To say the release of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Naughty Dog’s third chapter of the Nathan Drake saga, was highly anticipated by me would be a gross understatement. When I reviewed Uncharted 2: Among Thieves in October of 2009 I was blown away. I found everything about Uncharted 2 to be stellar; from story, to gameplay, to graphics, to score; everything about Uncharted 2 was second to none. A game as finely crafted as Uncharted 2 is a very rare thing, so the bar was set very high for the third for game number ‘3’. The question for me was: “Would Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception absorb me in the same way Uncharted 2 did?” Not only that, I wondered if it would it command my gaming focus with a story so compelling and exciting as I anxiously weigh the peril that may befall Nate as he turns around the next bend? I couldn’t wait to find out.
From the first frame and the timbre of the first note, the single player campaign of Uncharted 3 asserts itself and dares you to venture towards the edge of the precipice of the wild ride fans of the series have come to expect. But, with that expectation comes the surprisingly unexpected, and that unpredictability is clearly the power of Uncharted 3. From the opening barroom brawl, which serves not only as the tutorial for the new, much improved, melee mechanic, but also introduces the Villainess, Katherine Marlowe; every moment in Uncharted 3’s single player campaign is a surprise.
To be certain, Uncharted 3 is still at its core, a rollicking, running, punching, climbing, puzzle solving and shoot the bad guys game, but yet it is so much more. This game is incredibly satisfying. For me Uncharted and Uncharted 2 set the standard for what I wanted out of a game, but Uncharted 3 has redefined the gaming experience for myself, an outcome that was completely unexpected. As many of my friends and fellow gamers have observed; you can’t help but compare Uncharted 3 to George Lucas’ cinematic masterpiece Indiana Jones Trilogy. As Nate and Sully are pitted against the best villain by far of the franchise, they hunt for clues and enemies in their pursuit of an immensely valuable and mythical treasure. Thanks to the exceptionally well-crafted script, voiced by tremendously talented voice actors that drive the storyline, the ride is enjoyable and the characters are best described as likeable rogues.
Unexpectedly, the story focuses on Nate and Sully. We get an insight in to what made these two such strong friends. What I found surprising was rather than offer the betrayal method of plot twist device we experienced in the previous two games in the series, Uncharted 3 focuses on the relationship between these two treasure hunters. These characters are plausible and the goading and jibes between them signal the richness of their friendship. This is no more clearly defined than in the revamped cooperative story mode. As opposed to the singularity of the missions in Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3’s co-op gameplay is presented as a series of linked chapters whose transition from gameplay to cut-scene is as seamless as the single player campaign. No matter which character the co-op player is controlling; the game play reinforces the camaraderie and single mindedness of the challenges faced by the protagonists.
For me, the most enjoyment I have had in single player gaming comes from games with a strong storyline. This is where a game’s strength is not only expected, but demanded; as for Uncharted 3, a Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider like story, with a little bit of humour thrown in for good measure best describes it. While the linked chapters in co-op gameplay are a game changer, the most surprising, yet subtle change to the single player campaign is the simplified melee combat mechanic which offers sensible and intuitive choices while the seamlessness of the animations give it a less repetitive feel. It has the same feel as the melee combat mechanic in Mafia II where buttons are mapped for different actions, such as square for punch, triangle for dodge, circle for grappling, and the left control stick for aiming, all which offers a more precise placement of a baddie after you grab him. Though I do like the improvement it does feel a little forced at times and the dodges are prompted in an almost “quick-time-event” like fashion. The not so subtle change to the single player and co-op campaigns is a destructible environment. Not to the same level as in the Battlefield Franchise of games, but it does add a new dimension to taking out those baddies. There is something very satisfying about blasting away the cover of a “hunkered down” enemy and finishing them off with a headshot.
Another significant change to the game is the online multiplayer and aforementioned co-op play. Both will net you the requisite rewards that can be used to “buy” a number of perks as you rank up your online persona just as in Uncharted 2. Such things as quick-load, sprint, and weapon optics to name a few, can all be purchased to enhance you character’s deadliness in the varied gameplay modes. Hunting for treasure(s) nets you even more money. Though these serve as refinements to the multi-player model offered in Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3 has included the Co-op Arena game mode. Co-op arena is a combination of “King-of-the-Hill”, “Capture the Flag” (or in this case capture the idol), and a horde-like mode. The change up of objectives and full on horde-like mode, for me, were a surprisingly welcome addition to the multiplayer menu. The adversarial modes are as expected: Team Death match, a “wing-man” variation of death match pitting three teams of two players in a fight to the finish, Free-for-all, Capture the Flag and King-of the hill round out the multiplayer experience.
I can see myself playing Uncharted 3 time and again in single player campaign and online multiplayer.
Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a graphically exceptional game, but so was Uncharted 2. The inclusion of 3D support may be a fine addition, but I played the game in the more traditional 2D presentation. The strength of the Uncharted series is in the richness of the detail and the texture of the scenery. In this way Uncharted 3 matches its visually stunning and ground breaking predecessor Uncharted 2. That being said, Uncharted 3 provides a lush and vibrant host of environments. This meticulous attention to the visual presentation reinforces the tone of the game. For example, I found that in the “London Underground” chapter the atmosphere was drawn in such a dank, dark, and sinister style that I could almost “smell” the dampness in the heavy air. Even camera placement harkens to the Indiana Jones series.
As with most third-person-shooters, like the hugely popular Gears of War series, the camera is placed behind or above the character so you can see where you are going. By utilizing a technique often found in action movies; Uncharted 3 breaks the third-person-shooter convention by scripting moments when the camera is below and in front of your character exposing the peril faced. Be it wave after wave of enemies, a wall of flames, or a cascading waterfall, introducing the skill of a action movie director the drama and tension of the scene is heightened like no other third-person-shooter.
As I expected the sound of this game is amazing. The voice actors turn in remarkable performances and are “natural” in the delivery of the stellar script. That being said, for me it seemed the game’s musical score was more of a stand-out. I found it most noticeable in the co-op story where it supported the gameplay in an almost Halo Franchise manner. Finally, the Uncharted franchise has always had phenomenal sound effects, but even something as simple as the sound of gun fire this time around has a far more realistic presence providing a richer deeper gaming experience. The sounds that should be loud are louder and deeper while the cloak of quiet is almost claustrophobic.
Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series has given me some of the most satisfying, immersive and challenging gaming I have ever experienced. As a result I had very high hopes for Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Am I disappointed with this the third instalment? I feel compelled to answer no as Uncharted 3 is an immensely gratifying game. The story dovetails with the previous two chapters quite well. The insight into the relationship shared by Nate and Scully is enjoyable and offers a depth to the story that had been hinted at in the past. The enhanced multi-player and melee gameplay are welcome improvements too. As I sit here and reflect on my gameplay experience, the only thing lacking is the dominant WOW factor of Uncharted 2, but you have to remember that Uncharted 2 set the bar very, very high.