tasks, most notably survival; killing a specified number of targets within a time limit. Siege; whereby a set number of enemy deaths will only register if you reside in a designated area on the map. As well as less exposed modes like treasure hunt; collect 100 treasures while also avoiding the deluge of aggressors spawned to prevent you. Marked Man, which is self-explanatory really; kill the marked man. Some arbitrary tasks are spiced up by applying specific regulatory compliances, such as only being able to use pistols or melee to vanquish foes. But by far the most exciting as well as challenging features is the boss battles. For me, this is the highlight.
“The Boss battles can get quite intense, so you’d best be prepared!”
They are intense and easily the most fitting boss battles the series has ever had. It’s strange that despite the series conceptual prowess and scripted cinematic fluency it has always struggled to incorporate boss battles that don’t feel forced. Perhaps it’s the contemporary setting and the way in which conventual villains are dispatched with succinct ease that makes a traditional boss battle feel out-of-place (much like the bullet sponge militant you come across on the train in Uncharted 2), yet here it fits perfectly. Watching the health bar appear, subsequently dominating the top of the screen and slowly diminish as you fire round after round into them gives the player an indication of the severity of the situation, creating an intense frenetic encounter that engages the participants to actively work together to overcome the skeletal remains of Uncharted’s most prestigious pirate colonists, and the duplicitous founding originators of libertalia. Though I should mention that not every level concludes with a boss battle which does detract from the overall challenge of some of the stages. Even so each individual must rely of aggression and evasion as well as skill and inventory to succeed, the latter of which can be altered at select caches across the 10 distinct maps. Ammunition is scarce so you have to choose your ballistics carefully, adapting weaponry to deal with the increasing severity of enemies.
The medium setting, which is the lowest viable setting you can have if you want to team up with other players comes courtesy with automatic aim assist, which helps isolate targets with expedient efficiency. Potential targets will be automatically highlighted when you aim, and as long as the camera is pointed in a vague direction you should easily despatch the hordes of enemies rallying against you. The problem now though is that your ability to effectively neutralise enemies with headshots will be greatly diminished as you now have to forcibly manoeuvre the reticule with sustained firing to stand any chance of successfully puncturing their temples. You can turn the auto aim function off – and on more difficult settings it’s required – but you become less effective as a result. It’s a vexing anomaly that irritates rather than ruin, but still an irritation that would’ve been easily avoided. The pursuit for 3 stars can be an exercise in futility too. It only takes one error, one misplaced jump, targeting the wrong adversary and your quick time is compromised. You have to make split second decisions that could increase or expedite the time. Say for instance you’ve run out of bullets for your preferred gun; do you circle round to the nearest convenient cache and restock, wasting valuable seconds. Or take whatever gun is available in your immediate vicinity but sacrifice the comfort you’d have from retaining your preferred weapon? It’s a difficult choice to make, and one that could inhibit that near perfect score you so desperately crave.
Most games would rest on their laurels, snuggle with them like a comfort blanket and just pass out, proud of their glowing achievement. NaughtyDog however seem motivated to reward the loyalty of its community and provide free updates that benefit them. You could argue that the Survival Co op should have been a day one inclusion rather than a later addition, and if it had come at a cost I’d probably agree. The lack of local Co op may irk some, but considering that I don’t actually have any friends (is that a violin I hear?) kinda negates its inclusion. Overall Uncharted 4’s Co op is a sturdy, if at times repetitive addition. It differs greatly from what I was anticipating, which on balance is probably a good thing. It may not necessarily be what I wanted, but it may very well what we needed.
Uncharted 4’s “Survival” mode is available now as a free update.
What do you make of the new Co-op mode? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.