The Uncharted series has well and truly established itself as a Sony juggernaut, with the second title, Among Thieves, demonstrating just what the PlayStation 3 can do, whilst simultaneously delivering some of the most captivating and polished third person action in recent years. Nathan Drake’s outings have undoubtedly been Sony’s Gears, and Naughty Dog has pushed the boundaries of what’s possible with the genre, and even, to some degree, in gaming generally.
So, it was surprising, then, that I wasn’t all that bothered about this, the third title in the series. It was up against some truly stiff competition in the form of Batman: Arkham City, Rage, and Dark Souls, all of which are vying for my precious gaming time, and I must admit, the endless trailers, videos and hype for the game may have even put me off, such was the over saturation.
Still, going solely off the quality of the second title, I had to give Uncharted 3 a go, and you know what? I don’t know what I was thinking. My apathetic approach to the sequel was as wrong as can be. This is one hell of a game, and although it’s hard to believe, it improves on the previous title, elevating Uncharted to even greater heights.
With a story once more revolving around a globe-trotting treasure hunt, events are kicked off with a bar room brawl that takes place in a London backstreet pub. Here the game’s sheer quality of presentation hits you square in the jaw immediately. The seamless transition from cut-scene to gameplay, and the incredibly detailed visuals make you realise that, just as in Among Thieves, this is true next gen stuff, even on a console that’s already well into its lifespan.
Leading you into the game by drip-feeding you game mechanics, such as the robust melee combat, athletic movements, climbing and gun play, it’s not long before Uncharted‘s trademark silver screen stylings come into play, and the game quickly moves from strength to strength.
As with the previous games, Drake’s Deception is all about a heady mix of ranged and melee combat, exploration, climbing and puzzling. And, here it’s just as well balanced and perfectly paced as ever. Each element of the game is beautifully woven together into the whole, and even when the full-in Hollywood action sequences kick in, the game doesn’t rely on cheesy QTE rubbish, and you’re always in full control. Rooftop and city street chases, outrunning a wave of deadly spiders and an epic escape from a burning building are just a few of the early, stand-out moments, each of which simply can’t fail to take your breath away.
And, even when you’re not engaged in crazy chases or explosive moments, the game is at all times entertaining. Battles are thrilling, thanks for some clever and devious AI that doesn’t simply take cover and try to outwait you. Instead these foes will traverse scenery, climbing around to better get a bead on you, and they’ll also rush you, forcing you to adapt and keep moving. No two fights are seemingly ever the same, and if you die and try again, don’t expect to be attacked from the same direction, or by the same foes. The AI is always changing, making replay value high, and keeping you thinking. It’s great stuff, and adds to both the challenge and the immersion.
You’ll need to make use of the game’s many mechanics, such as the cover system, varied weapons, hand-to-hand takedowns, stealth, and more often than not, the game lets you decide how to tackle things. Don’t feel like engaging in a major firefight with a group of thugs? Then don’t, and sneak around, picking them off silently instead. Get rushed and don’t have time to draw a bead on your foe? Smack him in the mouth instead. You can even use the environment, Jason Bourne-style, smashing objects into people’s heads or shoving their faces into brick. Nice.
This flexibility is one of the things that makes Uncharted 3 so damn good, and Nathan Drake doesn’t feel so much like a limited game character with a set list of moves, but instead a real person who needs to use any advantage he can get in order to survive. It’s truly impressive.
Calming It Down
When you’re not fighting, and aren’t running for your life, you can slow things down, and indulge in a little freeform climbing and exploration, as well as taking on some of the game’s puzzles, many of which are great, if a little on the easy side. Whilst you’re engaged in these quieter pursuits, you can also take in the environments, surely some of the most detailed and impressive you’ll see on any platform. London, for one example, looks fantastic here, and later locations all surge with painstaking attention to detail.
In fact, no facet of the game is free from the obvious love and dedication Naughty Dog has put into Drake’s Deception, and as good as the visuals and gameplay are, it’s the little touches that also make up the whole. The animation for one, especially of Nathan, is simply stunning. As you walk around Nathan reacts to his environment, brushing past door ways, looking around for trouble, or stumbling on rough ground. It’s a simple touch, but one that makes the game seem so much more lifelike.
This carries over into the voice acting and cut scene direction, which again, is superb. As with the previous games, the story, although not exactly original, even in the scope of the Uncharted series alone, is well delivered and the actors play their roles excellently, making you care about each. The adventure never becomes tired or dull, and from start to finish, it’s a real gripper, packed with more than enough Indy-esque shenanigans and ancient tombs to plunder.
The quality direction of the game isn’t limited to cut-scenes either. During game play a clever use of camera shifts, action shots and a general level of class really sets this apart from other, similar titles. Let’s face it, Lara never had it this good.
Over Too Soon?
The single player campaign isn’t the longest around, sadly, and most will plough through it in around 8-10 hours, but what an 8-10 hours it is. The hard mode (and an unlockable harder mode) adds much more challenge, and should be attempted by skilful players, but even when you’ve been through to the satisfying climax you’ve then got the online component to go at.
Now, many PlayStation Plus subscribers will already know what to expect here, as the beta has been available for a while. Essentially, the core multiplayer here is akin to a third person Call of Duty. It features similar game modes, such as deathmatch, team deathmatch and objective-based maps, as well as various weapon upgrades and ranks, but adds the cover-based combat and parkour-laden athletics to the mix. The end result is an impressive and very robust competitive experience that takes a little while to get used to, but once you do Uncharted 3 will certainly pay for itself over time. Add to this the co-op mode, which can be played online or via split screen, and you’ve got a very well-rounded package that has something to offer all types of player.
Uncharted 3 is everything Naughty Dog promised, and so much more, and there’s little, if anything I can say the game does wrong. The aiming may be a little too loose and floaty for some, and sometimes the cover system isn’t perfect, but these are minor blemishes and a game that’s a total must have for any PS3 owner. It’s a masterclass in cinematic action gaming, and other developers should be taking notes on how a third person game should be done. A new benchmark of the genre has been set, and once again, it’s been set by Uncharted, and those mischievous puppies.