Following the amazing critical success of its predecessor, it would be fair to say, the latest chapter of Nathan Drake’s adventures is by far the most anticipated. Released in the midst of the end of year gaming madness, has Naughty Dog managed to raise the bar of the action-adventure genre once again, or is Uncharted 3 trying to deceive us all? Read on to find out.
Game: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
This review contains no spoilers in relation to the Uncharted 3 story.
Nathan Drake, once again, teams up with his friend and mentor Victor Sullivan (aka Sully), as they set off on an epic journey to find the “Atlantis of the Sands”, a lost city of immeasurable wealth. However, in typical Uncharted fashion, their search is made anything but easy. A secret organisation led by the cunning Katherine Marlowe is also on the hunt, and they’re prepared to do anything to get there first. Without going into spoiler territory, as you move from location to location, the story just gets better and better. From start to finish, you’ll go through a variety of different emotions, and genuinely want to see what happens next. It’s one amazing, cinematic rollercoaster ride, which is expertly paced.
As good as the story is though, it would be a bit hollow if it wasn’t filled with great characters, and Uncharted 3 has plenty of those. Drake and Sully are their usual charming selves, and are undoubtedly the stars of the show, but the supporting cast isn’t bad either. You’ll recognise a few old faces, but to keep things fresh, some new ones are introduced. The interaction between the characters adds a layer of depth to an already fantastic story, it’s so incredibly believable. If there was any doubt before, Uncharted 3 pretty much confirms the team at Naughty Dog are the masters of video game related storytelling.
Whilst the leap isn’t as big as the one made when moving from the original Uncharted to its brilliant sequel, Naughty Dog has tweaked and refined the third entry in the series to the point where it is quite simply the best looking console game around. Whether it’s the lighting or character models, you’ll constantly be in awe of what your eyes are witnessing as you progress through campaign. At times you’ll leave Drake standing, just so you can pan the camera around and take in the breathtaking visuals.
Animations are have also received some attention, and represent a marked improvement over Uncharted 2. Whilst you’ll rightly notice the more extravagant character movements, it’s the little details that impress the most. For instance, the way Drake moves his arm as he walks closely past a wall, or the cheeky smirk on his face as he converses with love interest Elena. Expanding on the latter, facial animations in Uncharted 3 are just incredible. They portray the emotions of every single character so realistically. In fact, at times, even though a character might not be speaking, you can tell exactly how they’re feeling by simply looking at their face.
Much like the visuals, Uncharted 3 shines ever so brightly on the audio front. From the epic orchestral pieces during set-pieces to the somber tones that accompany the emotional moments, the soundtrack compliments the on-screen action extremely well.
However, the star of the audio show is undoubtedly the voice acting. Nolan North is, once again, superb as Drake, and the rest of the cast do a fantastic job too. Whether it’s serious or funny, every line of dialogue that’s delivered is wholeheartedly believable, and makes the characters themselves feel more alive.
The previous Uncharted games were built upon great set pieces, and the latest entry is no different. Breathtaking, exhilarating, and adrenaline pumping; you’ll find it hard not to get caught up in each set piece and cheer like a loon once you’re done. As cliched as it might sound, it’s almost like you’ve been transformed into the set of a blockbuster action movie, and you’re the hero. It’s a feeling that most other games can only dream of replicating, yet Uncharted 3 does it with considerable ease.
Set pieces aside, the game is a cover based third-person shooter at heart, and excels in that particular department too. Naughty Dog has refined the already excellent mechanics to the point where you’ll genuinely look forward to your next encounter with the enemy, just so you partake in pumping them full of virtual lead. You’ll have plenty of weapons to do that with too, as Naughty Dog has upped the overall number. Throughout the course of the game, you’ll probably end up using the majority of them, but after a while you’ll eventually settle on a couple of favourites.
