Article written by Jim Hargreaves.
Published on 26/04/2012 at 09:00 AM.
When it was first announced last year, Naughty Dog’s Fortune Hunters’ Club promised fans a discounted wad of digital content for Uncharted 3′s blockbuster multiplayer component. Quickly mulling over the sums, anyone who enlisted in the twenty quid scheme easily got their money’s worth, though some will have felt short-changed after receiving 3 map packs instead of the 4 originally advertised, eight of the maps featured having been re-purposed from Uncharted 2.
The Fortune Hunters’ Club, in retrospect, was simply too good to be true, especially when you factor in the lacklustre skin packs and absence of any new treasure sets or appearance options, two of the multiplayer’s more favourable design choices left under-developed.
The controversy will have no doubt rubbed a few fans up the wrong way, though all can agree that the Fortune Hunters’ Club has certainly gone out with a bang thanks to it’s eagerly-anticipated albeit unpunctual Drake’s Deception Map Pack. For £7.99/$9.99 players can expect to bag four original online boards; unlike the online expansions for Uncharted 2 the maps don’t come with any bonus skins/avatars, though mainly due to the game’s “pick n’ mix” DLC structure.
One area left relatively untouched in Uncharted 3′s multiplayer was the opening sequence, set in a slightly run-down district of London. Sure, we had the superb London Underground map, which even featured a train-by-train gunfight, though The Pelican and surrounding streets seemed fitting for online play. The way Naughty Dog has structured its London Streets map has been rather clever; situated diametrically opposite to one another are the tavern and warehouse, connected by back alleys and a central courtyard, condensing what could have been several maps into one concise whole.
Both the warehouse and pub have two stages of elevation allowing for tactical defensive play as well as two sunken alleyways on either side. No matter where you spawn, chances are, you’re going to end up circling the courtyard whilst scouting or attempting to flank enemies. There’s scope for both mid and short range gunfights, with ample opportunity for wannabe snipers who don’t mind climbing to higher ground. You’ll also notice that, upon launching London Streets, a number of alleys are obstructed by wooden gates. As matches progress, these will be torn down at certain intervals as militarised riot vans pour onto the scene. They’re not quite as lethal as Plaza’s chopper or Village’s tank, though taking hits also inflicts heavy slowdown. It may not be canonical but it’s a much appreciated dynamic twist to an already impressive board.
Taken from the mid-section of Uncharted 3′s singleplayer campaign, Graveyard is definitely the stand-out of the bunch. Though a sound arena in its own respect, the real wow factor comes from the inclusion of aquatic gameplay. Unless you happen to be trawling the central spine of the map, you’ll be a stone’s throw away from water, which doubles up as a unique method of cover and navigation.
When in the drink, you can remain stationary to fire your sidearm, swim, or dive under the surface. The latter is done by holding the cover button, opening a number of underwater paths which players can use to flank the enemy. Whenever submerged, you’ll also be impervious to gunfire, making it an invaluable asset for those who use it well. Of course there are a couple of disadvantages; grenades still pose a threat and are harder to evade as are melee attacks from adjacent floating enemies. Other balances come via the breath limit, forcing players to bob up for air every now and then as well as the obvious line of sight issues when firing from water to raised ground. As with the riot vehicles in London Streets, Graveyard has its own dynamic event; a patrol boat will occasionally scour both sides of the map, firing grenades to obstruct/kill players.
Inspired by the pre-Iram stages and Bedouin encampments of Uncharted 3, Oasis is easily one of the more complex boards in the pack, doing away with the symmetrical template. At one end is a group of sand-swept ruins, the other playing host to a dense scattering of rocky outcrops with a body of water noticeable in the far distance; unfortunately it’s in a non-playable area of the map meaning no sub-aquatic gameplay. It hardly reflects on the overall enjoyment to be had on Oasis as there’s already a lot going on. The centre of the map is comprised of shaded caves and underpasses that connect both halves of the board.
As mentioned before, one side harbours a defensive building and easily-navigated platforms, whereas the other lumps players with a multi-level cliff side. With so many angles of attack, it’s a tough vantage point to hold down, though it serves as a post for long-range gunners or those looking to blindside enemy teams. From here, players can also throw themselves into the area below, evading gunfire and shrugging off pursuers in one leap. From time to time a cargo plane will fly past, dropping a shipping crate towards the centre of the map. Anyone caught beneath will immediately be crushed, pragmatic players being able to loot the crate to gain an advantage over their opponents.
Lastly we have the Old Quarter. Visually, it’s the least ground-breaking of the four maps though it has a tight, simplistic layout. Circling the central courtyard is a two-storey building and elevated walkway, the former being accessible via two adjacent buildings and a ground floor staircase. Right next to the courtyard is a small body of water that can be used to get from one side of the map to the other, a T-Bolt tucked away in a nearby cubby hole.
It may be small in size, though Old Quarter is structured mainly towards mid-range gunfights as players vie for control over the three discernible corridors. There’s little opportunity to hide away and pick off unsuspecting enemies, easily suited towards the more aggressive player, Old Quarter’s two-tier layout allowing outnumbered plunderers to make a quick getaway. It’s not the first time we’ve seen the chopper in action, though it poses much less of a threat than in maps such as Highrise and Plaza.
- Gorgeous and well structured.
- Features locations previously left untouched.
- New in-game set pieces.
- No additional side-content.
- Pricing is steep for non FHC-ers.
The new map pack is an ideal purchase for anyone even remotely into Uncharted 3′s fluid, cinematic multiplayer. It would have been nice to see a few more trophies, skins or treasure sets thrown into the mix but, as it stands, it’s still a solid expansion with Naughty Dog teasing even more content in the months to come.