Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Review

With Uncharted 2 taking the world by storm and seemingly creating impossible expectations for a follow-up, many were wondering just how Naughty Dog could top themselves.   Half-tucked hero Nathan Drake and gang are back to try to answer that question with another globe-trotting adventure in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.  Once again sporting extremely high production values, thrilling moments and an engaging storyline, Naughty Dog is once again pushing the visuals on the PS3.  This time out Nate and Sully are looking to discover Iram of the Pillars and the secret of Sir Francis Drake.  Is this another adventure worth taking?

Full review after the jump…

As you’d expect, the narrative in Uncharted 3 plays a very significant role and unlike the previous games in the series, this one takes on a more personal aspect as it focuses more on the relationship between Victor “Sully” Sullivan and Nathan Drake.  You also get a very interesting glimpse at how they even met in the first place.  I have to admit, it’s great seeing Sully get a more prominent role as he was very much underused in Uncharted 2.  The story line this time revolves around Sir Francis Drake and his excursion to the Middle East to look for the lost city of Ubar for Queen Elizabeth.  Hot on the trail of Sir Francis, Drake and Sully are up against a shadowy cult formed hundreds of years ago also vying for the prize hidden in Ubar headed up by Katherine Marlowe and her henchman, Talbot.  Honestly, Marlowe is easily the best villain in the series so far and what makes it more interesting is that she doesn’t wield a gun or really have any action scenes.  Her presence and demeanor alone is enough to make her the standout.  Talbot is equally as creepy and relies on illusions and hypnotism to disorient you.  He creates some pretty interesting situations for Drake.

While the story is as strong as ever, I do feel that some plot points were either missing or just not developed enough.  I’m not going to spoil anything for those of you who still have yet to play, but certain elements of characters or groups that you discover or arr seemingly a large part of the narrative just isn’t really explained to the player.  For example, the organization Katherine Marlowe runs is definitely an under the radar shadow group who have been around for centuries.  The player never gets too much more information on who they are or even what they’re called.  One of the main antagonists outside of Marlowe seemingly has special abilities and is adept at illusions.  Nothing is really mentioned on how he came to get these abilities or even who he is outside of Marlowe’s right hand man.

Uncharted 3 delivers an experience like you’d expect from the series.  You’ll be climbing and platforming, battling enemies through gunplay, and even take part in some incredibly impressive cinematic events.  It’s all there as you’d expect.  The difference comes in through the refinements Naughty Dog has made including a much improved melee system, better puzzle design, and new context sensitive animation system.  These new systems create a much better sense of pacing as puzzles make more sense in helping unravelling the story, and combat is dictated more by the environment rather than built-in to exist.  Melee is a major gameplay element around as the game basically opens with a bar room brawl.  It’s much more fun to go toe to toe with someone as Drake can now use the environment around him to damage his opponents along with being able to fight multiple enemies at once in addition to countering and grabbing. 

With that said, Uncharted 3 does suffer from a few sequences that just don’t quite pan out.  There’s a ship graveyard level that ultimately is more tedious than fun.  You’re captured by pirates and manage to escape the hold you’re placed in.  As you traverse the level, you’ll be swimming from wreckage to wreckage taking out guys.  Here in lies the biggest problem I have with this level.  It’s just too open with very few places to take cover and a seemingly constant supply of enemies appear to take you down.  You’re invited to try stealth at first but once you fail, you are beset on all sides by turret gunners, heavily armored shotgunners, snipers, and heavy weapons enemies.  The swimming mechanics tend to fall a bit on the clunky side of things as well as it’s difficult to quickly dive and resurface.  There are also some really cheap enemies near the end stages but thankfully they don’t stick around for too long and don’t spoil the experience by the end.

