Naughty Dog understands online gaming. Each of its three multiplayer offerings so far (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, and The Last of Us) have been engaging, fun, and different from the typical Call of Duty and first-person shooter competition. The studio knows what it needs to do to have its online components stand out.
The recently revealed multiplayer mode for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End looks to continue the trend for Naughty Dog. From what was shown so far in the gameplay trailer and private demos, the studio is upping the ante this time around. But we’ll learn more once the open beta rolls out in the beginning of December. When the studio first announced that Uncharted 2 would have an online mode back in 2009, everyone was a bit surprised and puzzled. “Naughty Dog is getting into multiplayer, and with a series that was single-player only at the time? Why?”
People felt that it was wasteful for the studio to dedicate its resources and time towards multiplayer, mainly because we were really only interested in Uncharted 2’s campaign. That is, after all, the series’ main draw. But of course, Naughty Dog surprised us and the game’s fast-paced online modes were, and still are actually, a blast to play. The main reason why is because the studio managed to transfer practically everything that is so great about Uncharted mechanically over to multiplayer. The online maps’ level designs lend themselves well to the series’ signature platforming and cover-based shooting mechanics.
The studio then added in a ton of welcomed new additions to the online experience in Uncharted 3. The leveling up system results in bigger rewards and unlockables enticing players to keep coming back; some of the maps have their own set-pieces; the Airstrip, for example, has players ride planes in the beginning of a match; and the gameplay was more refined with better gunplay and level design. The modes aren’t extraordinary or even original—it’s your typical capture the flag, team deathmatch affair. But it’s the gameplay that stands out, and Naughty Dog has nailed it twice in a row, and it'll most likely be the same case the third time around.
The Last of Us’ multiplayer, which was something Naughty Dog barely talked about leading up to the game’s release, is all about survival. Just like in single-player, you have to gather supplies, craft items, and sneak around and remain undetected. The melee combat and violence is brutal as well. It plays completely differently from Uncharted 2 and 3, despite also being a third-person shooter. There’s a clever incentive to keep you addicted to the multiplayer as you’re put in charge of keeping a fictional camp safe.
You do so by gathering separate supplies that are spread around the maps and winning matches which keeps the campers fed and disease-free. Gameplay is brutal and challenging, and the relatively small maps and four-on-four matchups keep things intimate. If you want to be great at The Last of Us’ multiplayer, you’ve got to patient and strategic. Unlike Call of Duty, you don’t need twitch-based skill. It isn’t bombastic, it isn’t a spectacle, and it isn’t something you can play with a huge party of friends.
All three Naughty Dog games’ online modes have one thing in common—they’re clever extensions of the campaigns. For example, The Last of Us’ online modes could’ve easily been generic third-person shooter experiences. Instead, Naughty Dog based the gameplay around the single-player—the main crux of the game. The studio cleverly avoids competing directly against Call of Duty, Battlefield, Counter-Strike, and other popular multiplayer games. What it offers is different enough to make people interested in playing and engaging for a relatively long period of time.
No, Uncharted 3’s multiplayer wasn’t as popular as, say, something like Battlefront is now, that’s for certain. But it doesn’t need to be so as long as Naughty Dog keeps churning out online gameplay that stays true to its single-player work.