Quite why 3D performs better than split-screen mode is an interesting matter for discussion. The 3D mode has a higher pixel throughput, so it's clearly not about fill-rate. We can only imagine that rendering two entirely different views and processing two sets of game logic must put much more of a load on the engine than the 3D mode, where only one game instance is running and where the two viewpoints being rendered have so much in common. Update: Naughty Dog Lead Engine and Graphics Programmer, Pål-Kristian Engstad tells us via Twitter: "The reason split screen is more difficult than 3D, is that one can take advantage of the semi-fixed view frustra in 3D."
In terms of the worthiness of the 3D effect in the multiplayer beta, we've tried to bring the experience to you in the best way possible: the 3D footage used in our performance analyses has been converted into a YouTube 3D compatible format, and you can check out both the Airstrip and Chateau edits using any number of 3D technologies: anaglyph, NVIDIA 3D Vision, side-by-side and polarised 3D displays are all supported in the player. YouTube is typically rather stingy with bandwidth, so we would recommend the 1080p version for the best possible image quality.
Our impressions of the 3D mode as it stands right now are a little mixed. Clearly, the hard work has been done in terms of running that engine at a great frame-rate, and the cutbacks to the overall image quality are acceptable. The 3D depth added to the scenery is great, the sense of immersion heightened as bullet-trails whizz past you, but there are undoubtedly some problems with the camera work and polygon clipping: characters moving between the camera and the player model allow you to see inside the polygon mesh, breaking the illusion somewhat. Should your character move closer to the camera, the 3D effect tries to push the model hard "into" your face, resulting in a poor 3D effect plus more clipping. There's still a reasonable amount of development time left, so fingers crossed these issues will be resolved.
We're still expecting great things from the single-player campaign mode running in 3D: the interactive set-pieces that are Uncharted's forte should hopefully look spectacular. We've yet to see much beyond what was shown at Sony's E3 press conference, but what we did see that was worthy of praise was the manner in which 3D was handled in the cut-scenes: not too flashy, but extremely effective. Similar to Killzone 3, it appears that Naughty Dog has independently rendered cinematics in both 2D and 3D to get the best effect for both modes. If you've got 50GB of Blu-ray space available, why not use it?
We kicked off this feature by describing the beta as the ultimate teaser and that's exactly what the multiplayer beta is: a small, vertical slice of gameplay that leaves you ravenous for more, only offering the smallest of hints on what we can expect from the main single-player mode. However, what the beta does demonstrate is just how seriously Naughty Dog is taking on board the views of its community, and how it's looking to expand its online userbase.
The various gameplay modes on offer in the beta are fresh and exciting to play, serving up Team Deathmatch options that satisfy the purists (including a new Hardcore mode) while offering objective-based variations that add a great deal of variety to the action. The Hunter co-op mode also serves up a new dynamic in pitting players against CPU-controlled bots as well as the opposing team, while customisation has been radically improved with fresh new boosters, weapons load-outs and far more control over the player's appearance.
Major enhancements to the online tech include the ability to drop in and drop out of existing gameplay sessions, while the maps themselves have also benefitted from new events: the ceiling of the ruined Chateau can fall in on players, while airplanes whizz by overhead, strafing the gameplay arena with gunfire. Other new refinements are less ambitious from a technical perspective but make an extraordinary difference to the gameplay: the ability to partner up with another player encourages teamwork and allows you to respawn at your teammate's location, while Power Plays add more variety to the gameplay while adding more challenge for a team that are dominating their opponents.
The Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta demonstrates an impressive range of improvements both from a technical perspective but more importantly in terms of the raw gameplay experience too. Multiplayer has been intelligently redesigned to offer more variety, more game types and an ability to reshape your character in such a way that genuinely benefits your own particular play style. The sense of community in the beta is impressive too: the simple inclusion of a streaming video feed (Uncharted TV) not only gives you a wider sense of what is happening in the world of Uncharted 3's multiplayer game, but proves to be a nice distraction when you're waiting for matchmaking to complete.
Uncharted 3 launches on 2nd November in the UK, one day after its US debut: that's four long months until we get to experience the full game, including the all-important single-player mode. It's going to be a long, excruciating wait. In the mean time, Naughty Dog plans to get the most from its current testing phase by rolling out a new map (Yemen) and hopefully some more game modes. If you've not played the game yet, the beta is now available to all PSN users, and it's a highly recommended download.
Can't get enough of the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta? Check out our Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta preview for hands-on impressions.