Posted by John on November 1, 2011

Review: ‘Uncharted 3′ another PS3 treasure

It’s official: today marks the arrival of the PlayStation 3’s best franchise.

Treasure hunter Nathan Drake returns in the spectacular adventure Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, a game that weaves smart storytelling with amazing visuals and action sequences.

So, how did Uncharted and lead character Drake becomes kings of the PS3? The series debuted in 2007 with the game Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, chronicling the journey of an alleged descendant to explorer Sir Francis Drake.

While Drake’s Fortune welcomed a positive critical reaction, the series took off in 2009 with the launch of the stellar sequel Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

The third chapter of Nathan Drake’s story takes him on a quest to find a lost city on the Arabian Peninsula. It appears Sir Francis Drake had embarked on this expedition, too, leading Nathan to pick up where his ancestor left off.

Along with Nathan is close friend Victor Sullivan, an older gentleman who serves as a father figure in some respects. Developers at Naughty Dog explore their relationship a bit deeper in Drake’s Deception. Both appear very protective of the other, and share a common thirst for perilous treasure hunts.

Also seeking out the “Atlantis of the Sands” is a mysterious villain called Marlowe, who seems to have some history with Nathan and Sully.

Like its predecessors, Uncharted 3 is further proof of studio Naughty Dog’s incredible storytelling skills, and it’s more than just sharp dialogue and a mysterious plot.

The design of each level and the unfolding of each extraordinary action scene is crafted in a way that will speed players’ pulses and fray their nerves.

A clear example is Nathan and Sully’s trip to France, where they try to find more clues leading them to this hidden city. Marlowe’s henchmen are there as well, and decide to flush out the duo by burning down the dilapidated chateau.

As fires rage, Nathan slowly navigates ledges and climbs walls to escape. A staircase gives away, leaving Nathan hanging by one hand with the massive blaze burning below as a backdrop. Sully lifts him back up and they push to find a way out. Gunmen pop out from corners or behind cover, and Nathan quickly drops them with a couple shots from his handgun. Finally, the duo make a mad dash and exit the building unscathed.

Developers take advantage of dramatic camera angles and the game’s stunning visuals to create breathtaking — and sometimes heart-pounding — moments. At times, Nathan Drake is part Indiana Jones and part John McClane from the Die Hard film series.

Gameplay follows the tradition of previous Uncharted titles, mixing environmental traversal, puzzle solving and combat with fists and firearms. Naughty Dog gets pretty creative with the platforming elements, as players will see in later levels on the water.

There are some subtle tweaks to combat. Hand-to-hand combat involves more enemies, and adds some contextual awareness. During an early brawl inside a pub, Nathan slams an enemy’s head onto the bar or smashes a nearby beer bottle over his head instead of simply punching or kicking. It adds a touch of realism to each battle.

Firefights are largely similar, too, as players use cover to duck enemy gunfire. If Nathan is stealthy enough, he can quietly take out enemies as well, sometimes netting him a bonus weapon. One key change is the ability to toss back enemy grenades with a well-timed button press.

Enemies are tough and relentless. They use cover as effectively as players, and use any type of grenade or explosive to expose a player’s position. They are also excellent at flanking, forcing players to stay on the move.

The campaign is absolutely sensational, but there’s still more to dig into once that’s complete in roughly 10 hours. Players can embark in online cooperative missions tied to the story as well as survival match where they must battle waves of enemies for points.

Then there’s the underrated multiplayer component, which returns after its debut in Uncharted 2. Players have more opportunities to customize their character. Along with special weapon loadouts complete with perks, they can use a generic character and tweak their outfits, voices and even taunts.

There are also medal bonuses that grant power-ups after reaching a certain number of kills. For example, one reward gives players access to a RPG. Matches range from the standard Team Deathmatch to Plunder, pitting teams against each other in the quest for treasure.

With games such as Battlefield and Call of Duty taking over headlines, it’s easy to get sucked into that first-person shooter vortex. However, be careful. You might be missing out on what is arguably the year’s best game.

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform(s): PlayStation 3
Price: $59.99
Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: Nov. 1
Score: 4 stars (out of 4)

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