Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was one of the best reasons to own a PlayStation 3. The game had everything- engaging gameplay, outstanding set pieces and a multiplayer that rocks till date. In other words, it would have been nearly impossible for any developer, let alone Naughty Dog, to top Uncharted 2. When Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was announced at the 2010 Video Game Awards, I was filled with enthusiasm, but at the same time a sense of doubt and confusion was taking over me.
Can this game truly over do what Uncharted 2 did? Logically speaking you can’t possibly top the insane train section or the mind boggling snow level with that Tibetan. But I was wrong. Not only does Uncharted 3 top all of those sections, Naughty Dog have tipped the scale for action adventure games just a bit further.
Uncharted has always been about the story and the way it gets the player involved and dissolved into it. This one is about finding a lost city in the 600 mile desert called Rub’ al Khali. Other than that, the game also takes a look at the origins of Nathan Drake and his father-son relationship with our good old Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan. A lot of old characters return in Drake’s Deception, namely Elena and Chloe, but this time it really is not about them. The plot draws references from T. E. Lawrence’s works as Drake and company try and connect it with Francis Drake’s exploits centuries ago. What ensues is a breathtaking tale of exploring, solving puzzles, insane chases and outstanding set pieces.
Those who are familiar with the Uncharted franchise will find no major differences in gameplay mechanics. This is still the core Uncharted experience on offer. You are going to jump around, take cover, swing on ropes, scale epic structures and do some unreal stunts. The biggest addition is the way the environment treats you. Previously, there was no effect of the environment on Drake, but this time our hero will be fighting through sand, fire, water and smoke.
Take the Chateau level for example. During the concluding events, that level is congested with fire and smoke making Drake cough and exhausted, something that is logical but we don’t see often in games. Later in the game when you reach the Rub’ al Khali desert, Drake will get tired, literally get on his knees and murmur to himself ‘Just a bit further, a bit more!’, showing a sense of desperation and willpower at the same time. Or consider the cruise level, the entire ship is moving which means your cover structures are now dynamically controlled by the waves of the ocean, resulting in exciting and unpredictable gameplay conditions. Add to that some Assassin’s Creed style, heart pounding chase sections which could last for almost a good twenty minutes, and you have a winner on your hand.
There are no boss battles in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and it is a very good thing, in my opinion. Uncharted as a franchise is more about exploring and learning about the story, and adding boss fights just really kills the theme of the game. So unlike previous games, there are no mid-level or ending boss fights, just pure action and drama at its best. However, there are two irritating things that Naughty Dog has failed to fix. Enemies still take a ton of bullets to go down, at some instances 10-15 bullets per enemy, which is quite ridiculous to be honest. Snapping towards cover in tight spaces is still a nightmare. I found myself running in circles and eventually getting killed by an enemy due to this issue.
What makes the Uncharted franchise jaw dropping is its set pieces. But more than that it has to do with the timing of what craziness happens when. Uncharted 2 was basically divided in two sections, one in which the player relaxes and builds up to a major event in the game and the other, where the event happens. Uncharted 3 does not consider the first part at all and builds upon events on events. I have always dreamed of a game set in a desert; take out bandits and loot treasure, but jumping off from a crashing plane, almost 20,000 feet above the ground? Hell no! Or ride a horse with a Sheikh and wipe out a convoy cow boy style? Hell no! These are just a few of the several set pieces that you will come across in the game. If I look at the broader picture, the entire game is a massive set piece in itself. Even during combat there is enough going on in the background to keep you on your toes, something which was totally absent in previous Uncharted games.
The PlayStation 3 will celebrate its 5th anniversary this year. Many publications, including us, have run stories on how the current console generation has aged out and how we desperately need the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720. I don’t know what Naughty Dog are doing and what Sony are teaching them, but whatever it is, it surely is paying off big time. Uncharted 3 looks outright, top to bottom, left to right gorgeous; there are absolutely no two ways about that.
The biggest improvement is the character animations. The emotions are conveyed through eyes, a rare and almost impossible feat for video games till date. Yes, some may argue that L.A. Noire has done it already, but Naughty Dog takes it to an all new level. The shadow, smoke, fire and sand animations are totally dynamic and will react dynamically depending on the player’s action. The voice actors for the main characters have been same throughout the course of three games and fortunately they are able to crack it up once again in Drake’s Deception. The background music is depressing (in a good way) and really gets the player involved.
The beauty of Uncharted 3 is that when you are done with the single player, you can directly hop into the solid multiplayer mode. The game improves upon the competitive and co-operative modes found in Uncharted 2, whilst maintaining the same standard modes like capture the flag and deathmatch.
Much of the fun obviously lies in the competitive mode where you can earn experience points which can be used to buy weapons and other things. This is the same old solid experience that the players found in Uncharted 2, but Naughty Dog have upped the ante with well designed levels, giving you different options and strategies.
The co-operative mode consists of three modes- Adventure (You can team up with your friends and fight across five levels. There are no puzzles so the focus is all about taking down your enemies. Personally, this was one of my favourite modes), Hunters (Divided in two teams, with one of them trying to loot a treasure and the other trying to defend it. I found it to be pretty addictive at first but after a few round things got a bit boring for me) and Arena (You and your friends pit against hordes of enemies and take them out. But just like the Hunters mode this one has limited appeal).
