So far, so typical: hyper-aggressive, n00b-baiting mayhem that really only becomes fun once you've poured enough hours in to earn the powerful toys. Where the multiplayer redeems itself is in the co-operative play. Most notably, it's here that the connection between the story and the online modes is felt most. Too much of the competitive play feels tied to Uncharted in only shallow surface details. The mechanisms are borrowed, but the character is missing.
At its most basic, the co-op mode offers up three mini adventures for three players. Each has checkpoints and objectives to meet, but skews towards gunplay and action, with ferocious pitched battles punctuating a quest for some sought-after treasure. Co-operation comes naturally, as Naughty Dog deploys all the signposting tricks from the single-player to ensure that players know instinctively what everyone should be doing. If one character gets to clamber up a tower, the other two provide cover. Once the climber reaches the top, there's a cache of sniper weapons so they can pick off enemy shooters while their teammates make the ascent.
The obvious comparison is Left 4 Dead, since the game is essentially supplying you with a vague scenario and a prescribed route to the end. The excitement is whatever happens to you and your friends along the way - last-minute revivals, bold heroics, desperate last resorts, all of which happen organically and are all the more satisfying for their player-driven narratives. Where it struggles is in the lack of maps - a fact which is sadly unlikely to change through DLC - and the scripted nature of each encounter. Once you've got the measure of a scenario, all that's left to do is to bump up the difficulty or keep grinding through the same firefights for easy cash.
That's not all for co-op though. Survival is a relentless gauntlet of spammed enemies, which thrills in short doses but quickly outstays its welcome. More entertaining is Gold Rush, a teamwork twist on Plunder in which three players swipe artifacts from swarms of AI soldiers. Again, the co-operative element comes naturally to the fore, with the player lugging the treasure reduced to one-handed pistol play and forced to rely on support from their companions to reach the drop-off point unscathed. You can throw the treasure, if you fancy trying to relay race to the score zone, or the other players can try to divert attention away from the carrier. There are limited depths here, and as the levels tick past the game becomes more and more unfair as it tries to break your winning streak. Eventually you're simply mobbed by grapple-happy armoured grunts and chaingun wielding super-soldiers, and all the teamwork in the world won't save you.
At the end of the beta phase, I said Uncharted 2's multiplayer was "inviting but flawed... the sort of thing that you'll definitely want to spend time with once you've finished the single-player adventure, but unlikely to take on a life of its own and sustain the game for months past release". That's not far off what we've ended up with. The co-operative modes are more enjoyable than the brief beta glimpse suggested, but they also feel like a timid toe dipped into unfamiliar waters. Maybe with less time spent implementing bog-standard deathmatch features that fit awkwardly into the game, both thematically and mechanically, the promise inherent in these miniature jaunts into Nate's world would have been better realised.
It's still unlikely that anyone venturing into the online menu after completing the main story will feel too disappointed. Despite some clunkiness, Naughty Dog has at least augmented their glittering jewel with a multiplayer offering that expands the game's canvas in solid if perfunctory style. Here's hoping that Uncharted 3 builds on this foundation in the same way that Among Thieves turned the first game's agreeable adventure into something spectacular.