Posted by John on November 8, 2011

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Review for PS3

By Jason Van Horn

It took me until the E3 showing of Uncharted 2 for me to jump onto the franchise
and become a fan. After seeing the amazing demo on display during the PS3 show,
I went out the next day, picked up the original Uncharted, and prepared for the
second game’s arrival. The second game more than lived up to the previous game
and delivered not only one of the finest games of that year, but one of my
all-time favorites. It’s great that the series didn’t hit a sophomore slump, but
when you hit greatness so quickly, it’s hard to top yourself and thus the
problem with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The game is still a remarkable
achievement, but when you take previous installments into consideration -
especially number two - the third outing just doesn’t manage to keep the
consistency on track or reach the lofty goals it set itself.

The story of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception follows that of Nathan Drake, the
self-proclaimed descendant of the legendary explorer Sir Francis Drake. Drake’s
ring, which Nate has always worn around his neck, finally comes into play as it
could be the missing link needed to find the greatest treasure that Sir Francis
Drake ever discovered - the Atlantis of the Sands. Nate isn’t the only one
searching for the mythical place, as an age-old rival has resurfaced and needs
his ring in order to discover the sacred place’s secrets for herself. Will Nate
find the greatest treasure of all or lose everything in the pursuit of it?
As a stand-alone title, the story of Uncharted 3 isn’t as solid as past games,
as the flow from location to location doesn’t feel as natural, and almost as if
a narrative was simply strung together between a series of set pieces because
the ideas surrounding them were cool. The story intrigued me enough to make me
want to go out and read more about Lawrence of Arabia (a man who is brought up
early-on in the game), but the narrative simply wasn’t as tight when it came to
the discovery aspect of the game. Uncharted 3 works much better as a love letter
to the fans, as the greatest moments of the story aren’t about Nate’s search for
the treasure, but rather how the people around him are affected by his singular
goal. At the forefront of the story is Nate’s longtime adventuring buddy Sully
and how far he’d go to stand by Nate’s side and the original Uncharted’s heroine
Elena, though she gets considerably less screen time here than she did in any of
the previous games, which is a shame since she has always been my favorite
character (yes even over Nate himself).

One slight annoyance I had with Uncharted 3’s story is that when it comes to
those character relationships, there are blanks that happened between games,
which the player is supposed to fill-in themselves; whether this was done to
allow for games to be sandwiched between “numbered” games or to keep the player
confused and wondering I’m not quite so sure. It’s not a major problem, but even
those who have played the previous games will be stuck for a moment trying to
digest what they heard, wondering if there was something they missed somewhere
along the way.

Uncharted 3’s gameplay remains largely intact - part third-person shooter, part
platformer, and part puzzle game - though with an increased focus on melee
combat. The bulk of your time will be spent engaged in firefights, where you
(and perhaps a computer assisted friend) will have to fight off a wave of
enemies so that you can move forward. A lot of Uncharted’s combat comes from
finding cover, popping up when the coast is clear, and being able to stay one
step ahead of the enemies so that they don’t flank you. You won’t just be taking
cover behind objects on the ground either, as you can be climbing a building and
peaking over the side to get a shot in, or even take cover behind an obstacle in
order to do combat with enemies above you on a completely vertical wall.
Automatic weaponry is still the preferred way to go, because the aiming still
isn’t as tight as it could be, as there will be times where you should hit an
enemy and don’t, while there will also be times where you shouldn’t hit someone
and yet you do.

You know the developers want you to understand that melee combat is an important
part of the game when it’s the first thing you learn about during the opening
tutorial. Nate’s always been able to do takedowns, but never go toe-to-toe with
someone in a fist fight. The controls are simple enough with the square button
being used for punches, the triangle button being used to counter, and the
circle button being used to grapple or break a grapple. When the melee combat
works it’s really smooth, such as Nate automatically picking up a bottle or
frying fan when close enough to an environmental object, but it can be difficult
to get out of a fist fight when you accidentally trigger it. The second problem
is that sub-boss characters, which are intended to be fought in melee combat
only, always boil down to the same motion-captured moves and sequences. Punch
punch, get grabbed, slam on the circle button to break the grab, punch punch,
counter, counter, punch punch, etc.

