Not many will agree, but in my opinion, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is the best multiplayer game going. Having poured hours into the online component of Among Thieves (even buying every little fragment of downloadable content) I was cautious of how Naughty Dog would handle the online experience in Uncharted 3, especially when trying to compete against the likes of Battlefield and Modern Warfare.
The original multiplayer experience was simple, clearly following a “pick up and play” design philosophy that didn’t require meticulous levels of weapon/character tweaking, and though remarkably diverse and complex, the maps were easy to navigate yet gave every match its own unique appeal. For the most part Drake’s Deception left the multiplayer’s core mechanics practically untouched.
Purists weren’t too happy with the inclusion of more perk-like “Boosters”, weapon mods, and the Medal Kickback system, but for others including myself, such inclusions only seem like a natural evolution for the Uncharted series.
Now, I could sit here and bang out paragraph after paragraph about how much I love Uncharted 3’s competitive multiplayer all day, but I’m not going to preach to the crowd. Despite gnabbing top spot on my list of favourite online shooters, there has been one issue with Uncharted 3 (and a fairly minor one, depending on your viewpoint) that has bugged me ever since I first jumped into the multiplayer servers post-launch.
For a power-selling franchise centred around lost cities and artefacts of immense intrigue, the one thing I didn’t imagine Naughty Dog slipping up on was its promising “Treasure Set” system.
El Dorado? Come on, really? Find "Tibetan Tea Spoon" or "Patterned Ring" and then get back to me.
Grab every treasure in a set and you will bag yourself one of the game’s rare multiplayer weapons or a custom appearance option for one of the playable avatars.
On paper it’s brilliant idea, and one that Bend have mimicked in Golden Abyss’ singleplayer campaign to great effect. Treasure sets offer a diversion from the constant stat-tracking and XP hoarding, the unpredictable random drops instilling even the most casual player with childish glee.
So, how has Naughty Dog fumbled what seems like a fairly simple mechanic? Well, firstly there is the acquisition and availability of treasure. For most, the entire purpose of the system is to acquire the best-looking loot for your avatar of choice; when you carpet bomb an entire team or ledge grab that pesky sniper, you want your enemy to remember who put them in their place.
It’s remarkable then that Naughty Dog has tied all but three of its customisation sets exclusively to the co-op “Hunter” and “Arena” modes. When gunning down hordes of “chokers” and heavies, no one going to care if you happen to be wearing Eddie Raja’s golden glasses as long as you manage to haul your ass to wave 10 without getting in their way.
Bar the most common treasure sets, your going to be spending hours on end gunning down AI drones to unlock new items. Not only do co-op enemies drop treasure less often, unlike the competitive modes, there is no Treasure Hunter perk, dampening your chances even further. Uncharted 3’s otherwise superb online co-op becomes a mindless shooting gallery, each half-hour run usually turning up 2-4 treasures.
The solution to this problem requires little thought: spread the treasure sets between both competitive and co-op components. Simple. Why should players be forced to sit through fruitless session after fruitless session? I’m not even that obsessed with the treasure system, but when I invest an hour of my time and walk away with squat, that time feels wasted.
This isn’t helped at all by the presence of duplicate treasures. Sure, every treasure icon you tap on shouldn’t be another relic ticked off of your wishlist, but if you come across a duplicate you should at least get some sort of reward; it shouldn’t simply be discarded without as much as a small cash bonus.
The frustration of picking up duds could be remedied with the previously-suggested method, though why not go a step further? This week Bend launched the Black Market for Uncharted: Golden Abyss, allowing players to put out requests for treasures they were having difficulty in finding. Such a thing wouldn’t really gel with Uncharted 3, especially due to the fact that the Black Market copies items, it doesn’t trade them.
In an ideal world, duplicate treasures would tally up and players could swap with other plunderers, adding another dimension to Uncharted’s unique multiplayer.
Some will always argue that these harsh barriers must be retained. “What’s the point in having these rare treasures if every Tom, Dick, and Harry can also share in the spoils?” they will say. Easy answer, it’s all about giving the player choice, and considering that drops are completely random, their rewards only reflect patience and an abundance of lost time, not skill or even an admirable measure of dedication.
The likeliness of Naughty Dog changing the system isn’t very likely. Every time the team posts a number update on their official blog, they are met with a legion of vocal players asking when the system will be “fixed,” yet since November, there has been little movement. For me, the system’s implementation is beguiling and frustrating, and though it may sound melodramatic, I’ve come to resent Uncharted 3’s co-op play. All men dream, but not equally, especially when that very last treasure seems to be forever out of reach.