After the ambitious outing that sang brilliance through and through during Naughty Dog’s last Drake adventure, and the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not this Game of the Year development team could actually outdo themselves just two years later. Multiple Game of the Year honors sang the praises of the sophomore title in the series and now Naughty Dog propels players and Drake even further with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.
Living up to near impossible standards is certainly an acquired taste as expectations can become unrealistic especially in the gaming industry as trends and tricks of trade are pushed ever further with each passing year. Not only would UC3 need to play better, look better and sound better than UC2, it would also need to offer an overall better experience. One which I can safely say it does on almost every level.
In search of the fabled ‘Atlantis of the Sands’ Drake along with mentor Victor Sullivan team up once again to discover riches beyond their wildest dreams. In fact, for Drake, this new journey is more than just about great wealth, it’s personal!
Still the star of the show Drake is reunited with Victor, Elena, Chloe and a new face for the journey, Charlie, an intelligent wise-cracking mate with bit of a Jason Statham flavor going on (scratch the fighting skills). Heading up the antagonist list of influence and you’re introduced to Katherine Marlowe who with her right-hand man Mr. Talbot and her army of men in black operatives become an increasingly irritating thorn in your side with an evil plot far beyond the realm of acquiring wealth.
With every intention of blowing your interactive gameplay senses with explosive over the top set-pieces, Naughty Dog it seems has combed the previous experience by placing more emphasis on the smaller things which are boldly noticeable in UC3. Playing Drake feels more organic than ever. Walk near walls and on most occasions your avatar reacts like a real human. Sometimes while controlling Drake whether running or walking, his bodily physics will contradict your controller while following your toggle command, making for a more life-like character. Like most Drake adventures, acute facial expressions as well as engaging dialogue between characters become actors within themselves. How Naughty Dog continues to push the PS3 hardware forward is beyond me. When you find yourself watching cut-scenes which utilize in-game assets and you’re laughing due to the character interaction and expressions and the experience has gone beyond the boundaries of just playing a video game.
If you were told UC3 would easily surpass UC2 in the visual department in just two years, as a fan of the series you would more than likely agree however, you probably wouldn’t picture this much level of improvement. Still a very much recognizable Uncharted title, UC3 has been given the graphical touches where it counts. Sure, there are occasions where textures have not fully populated on the screen, or certain images may look flat and a bit out of character for the landscape nevertheless, you really wont care to notice. Naughty Dog has a great way of placing players in a believable world where distances almost come alive straight out of a landscaped portrait. When you’re traversing lost caverns and hidden undiscovered catacombs, the locales all seem depicted from the real world. Surfaces are almost smooth to the touch, lit torches reflect off walls and surrounding surfaces, even the creases in characters faces are noticeable. One of the highlights was during the epic boat level where you encounter the unsettling structure of the ocean water. Jumping in and out of the water avoiding random gunfire, swimming against currents and then diving beneath currents, mixing all this action together with the eye-popping visuals and this is just one of many example you’ll find throughout this epic journey that supports the technical prowess of the PS3 which Naughty Dog obvious has a great understanding of.
Like the previous title, at the heart of this new journey is a pick up and go gameplay mechanic surrounded by a hollywood blockbuster production that wastes no time throwing the player right into the action. Once you begin the ride it never really seems to let you catch your breathe for too long. If you’ve played previous Uncharted adventures you should be right at home with UC3. Still sporting the smooth as silk cover system with blindfiring to keep those anxious enemies at bay, the sound and gunplay have been given a bit of an improvement over the previous outing. While the action of going into cover, moving around walls and rolling out of the line of fire all feels even better, there has been some frustration with the targeting of the weapons which seems a bit inaccurate. Not that players should cry and ask for an auto-aim option for the campaign (this might not be a bad idea) a more improved shooting mechanic could indeed assist with those missed shots which are just a few millimeters off the mark sometimes. With all the improvement found all over the place there is bound to be some shortcoming, right. But don’t expect many.
Again, the gunplay is satisfying, yet it could be better. With every miss of your chosen weapon, you will still want the satisfaction of actually hitting your enemy target. Once you have made contact and your enemy is down, the hit detection doesn’t fully express that fulfillment of bullet penetration quite as rewarding as it potentially could. This will hopefully be an addressed improvement in the next installment. In addition, whether playing the game on normal or the more difficult settings, enemies are relentless and there are many. With that said, Naughty Dog could improve on adding multiple character assets with different visual identities. All too often the men in black looked like bald clones of one another or the guys with hair couldn’t help but look like Mr. Talbot. As movie style driven as this experience offers, it is certainly recognizable when characters look exactly alike.
