Reviewed: November 1, 2011
Released: November 1, 2011
When it comes to signature franchises, Uncharted is to the PS3 as Halo is to the Xbox. It was one of Sony’s most anticipated titles, even before the system launched, and the series has continued to deliver groundbreaking gameplay and nonstop action and adventure with each new installment. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception brings the franchise full circle, reuniting characters and story elements from the 2007 original, while working in a fascinating origin story that delves deep into the past of our hero, Nathan Drake, and his longtime partner, Victor Sullivan.|
I will not even attempt to hint at the epic story that awaits you when you embark on this grand journey; the fantastic locations, the diverse cast of characters, or the amazing action set pieces that will leave you breathlessly exhausted when you manage to complete them. You really need to go into this game knowing as little as possible.
More than the two games to precede it, Drake’s Deception is more cinematic than ever, blurring the lines of interactive entertainment and actual gameplay. If it weren’t for the on-screen command hints, there are times when you wouldn’t even know you were supposed to do something, and thus begins the tutorial for our third adventure, now with a much more robust fisticuffs combat model not all this dissimilar from Batman: Arkham City.
Nathan has never been that proficient with a gun but this time around he is certainly kicking some butt and taking names with a fluid punch, counter, grab, and throw set of commands that, when combined with a visually striking action-cam, will create some of the best knock-down-drag-out brawls since Roadhouse. Tapping the square button will unleash your standard punch while triangle will execute some sort of dynamically generated counterattack. You can also mix in the occasional grab and throw with the circle button and stick or work in the clever environmental attack with any handy nearby objects. By the time you make it out of the first chapter you should be a pro.
Much like the Tomb Raider and even Indiana Jones sequels where we were able to see our heroes in their youth, Uncharted 3 takes us back 20 years to when Nathan was just a boy in search of Drake’s ring that he has been wearing around his neck for the entire series. We also get to see his first encounter with Sullivan and a new villain who reappears in the current timeline of events. It seems that ring is a key to solving an ancient mystery and unlocking supernatural forces that could change the world.
As expected with the series, the game features a lot of action and adventure; the action coming in the form of nearly non-stop combat that mixes in a nice arsenal of weapons and Nathan’s new fighting skills. While there are still some haphazard aiming mechanics to deal with, you can still make use of a good cover system with stealth takedowns, and finally, throw grenades back at the enemy rather than having to tumble away from them.
And then you have the adventure, with mind-blowing platforming sequences where you are climbing and jumping and balancing precariously on narrow beams and ledges, always on the lookout for that glimmer of light that will hint at the location of the 101 hidden treasures to be found in the game. And you can be sure to expect some of those devious puzzles the franchise is known for, so get ready to reference that notebook of yours. And while all of these exciting elements would be fantastic on static environments, Naughty Dog goes to the next level by having your adventures take place on all sorts of moving set pieces like a ship, a plane, or even a convoy of trucks you must assault from horseback.
Story has always been a major component of the Uncharted franchise, and Drake’s Deception may tell the best story of all. It expands on the characters we already know and love and introduces new multi-dimensional antagonists and comrades that will always have you second-guessing their true intentions. And best of all, the mo-cap cinematic moments are so short and seamlessly blended into the gameplay that you never feel like you are “just watching a movie”. You end up caring so much about these people that the ending is truly one of the most triumphant conclusions in gaming history, paving the way to an unknown future.
Visuals are breathtaking, even if they don’t manage to reach the 1080p mark. The level of architectural detail, gorgeous scenery, and detailed textures create some of the most colorful and stylized photo-realistic backdrops for any PS3 game to date. All of the animation is fluid and lifelike, the combat moves all flow together naturally, often with surprising results. I did the opening bar fight four times and it never played out the exact same way twice. The lighting, the shadows, and the special effects like fire, water, smoke, and a million spiders invading your screen are pure perfection and set a new graphics standard for PS3 gameplay. Uncharted 3 even supports 3D, and there are definitely some scenes that look incredible with this extra layer of depth.
The audio package is also working overtime with a Dolby Digital, or even better, a 7.1 DTS mix for the ultimate in immersion of lively environmental effects, realistic sound effects for weapons, and some of the best voice acting in any game ever. This is Hollywood caliber acting that really drives the story home, and when you set it all against a brilliant and majestic score that enhances the drama and accentuates the action…well; it just doesn’t get any better than Uncharted 3.
Uncharted 2 introduced multiplayer to the mix and while it was moderately fun there was no mistaking that it was tacked on simply for the sake of having it. In Drake’s Deception, the multiplayer is certainly more fleshed out and refined in both gameplay and available modes. There is a brand new collection of competitive multiplayer modes such as six-player Three Team Deathmatch for 2 vs. 2 vs. 2 gameplay or eight-player Free For All. Popular Team Deathmatch mode also returns supporting up to 10 players for 5 vs. 5 gameplay. There are new and improved customization features so you can create your own unique play style, including four load out slots, and players are also completely customizable through hundreds of mix-and-match items. A new balancing system ensures that matches stay competitive.
You can also team up with friends using the Buddy System in competitive play to use unique buddy boosters and create opportunities where working together will help earn additional cash. This unique system gives players who work together an advantage over other opponents. You can earn Medals and powerful Kickback rewards based on performance that will increase your combat proficiency. You also now have the ability to join late to games already in progress, as well as two-player split-screen supporting two separate PSN logins. For those who like to share their online exploits, check out the Enhanced Cinema feature that introduces a suite of new editing tools—including an added rewind—giving players the freedom to create highlight reels and upload clips to popular social media sites YouTube and Facebook from directly within the game.
I commend Naughty Dog’s efforts at trying to assemble a comprehensive online offering, but for me, Uncharted is always going to be a story-driven experience, and the bottom line is that there are far better games already out there and more on the way for those looking for an online shooter. Even so, there is plenty of multiplayer DLC headed our way, so if you aren’t going to enlist in Battlefield or Call of Duty you still have some quality multiplayer to look forward to including some interesting cooperative modes.
Mere moments after finishing Uncharted 3 I was tweeting, “the perfect ending to the perfect game”, and then I restarted a New+ game at the harder difficulty level. I couldn’t wait to get back in there and experience the adventure all over again and find some of those elusive treasures that slipped by the first time. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is the perfect symphony of interactive, cinematic, action-adventure; a crowning achievement in game design so amazing I want to replay the entire series from the beginning. This is the adventure of a lifetime and definitely a contender for Game of the Year.