New to the series is vertical combat and also chase sequences which make up a large part of the game than I figured.  Vertical combat is just as it sounds.  You’re typically climbing something and above you enemies appear and begin to fire at you.  You engage them as you hang there trying to avoid things like falling objects or crumbling wall structures.  It’s a lot of fun and it never get’s old knocking someone off the structure above you.  Chase sequences are sprinkled through the game and typically involve Drake running from something.  There’s no combat here, only frantic running and platforming as you look to escape the situation you’re in.  Sure, it can get a little tricky sometimes knowing where to go exactly, but the checkpoint system during this sequence is very generous so it’s rarely frustrating.  It’s a nice way to mix up the typical platforming and combat.

I don’t know how it was possible, but Naughty Dog was able to draw even more power out of the PS3.  If you thought Uncharted 2 looked excellent, naughty Dog has further refined the experience in Uncharted 3.  Animations look better, the environments look more detailed and jaw droppingly gorgeous and the sand physics are unparalleled to anything else out there.  You’ll see it stick to Drake just like how his clothes look wet when he enters/exits water.  It’s really impressive stuff.

Special mention goes to the cruise ship level which is just so impressive.  Flexing their creative side and showing off their mastery of thrilling set pieces, Naughty Dog has created tech that actually dynamically renders the waves of the water in real-time.  This section of the game can definitely stand up to any of the achievements from Uncharted 2.  There’s just a ton of these jaw dropping set pieces.  One of my favorites involves raiding a caravan from horseback.  It’s thrilling, exciting, and just so awesome moving from truck to truck racing to get ot the front of the group.  Naughty Dog proves it’s the master at creating these types of levels and it’s a joy to experience. 

The very popular competitive multiplayer mode and co-op returns in this installment and I really got the sense that Naughty Dog set out to expand upon what they created in Uncharted 2.  You’re still getting the competitive modes from Uncharted 2 only this time, they tried to add in the same cinematic nature of the single player campaign into the multiplayer side.  the best example of this can be seen in the Hangar level where team deathmatch begins which each side fighting over a plane taking off down a runway.  Some players start on trucks and others on the plane.  It’s frantic and tense especially when the plane is about to take off.  After that point the match starts normally on the actual level.  It’s pretty cool and a nice extra touch.

Also new to the multiplayer side is a buddy system which lets players spawn on each other, do co-op taunts such as high fiving over an enemies body and also letting you see where they are on the map.  Players can now use custom created characters rather than using the default Uncharted characters available.  Doing this allows you to customize their appearance and purchase more unlockables for them using the in-game currency system.  Also new is a randomly spawning treasure system which allows players to find and use to unlock new customization features like clothing. 

On a more substantial note, Naughty Dog has also added in gameplay features that can have a significant impact on matches.  In addition to the perk like boosters and 1 time paid boosters, players also gain access to “Medal Kickbacks” which allow players to use a special ability for a short time once they’ve earned enough medals in the match.  Such abilities include no reloading, turning into a horde of spiders, and even throwing a grenade that splits into 3 to name a few.  Also in place is what’s called a power play.  These essentially give a losing team a chance to get back in the game.  Before you cry foul, you should know that if you’re on the winning side, you’ll get double cash for each kill you get during these 1 minute events.  Power Play advantages range from light (double damage) to heavy (winning team sees everyone as a skeleton and friendly fire is turned on) when you’re really falling behind.  It’s a nice feature that typically helps more than it hurts by giving frustrated players a chance to come back from seemingly impossible odds.

Ultimately, while Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception doesn’t quite top it’s predecessor, it’s still one of the best reasons to own a PS3.  Everything comes together to make this game a masterpiece from the sweeping and epic score to the fantastic production values.  Naughty Dog is on top of their game and will continue to wow you with some impressive set pieces awaiting you.  From the fantastic storyline, perfectly integrated musical score, impressive technology powering the game, and robust multiplayer options, Uncharted 3 will keep you occupied for a long time.  Basically, if you own a PS3, Uncharted 3 is a no brainer.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception gets 5 half-tucks, out of 5

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