But make no mistake, with the same core mechanic gameplay UC3 still trumps it’s predecessors. The seamless blend of shooting, diving into cover, vaulting a nearby wall or quickly climbing a structure for a better combative edge and UC3 has indeed improved the action for the better.
UC3 builds on the great story narrative of the previous titles which told through the eyes of Nathan Drake is a more intricately delivered story this time around. Players are given the opportunity to experience Drake like they’ve never seen him before during his more adolescent stages of life before ever encountering Victor Sullivan. For this new adventure Drake seems more in tuned with his emotions despite his extreme flare for the theatrical while staring death in the face time and time again. Drake’s relationship with Sully takes on a new fatherly figure approach just as Elena and her strong desire to be met halfway by Drake is strongly present. More challenging puzzles are introduced giving the game more depth than before placing players in the fortune hunters shoes as you uncover more clues driving the story forward. Story and character development are key in games which aren’t solely driven by how well you accurately work your dualshock 3 controller and UC3 is the best at doing just that.
Trying to top the explosive set-pieces of UC2 seemed almost impossible for my finite imagination, yet Naughty Dog once again proves why they are in the business of offering unmatched gameplay experiences. I could go on for days explaining how exciting the ride was from different scenarios. Whether falling from the sky with no parachute, swimming through corridors of a sinking ship hoping to hold your breathe for a second longer, abandoned and walking through 600 miles of hopeless desert and Naughty Dog not only pushes Drake but the player as well to their gameplay limits.
After you’ve tackled the addictive campaign, you’re only half-way through the UC3 experience as Naughty Dog also offers a robust multiplayer experience far more rewarding than their last.
Starting with the cooperative gameplay options, players can team up with their friends or other online UC3 combatants for a game of ‘Co-op Arena’, ‘Co-op Hunter Arena’ or ‘Co-op Adventure’. In Co-op Arena players will need to survive the waves of oncoming enemies much like horde mode. Co-op Hunter Arena is a mode where you and your friends battle it out against other online teams. For you more military driving shooter fans you can think of Co-op Hunter Arena much like BFBC2 online where multiple teams are competing through multiple objectives in order to win. Co-op Adventure mode is simply story-driven co-op based missions taken where players 2 to 3 tackle the campaign missions which have bit of a twist added. One of the great things about UC3’s cooperative mode is players are allowed to rank up which ties over into the competitve multiplayer game modes.
Whether jumping into a game of Team Deathmatch, Free for All, Team Objective, Plunder, Hardcore or Three Team Deathmatch, ranking up and acquiring all the weapon upgrades is the name of the game. Currently Naughty Dog has quite a few skins available for Heroes and Enemy avatars with a well balanced incentive based gameplay experience which makes putting the controller down very hard. From my online experience I initailly took a brutal beating from other online combatants as the learning curve took some getting used to. After ranking up a bit and acquiring more weapon upgrades and of course learning the maps my kill count began to quickly increase. I’m not saying I’m the best, but I’m certainly holding my ow nowadays
Speaking of the maps, wow! Maps are full of surprises with reachable levels and almost no camping spots. Sure, I found myself hidden behind walls and corners trying to get my bearing when I first started but after a short while I was leaping and killing with the best of them. One of the special things about the multiplayer is how the game systematically improves your playing experience with more and more upgrades.
Start having those great games and players will begin to see their emblem flashed across the nearby walls acknowledging your battlefield dominance. Even more cool is what’s known as Uncharted TV. Uncharted TV is basically integrated into the multiplayer experience at all times showcasing a video player which promotes great multiplayer action. Have an incredible multiple match and you and the world just might see your great moments across Uncharted TV.
While the multiplayer experience of UC2 was fun, this new vision and experience is what the Naughty Dog team intended from the start.
In conclusion, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a masterfully packaged experience that has an extremely high level of production quality at every turn. Not only should PS3 users buy this game, the game itself is worth the price of purchasing the console for. Naughty Dog continues to raise the bar by simply raising their own expectations. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is the closest interactive hollywood blockbuster experience you can possibly get on today’s consoles…..or until Naughty Dog decides it’s time for another dose of Drake.