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Previews

Uncharted 2 Beta Impressions

Hands-on: Off to a good start

A multiplayer mode probably wouldn't have been on our list of hopes for the Uncharted sequel, but it's a pleasant surprise nonetheless and a decent enough shot at online carnage, too.

The beta version currently being put through its paces offers a chunk of both the co-op campaign and competitive multiplayer modes. Co-op lets you and up to two other players team up and blast through levels designed specifically for the co-op campaign.

This means that you'll encounter obstacles - a heavy pillar that needs shifting or a high platform you need a boost up to - that require players to combine their strength. There's nothing particularly mind-blowing - a red icon flashes where multiple players need to co-operate, and you just stand in that zone and hit Triangle to trigger the action.

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Co-op mechanics come into better play when you find yourselves exposed in open areas with enemies coming at you from multiple angles, forcing you each to cover separate entry points.

When a player is downed they can be revived by a team mate if reached before a red gauge fills. But if all players are dwon or killed the team loses a 'try', of which you only have three before you're issued a 'mission failure' screen and kicked out of the level. It's gutting, sure, but it's refreshing to see a modern game issue a proper punishment for being rubbish, like games used to in the good ol' days.

After around 20 minutes of play and a couple of heavily armoured sub-boss soldiers the level ends with a 'To be continued...' conclusion, and you find yourself back at the title screen.

Ushering quickly onto the meatier competitive portion of the beta, there are two levels. The Village is a complex arrangement of small dilapidated structures, cramped streets and rooftops for dirty snipers. It can be cluttered and confusing, but the environment's many intricate platforms and ledges allow players to make use of the game's acrobatic aspects, clambering up walls to surprise campers with an unexpected ambush.

The other stage, The Plaza, is more open, easier to learn, and our preferred stage.
A tower marks the centre of the map, surrounded by smaller structures and multiple hip-height walls for excellent cover-to-cover gameplay.

Both maps handle the standard team deathmatch (five-on-five, first team to 50 kills) mode pretty well, but the Plaza gets our vote for the only other mode available - Plunder.

Plunder again splits players into teams of five and places a single treasure in the centre of the map, which the two teams fight to recover and return to their base for a point. What's interesting about it is that the treasure can be thrown.

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This is not only a tactical option - you can pass it to others or lob it towards your base just before being killed - but it's also necessary. Cleverly, the goals back at base are placed on upper levels which can only be reached by climbing - something you're unable to do while carrying the treasure.

So teams are forced to lob the treasure up to higher levels where, if they're smart, another player will be waiting to quickly grab it and finish the job.

Again, like the co-op, nothing about the competitive segment of the beta is particularly ingenious, but it's fairly entertaining regardless, and the Uncharted controls work better than we'd expected. The weapons - a mix of machine guns, snipers and pistols - are fun to use and satisfyingly accurate.

Bigger guns, like rocket launchers and a Gatling gun (which slows your movement while you hold it) can be found in more hidden, sometimes elevated positions of the maps, rewarding the explorer.

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