Ultimately, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is the biggest game of this year. I don’t know how many awards it will win this year for technological and physics advancements in video games, but one thing’s for sure- your money won’t be wasted. I just wish Sony and Naughty Dog work more closely with other developers so that games of such magnitude and quality can be developed more often. Again, I will say this- Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception is one of the best reasons to own a PlayStation 3.
Second Opinion By Bojeeva
We’ve already posted our official review of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – but for such a major release, it’s always worth having another opinion.
Having waited with baited breath, I’m pleased to say that it rightly deserved to be dubbed one of the most anticipated games of 2011 – and it’s better than its predecessors in just about every way.
This time Indiana Jones wannabe Nathan Drake must pit his wits against the devious Katherine Marlowe – who has a long-term grudge against the intrepid adventurer revolving around Sir Francis Drake’s ring. T.E. Lawrence – aka Lawrence of Arabia – is the inspiration behind Nate’s latest outing, whose adventures lead him across the globe in search of a fabled lost city in the Arabian desert, “the Atlantis of the Sands.”
Of course, there’s the usual shooting, puzzle solving and climbing required. Add to that, the return of Drake’s trademark wit, an engrossing plot and gorgeous graphics, and suffice to say fans will be very happy with the end result.
But there are plenty of changes too. There’s an improved fighting system with hand-to-hand combat, the ability to take on multiple opponents and contextual melee attacks. Fighting in a Yemen market and performing a slow-motion finishing move on someone using a giant fish is brilliant. The online multiplayer component has been enhanced too but more on that later.
Aesthetically, there are “new innovations in sand, fire, smoke, and water dynamics and effects” and support for stereoscopic 3D – not a luxury I have thanks to my archaic television but I can only imagine how awesome the game will look behind red-and-blue-tinted glasses.
Those canny fellows at Naughty Dog have even achieved the seemingly impossible; they’ve managed to integrate QTE so that it’s well-placed and not remotely annoying.
We begin the latest adventure in less than salubrious surroundings, a shady looking London pub. Besides the strong visuals, it strikes you right from the start that the voice acting is once again perfectly cast – from Nolan North’s role as Nate, Richard McGonagle as Sully and even the cheeky cockney chappies who are propping up the bar. Niceties aside, an inevitable brawl ensues and players are quickly introduced to that enhanced combat system…
(Minor spoiler) The brief flashback level that follows whisks us off to Cartagena, Colombia, where we fill the shoes of a young Nate. It explains his first meeting with Sully after a chance encounter many years earlier while scoping out a museum. It’s all very well done and a nice insight to their early relationship. Within no time, you’re running along the rooftops trying to escape some gun-toting hoods. It’s fast, exciting and great fun. There are even nice little touches with the interactive backgrounds and environments, like when Nate clatters into a box of fruit; it’s things like this that really suck you in. Similarly, the character animations are spot on – and you’ll take great delight in watching as you dive from ledges, swing on signposts or bound over obstacles.
From here, Nate’s escapades take us back to present day and to varied locations such as France, Syria and finally, Yemen.
Visually, the attention to detail is staggering. The graphics are typically crisp, with the screen awash with colour. It all looks absolutely awesome. Naughty Dog combines this with incidental music to create a thoroughly cinematic experience. Once again, they have perfectly captured the feel of a big Hollywood blockbuster; cut scenes explain the back story but merge well with the action sequences, the scripting is tight and the story is strong and engrossing.
The flame effects are particularly noteworthy, and in my opinion, among the finest ever seen in a game. The French Chateau level, which sees Nate fight his way through a raging inferno is a visual treat. The only downside is that stopping to gawp at the smouldering embers leads our protagonist to an untimely demise.
Equally, the game’s water effects provide satisfying splashes and drips, while the desert landscapes almost have a life of their own with sand drifts moving realistically on the breeze. It’s a veritable feast to the senses.
And once you’re done with the solid single player levels, there’s the co-operative mode (mentioned in the main review above) and online multiplayer, which offers plenty more gametime. Free For All and Team Deathmatch games are available with plenty of customization options to suit your style of play – pick your weapons, upgrades and then tweak your character to your heart’s content.
There are of course some niggles: the cover system can prove infuriating, there is a LOT of climbing and leaping in certain stages that some could find repetitive given there’s little skill involved, and the puzzles are perhaps too simplistic and offer barely any real challenge. Forums are buzzing with gripes about the tweaked gunplay too, which may take some getting used to. But none of the above should impact your enjoyment of what is truly a game you have to experience.
Unlike most sequels, few people were actually calling for radical change with Uncharted 3 and Naughty Dog has obliged. On the face of it, it’s more of the same but there are plenty of tweaks and improvements that more than justify an immediate purchase. Nate is back – and it was definitely worth the wait. We thought Uncharted 2 couldn’t be bettered… fortunately, we were wrong.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Insane sand, smoke and fire effects, excellent character animations, voice acting is high class, mind blowing set pieces and a solid multiplayer package.
Taking corner in tight spaces is a nightmare and AI difficulty is too hard at times.