Review: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
The hardest thing to do in any medium of entertainment is to one-up yourself. Sometimes the bar is set so high that it may seem out of reach — even for those who raised it up to that standard. The team at Naughty Dog did exactly that two years ago when Uncharted 2: Among Thieves proved that the Uncharted series was no one-trick pony. Even then I thought to myself “how could it get any better that this?”
To put it simply, Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception, is a gamer’s game. And what that means is that it doesn’t matter what type of video games you’re into — whether it’s shooters, action/adventure or RPGs. This is the kind of game that transcends genres and puts the player on a blood-pumping emotional roller coaster for the 12 or so hours that it lasts. You’d be hard pressed to not find something for everyone here. If you’re ready to hear more about the game that will be on many Game of The Year lists, then by all means read on for my full review.
You already know the story. Nathan Drake, part time explorer, part-time adrenaline junky, and full time bad-ass is on yet another journey to find — you guessed it — some priceless treasure in another lost ancient city. While the story does tread on familiar territory, Naughty Dog finds a way to make it refreshing every single step of the way.
This time around Nathan’s adventure leads him in search of a treasure that his ancestor (no surprise there), Sir Frances Drake, never wanted anyone to find. It’s something he’s been after for quite sometime but had been missing a vital piece to the puzzle — an artifact that would help him decode the secrets needed to steer him in the right direction. The story once again has you visiting locales across the globe such as London, Syria and Yemen, among a few others that I won’t spoil here.
Standing in his way is Katherine Marlowe, who is the head of a secret-society, an almost occult-like organization. She is also seeking the same hidden treasure with the organization’s ulterior motives in mind. Voiced by Rosalind Ayres, it’s the first time the series introduces a female antagonist, but because of such a strong performance it’s by far my new favorite.
Like Marlowe, the rest of the believable characters are presented through powerful acting. These performances act as a reason why the titles in the series can universally connect with players so well. As usual the entire cast brings the goods here and set new standards as to what can be done with acting in gaming. Its certainly not a situation where it works well as a game, no, Uncharted 3 has the production quality that rivals anything Hollywood can throw at you these days.
The game’s tutorial alone sets the tone as to what the player can expect throughout the rest of the story. High action, great one liners, and, of course, Sully. Everyone’s favorite sidekick receives what I feel is his biggest role yet in the series — one that let’s you really get a better understanding of his relationship with Drake and why the bond between the two is so strong. Among the cast members are more familiar faces making an appearance as well. The fiery Chloe Frazer make’s a return for this go around, but we also see more of Elena Fischer, with hints of her and Nathan’s history as well.
In terms of gameplay, one of the newer and welcome improvements is the addition of an actual melee combat system. Now, when things get up close and personal, Nathan has the ability to get all fisticuffs if necessary. You have an attack, counter, and grab button, and, for the first time in the series, the ability to take on multiple enemies at once. Another added touch is that during this kind of combat Nathan will pick up items in the environment in order to get the upper hand and it’s all done in one smooth motion. You don’t have the ability to unlock new combos but there are a good amount of different animations so when it’s time to start handing out knuckle sandwiches, it always feels fresh and new.
The familiar stuff remains unchanged. Nathan still climbs better than a monkey. He still shoots people. A whole lot of people. While there aren’t as many as I would have liked (because they’re fun to figure out), puzzles also make their return, as well. But, these are the things that you should expect because any deviation from that wouldn’t make it an Uncharted title, right?
Considering we’ve had teasers, trailers, TV spots, and an E3 presentation, it would be safe to think that you have a good idea as to what’s going to happen throughout the story. But, let me tell you right now, you will be thrown for one hell of a loop. Mind you, I saw a good amount of previews leading up to the title’s launch, but it was always just snippets. As I would come up on these familiar segments during my review playthough not only was I way off, but it was literally one great surprise after another. Just like a little kid, whenever I’d approach those “holy sh*t moments” I would literally just sit there with a stupid smile on my face and say to myself “this is nuts.”
I’m not sure what they do at Naughty Dog that is so different from everyone else, but the visual package they deliver puts other developers to shame. The series as a whole has always been known to have great visuals, with UC2 providing a huge leap from it’s predecessor. While I’m aware that Naughty Dog always talks about the technical advancements they’ve made with water in Drake’s Fortune, snow in Among Thieves, and now sand in Drake’s Deception, nothing they’ve ever shown or said will prepare you for the lighting in this game. It’s by far the best I’ve seen in a game. Ever.
I think it’s now safe to say that Uncharted 3 is not just the best looking game in the series, it’s the best one on the platform. The visuals are so striking at times that they rival those of a high end PC, and we’re talking about something that’s running on five-year-old hardware. Oh, and did I mention they threw in 3D functionality?
The audio department is right up there with video. I played it using the DTS mix, and it managed to give my surround sound system a run for its money. It never felt simulated or cheap, like some titles often do these days. It was on point with very distinct directional sound, with the sounds of bullets whizzing by and all. The game’s score is, well, to put it simply, one that makes you feel like a real hero, especially in those bigger moments throughout the story.
Last time we had an Uncharted title we were introduced to multiplayer in the series for the first time and it was welcomed with open arms, as I think it surprised many skeptics. At a time when online console gaming seemed to be enamored with nothing but military shooters, Uncharted was able to make a name for itself on the PSN with a huge following, one that plays religiously to this day.
Now with Uncharted 3, Naughty Dog has been able to garner all the feedback and momentum from a successful multiplayer in Drake’s Fortune and turn it into one seriously polished online shooter; one that competes (on the fun scale, at least) with any other multiplayer offering on any platform. We’re currently approaching the end of the month-long Subway promotion which allowed players to experience the full multiplayer experience before the game’s actual launch. If you’ve had a chance to get involved with that, then you’ve pretty much seen the finished product.
Naughty Dog also ran a beta earlier during the summer (which I previewed), and it gave a taste as to what to expect for the upcoming title including the new modes, features, and boosters (Uncharted’s version of perks). While I’m sure that they [Naughty Dog] used the beta primarily for stress test data, do you know what was the most important thing they did after that beta? They listened to their community and addressed the issues and concerns that players were having, the biggest one being how much damage was being dealt. They realize how passionate the community is about their franchise and addressed the concerns of those who put them in their position in the first place. A real class act.
There is so much that can be said about this title and yet it wouldn’t be enough to describe how great it really is. It’s making me rethink what other developers are doing wrong and at the same time has me second guessing my own list of all time favorite games. As a game reviewer who’s seen it all and done it all, nothing has really prepared me for this. No matter how high of a score I give I can never say that a game is perfect, but through its pacing, story telling, and emotional roller coaster, Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception is damn close to it.
It’s bar none the best game on the PlayStation 3 and will be remembered as a standout for the current generation of games. Don’t walk — run to the store. Your PS3 may just thank you for it.