Uncharted 4's Multiplayer is Bittersweet
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, developer Naughty Dog’s latest success, has been out for just over a month -- giving me ample time to experience what it has to offer. Being a longtime fan of the series, I picked it up day one. Naturally, the package did not disappoint. The game plays better than ever, and its groundbreaking graphics still astonish me. I went on to earn the platinum trophy, as I did with the franchise’s PlayStation 3 titles, before finally sinking my teeth into the game’s multiplayer component. I’d spent a fair amount of time playing the Multiplayer Stress Test back in early March and was excited to hop back in.
In my time spent with the game’s multiplayer, I’ve developed a series of gripes, as well as a love for the experience. And that’s what this is: a collection of thoughts on something I enjoy. It wouldn’t be written (on my first day of summer vacation, no less) if I didn’t kind of love it, and hope for it to improve.
Let’s begin with the modes that are presented to us when we first boot up the game.
You've got your standard Team Deathmatch (as well as ranked TDM), Command (which has you conquering different areas of the map), and Plunder (a returning game mode that is essentially ‘capture the flag’). These will not be unlocked until you complete a couple of matches in the “Warm-Up” playlist, where you’ll compete against other new players. If you’re a returning Uncharted player, you’ll notice a number of things missing -- including co-op, game modes such as Free For All and Elimination, a leveling system, and more. Fortunately though, Naughty Dog has detailed a lineup of upcoming additions in this graphic.
The different currencies of relic points and Uncharted points may confuse you at first, as it did me.
Relic points can be earned in-game, but Uncharted points are only available to those willing to purchase them with real money, meaning microtransactions. Everything available to purchase with either relic or Uncharted points is purely cosmetic. None of the items will effect your in-game performance. Thankfully, the microtransactions are not nearly as absurd as Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us.
There is a slight catch, however. If you decide to spend only relic points, you won’t be able to select an item to purchase, but can open a loot box that may or may not give you the item you desire. Loot boxes contain randomized batches of items: playable characters from the Uncharted legacy, costumes and accessories, weapon skins, and taunts.
Similar to Blizzard’s latest title Overwatch (discussed nicely in a recent episode of The Jimquisition), given the variety of items available, it’s unlikely you’ll score that killer outfit you so yearn for. Naughty Dog plans to add even more items, which is great, but it also lowers that probability even further. You’ll be hoping to get a cool outfit for Victor-Goddamn-Sullivan, but receive two taunts, “The Dab” and “Dabbing,” instead. Not to mention the amount of items in each loot box can vary. Sometimes you’ll be limited to one reward, other times three.
So, how do you earn these relic points? There are three “daily” in-game challenges that reward you with a healthy amount -- always enough to open a loot box or two. A game like Halo has daily challenges that disappear within twenty-four hours whether you’ve completed them or not. In Uncharted 4, the challenges reset a day after you’ve completed them, meaning you could have the same challenge for a few days if it takes you that long to accomplish.
Initially I liked this idea; it allows for players to achieve these challenges at their own pace. I’ve recently learned, however, that the challenges don’t reset as one would think. After I’d completed a set of three challenges on one Friday afternoon, I logged back in on Saturday (after the 24-hour waiting period) to find only one challenge available -- and it was the same challenge I’d been given the day prior. At first I thought it to be a minor bug, but no -- it is the developer's intention.
This wouldn’t be too big of an issue if this wasn’t our primary resource for relic points.
There are Trials and tutorials that can be completed on various difficulties that will reward you with these much-desired points, but this is a one-time reward. You’ll be able to hone your skills by replaying these tutorials, but you will only be given payment for one completion. Additionally, winning a game online will get you ten relic points, but considering a single loot box (your only way to unlock new gear without using real hard-earned cash) is worth one-hundred fifty relic points, you’re going to need to not only play, but win, fifteen games.
Which brings us back to these not-so-daily challenges. They range from “Down ten enemies with mines” to “Spawn a sidekick ten times,” and can take some time to complete. Mines will restock after a set period, and the lowest amount of in-game cash you’ll be spending on sidekicks is $500. It’s not a terrible amount, a sum that can be gained with little effort, but after you’ve purchased a sidekick once, the price will begin to rise, making it near impossible to spawn more than three or four sidekicks per game.
My main gripe with Uncharted 4’s multiplayer is a lack of purpose, an underlying reason to keep playing.
I mentioned Overwatch earlier as a similar example, but it also greatly differs from this experience. For starters, its cosmetic unlocks supplement a leveling system, whereas Uncharted 4 focuses primarily on those cosmetics. Your efforts are not fairly rewarded with experience points, but rather -- at best -- ten relic points for winning the game. A measly ten-point reward screams for you to pay for the other option, Uncharted points. The lowest you'll be paying is five dollars for five-hundred points -- but for what? A new hat? The "Hotline Bling" dance taunt, perhaps?
Put simply, Uncharted 4's multiplayer is bittersweet: so fun to play, but with so little pay-off.