Cover still plays a massive part in the action, and works really well, but crouching behind a wall or another part of the environment doesn’t guarantee safety. This is partly down to the improved enemy AI, but mostly down to the fact that cover is now very much dynamic. Whether it’s being shot down or moving around, in most cases you’ll find that staying behind one piece of cover is not a good idea. That’s not to say you’ll be constantly be on the move like a headless chicken, far from it. You’ll just have to choose your cover wisely, and pick the right moment to move on to another.
Whilst the shooter aspect of Uncharted 3 hasn’t been drastically altered, the hand-to-hand combat has certainly changed quite a bit. Naughty Dog has taken inspiration from the wonderful Batman: Arkham Asylum, and introduced a system that’s easier to understand. Whilst the combat isn’t as polished as Arkham Asylum, it feels right within the confines of the Uncharted world. As charming as he is, Drake isn’t a finely tuned fighting machine, and that’s reflected really well through the rough and rugged feel of the combat.
Just like the first two games, the action is broken up every so often by puzzles, and Uncharted 3 can undoubtedly lay claim to the best in the series so far. Thanks to your trusty journal, the majority of the puzzles won’t test the grey matter too much, but there a few that will you leave you scratching your head. You’ll think you’ve considered all possible options, but then suddenly you’ll have a “light bulb moment”, stumble upon the solution and feel immense satisfaction. It’s the hallmark of a well designed puzzle, and Uncharted 3 certainly has a few of those.
The final string in the game’s bow comes in the form of the platforming. Thanks to the incredible animations, moving from ledge to ledge (or platform to platform) is just as enjoyable as taking down an enemy with a well timed headshot. Speaking of headshots, platforming also plays in big part during combat in Uncharted 3. Not only do you partake in shootouts at a ground level, you take on enemies mid-traversal too. In fact, the vertical shootouts are almost like mini-set pieces. You’ll feel the adrenaline pumping as you move from ledge to ledge, trying to take out enemies as they shoot at you from above, below or your sides. The only slight niggle (it might annoy some people) comes during the more frantic platforming sections, where you might find yourself falling to your doom a few times. However, more often than not, this will happen when you’ve pressed the jump button a bit too early. Unlike most games of a similar ilk, the platforming in Uncharted 3 retains an element of skill rather than being automated, and that’s something that should be applauded, celebrated even.
On the normal difficulty, the single player campaign will take you anything between 10-12 hours to complete. However, whether it’s to collect missing treasure pieces or to experience the splendor on a higher difficulty, you will almost certainly want to go through the campaign again.
The content in Uncharted 3 doesn’t end with the single player campaign though, not by a long shot. After you’ve finished with Drake’s epic adventure, you can delve into the online competitive multiplayer or team up with a buddy and attempt to complete some co-op missions (offline or online). Sure, the co-op missions might lack the oomph of their single player counterparts, but that’s not to say they aren’t fun. In fact, it would be fair to say, they’re better than most games where co-op content is the main course.
Online multiplayer is where Uncharted 3 will get its true staying power though, and thanks to its overall quality, it certainly has a fighting chance. Naughty Dog has not only paid attention to the single player facet of the game, but they’ve given the online multiplayer the development time it deserves too. In most cases, good online multiplayer is an extension of the single player content, and that’s certainly the case here. The incredible gameplay is backed up by several modes and upgrades, as well as unique features such as Treasure Sets and Power Play, that always keep matches competitive. If you loved the single player, and have the time to invest, then online multiplayer in Uncharted 3 is definitely worth a look.
Uncharted 3 is a masterclass in video games design and storytelling from a developer that is now at one with the action-adventure genre. Every single aspect of the game has been so expertly crafted and put together, it’s hard to find one single glaring fault.
The single player campaign is an incredible achievement on its own, an amazing experience from start to finish. However, when you factor in the deep online multiplayer and fun co-op missions, Uncharted 3 is not only one of the best games that you’ll play this year, it’s one of the best games of this generation full stop.