Some call it lazy, others call it fan service, either way “recycling” content from previous titles as DLC is a trend that has permeated into a number of big-budget multiplayer games. In the golden days of hectic arena shooters, it would tend to be mods and not developers who would recycle content back into the community. Nowadays where there’s a quick buck to be made and heartstrings to be tugged, studios will leap at the chance to re-work assets such as maps and aesthetic gear for online avatars. Well that’s the cynical way of looking at it.
Flashback Map Pack #1 is the first major content update for treasure-hunting masterpiece Uncharted 3, though instead of offering players something completely new, Naughty Dog has served up four classic battlegrounds from Among Thieves, fit for multiplayer consumption. It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that we saw this coming; during the “early access” event Naughty Dog added four maps to the Uncharted 3 stock, including The Museum, Molten Ruins, Facility, and Highrise, all of which featured in post-launch content for Uncharted 2.
The first point to make is that these new maps haven’t been directly ported over from the previous game. Naughty Dog has effectively rebuilt each one from the ground with new particle effects, dynamic lighting and weapon/objective placements, as well as giving them a general visual makeover. Players won’t be able to toggle between DLC and regular matchmaking as they did in Uncharted 2, instead you are prioritised into DLC-enabled queues and if this takes too long then the parameters are widened to the accommodate the stock maps. It’s a simple and effective system, but without the option to disable DLC matchmaking you are pretty much volunteering to stand shoulder to shoulder with the server’s plundering elite.
Our first map is Sanctuary, which also happens to be the weakest of the four. Perfectly symmetrical, players spawn in two three-storey monastery buildings with an open courtyard wedged in between, making room in the centre for two more opposite-facing towers connected by an elevated walkway. A smaller underground section can also be accessed from multiple points, harbouring a couple of the map’s power weapons. For quicker navigation, two sets of ziplines have been instead as well as a additional climbing sections on the outer wall of the courtyard.
In terms of aesthetic Sanctuary is now much more dark and sinister; still situated in the Tibetan mountains, the monastery complex is now envelope in a sickly green hue. It’s a good map, probably one of the best in terms of verticality, yet it feels too compact to accommodate the gameplay changes that have come into play since Among Thieves. A common tactic being employed is the use of blindfire side arms and the even more devastating sawn-off medal kickback.
The map to undergo the biggest change has been The Ice Cave, now known simply as The Cave for reasons that become immediately apparent. Uncharted 2’s Plunder hotspot has shrugged off its thick coat of snow, having been completely overgrown and bathed in sunlight. Two magnificent statues devoted to wrathful deities stand at opposing sides of the battleground, injected with a renewed sense of vigour. Fairly symmetrical in layout (as nearly every multiplayer map tends to be) The Cave is composed of two temple-like bases on either end of a path which happens to be divided by a broken wall, allowing for plenty of cover.
Beneath the central walkway is a circular platform with several entry points, also guarding the Hammer grenade launcher yet much more exposed than Sanctuary’s subterranean level. The Cave also happens to be fairly condensed in size, though this isn’t as much of a hindrance than Sanctuary as there aren’t as many blind corners or confined spaces to accommodate sawn-off wielding run n’ gunners.
Unfortunately, not every region of the Tibetan mountainside has gotten warmer; The Lost City is now buried in a layer of the white stuff, crude icicles hanging from its ancient structures. Out of the four it’s easily the most unique in terms of layout with multiple levels of elevation, an underground vantage points for snipers (who needs towers?) and central two-storey building for close-quarter catfights.
Unlike the other maps, The Lost City doesn’t force players into selecting a specific group of weapons, rather every option has an advantage in certain areas. A pair of riot shield are also up for grabs, their increased portability in Uncharted 3 making for some interesting stand-offs in your standard deathmatch and objective scenarios.
Many may have forgotten that the final map, The Fort, wasn’t included with Uncharted 2 at release. Instead it came as part of a free content update; the simplistic battleground quickly becoming a favourite, especially for those with a penchant for long-ranged weaponry. The Fort’s ground level is a huge rectangular area with plenty of low cover to duck behind, a gaping hole in the centre revealing its flooded underbelly. Similar to the level above, this dimly-lit catacomb is littered with cover spots, though anyone carrying a micro or shotgun can easily blindside their opponents.
In terms of visual appearance The Fort has changed very little. Instead of being blessed in sunlight, the abandoned ruins are now in centre of a raging storm which has also toned down the lighting considerably.
The classic character skin packs may not have been the most ideal initial pre-launch purchase, but if ND’s dedication to Among Thieves is anything to go by, we can expect great things Uncharted 3’s multiplayer component in future.
- Each map looks even more spectacular than in Uncharted 2.
- Compatible with all game modes.
- Fairly cheap considering map packs available for other big-name titles.
- Re-using old content first instead of bringing something original to the table could upset a few fans.
For Uncharted die-hards it’s a no-brainer. Yes, these are maps you’ve likely inhabited for hours on end but they’re so well put together that you can’t really fault Naughty Dog for extending their lifespan. At £6.49 you can certainly do a lot worse, especially if you’re enlisted in the Fortune Hunter’s Club; the Uncharted 2 map packs may have been almost half price but it’s worth pointing out that these only came bundled with two and not four.