The platforming also isn’t as tight as it could be, as there will be times where
you’re looking around trying to find what you’re supposed to interact with, and
you’ll fall to your death on more than one occasion as you experiment in trying
to find what you’re supposed to do. Transitions aren’t as seamless either, as I
often found myself trying to do an action such as jump to an upper-left hold,
but the game wouldn’t register how fast I was moving and so I’d have to
purposely stop and make sure Nate was leaning towards the intended direction in
order to move that way.

I think one of the areas they improved upon has to do with the puzzle aspect of
the game, as they’re challenging to solve in some cases and yet not
frustratingly so. The game still uses Drake’s journal to help give you hints as
to what you should be trying to do with the puzzle, but it’s generally easier to
grasp the concept and what the book is trying to tell you so you won’t spend too
long lingering over any given puzzle.

The single-player only lasts so long (though it is a fair, substantial amount of
time), but once that’s finished you can delve into the game’s multiplayer. First
up is the game’s co-op, which lets you play locally or online as you either try
to last as long as you can against a constant wave of enemies or you can try to
complete the cooperative story, which is really just a series of missions thrown
together and have no real bearing on anything. You basically clear enemies out,
complete some task, deal with what would be considered a “boss” enemy, and then
continue. Competitive multiplayer is the real meat of the multiplayer
experience, as you can play Team Deathmatch, Team Objective, Free For All, Three
Team Deathmatch (three teams of two), Plunder (capture the flag basically), and
Hardcore (no perks or bonuses).

Competitive multiplayer is intriguing for a number of reasons. First off two
people can play together on the same system online, which more games need to
incorporate; you have less screen space per person, but it’s fun to compete
together and modes such as Three Team Deathmatch are a lot easier when you can
easily communicate with your partner. Secondly are the maps themselves, as
they’re very intricate and offer the player numerous ways in which to engage the
competition, as you can hide behind a wall on the ground only to get killed by
someone who scaled a tower of boxes, jumped across a gap, and killed you from up
above; almost every move you utilize in the single-player game can be put to
great use in the multiplayer. A few of the maps are also very inventive, such as
one in which it begins with two teams fighting across two trains running
side-by-side, or where the match starts with teams together in a convoy of cars
and must not only dodge fire but jump from one speeding vehicle to the next -
very thrilling.

I also like the new Booster and Kickback systems, which not only reward you for
long-time play, but immediate play as well. Boosters act like perks that you can
apply to your character, such as being able to see a nearby enemy if they’re the
one who killed you or being able to salvage ammo off a fallen body by taunting
over it. Boosters have multiple levels, so as you play and earn ranks, you’ll
also be earning experience points to level your Boosters and make them more
powerful. So even if you lose a game, it still feels like you’re advancing your
character by earning experience that will ultimately (at least hopefully) make
you stronger in the end. Kickbacks, meanwhile, are based on medals that you earn
while actually in a match, and once enough are gathered you can perform such
actions as spawn a weapon or instantly get a zoomed in sniper shot even if you
don’t have a sniper rifle.

Furthermore, as you earn new ranks you open up the ability to purchase new
Boosters to level, new Kickbacks, items to decorate your logo (the top player
has their logo displayed on walls and stuff during a match), new characters, new
character costumes, and other such items. So even after you’ve beat the
single-player game, there’s a lot to keep you busy when it comes to the game’s
The Uncharted series has always been one of the premiere showcase titles on the
PS3 and installment three is no exception. The graphics are lovely and full of
detail and imagination: the moss growing on the stones in an underground
passageway, the rolling of waves, sunlight spreading across the rooftops during
a chase, the blazing fire of a mansion coming down around you - the game never
fails to impress. The game is a marvel in the audio department as well, as the
voice acting is topnotch and among some of the best out there (Nolan North is a
voice acting god, Emily Rose is as enchanting as a voice as she is on the
television series Haven, and Richard McGonagle is excellent too), the sound
effects are varied and fabulous, and the game features a beautiful score that
will have your heart racing one moment and then swept away during a touching
segment the next.

I wish I could give Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception a perfect score, but it just
lacks some of the punch that the series has nailed before. Despite that lack of
a half-point that shouldn’t stop you from going out and buying the game, as it’s
one of the best titles of the year, and the best PS3 exclusive Sony could ever
hope for.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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