Naughty Dog's Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta just received a significant, somewhat superb injection of bonus content. The final 1.04 release sees the addition of two new maps and the unlocking of every game mode. Yes, this means that Adventure Co-op is back.
This gameplay mode follows the pattern set by Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, where a slice of the single-player game is repurposed into a three-player co-op experience. Here, a brand new Syria stage is showcased, kicking off with Nate, Elena and Sully pursued by helicopters before gaining access to a tower by locating hidden idols and placing them on unlocking pedestals. What then follows is a treacherous tower ascent where players move in and out of cover while using precision pistols to take out enemy goons at the top of the structure.
It's fast-paced, dramatic, beautifully paced and exhibits some superb use of light and shadow - the revised ambient occlusion tech is far more noticeable here, and there's a lovely light shaft implementation in play early on in the underground portion of the stage. Moving out into the level's main gameplay arena and we see a significantly larger, more wide-open environment than the three multiplayer focused arenas, with specific areas set up for sniping and close-quarters combat, plus there's a sub-boss character to take on too.
Co-op mechanics are along the lines of what we saw in Uncharted 2, with the players working together to shift objects, revive each other under fire and gather in allocated areas in order to kick-off cinematics. While these elements may sound rather simplistic, the core gameplay itself rewards good teamwork: guarding players going after the objectives, getting the balance right between dealing with enemies on the ground and eliminating snipers... the game is naturally set up for entertaining, strategic play.
The only criticisms we have of the Adventure mode concern the bugs we found: of our first six playthroughs, we only completed three of them. The others were cut short owing to game-breaking bugs. In one instance, one of the idols required to unlock the tower simply disappeared completely, making further progress impossible. On two other occasions, lifting the stone idol container caused the player to freeze, leaving you completely unable to progress. Of course, this is beta code, so we should expect some issues, but it was frustrating regardless.
The new 1.04 beta update also sees the introduction of a new multiplayer map, perfectly suited to the three-team Deathmatch mode also unlocked in the new code. Intricately detailed with an outstanding level of detail, the new Yemen map adds a degree of vertical gameplay to the existing formula. It's a multi-level stage with tall look-outs and connecting ziplines, plus some superb commanding views of the surrounding city.
Aside from the obvious sniping possibilities, the map also has some interesting qualities that allow for the equalisation of gameplay between lower-level characters and the more experienced Uncharted multiplayer masters: there's a lot of climbing involved in reaching the higher levels, and scaling ladders in particular leaves you wide open to attack with very few options once an opponent has his sights set on you. It's also an excellent level for stealthy hand-to-hand kills involving pulling players off ledges... there are certainly plenty of them.
In all, the addition of Adventure Mode and the new Yemen map makes the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta absolutely unmissable if you have access to the PlayStation Network, proving that Naughty Dog has significantly improved its online offering while hinting at the excellence to come from the eagerly anticipated single-player game via the entertaining Adventure Co-Op offering. With the beta closing down on 14th July, it's a shame that there isn't longer to play the new content, so enjoy it while it lasts and check out the beta now.