Nathan Drake returns for another installment of Sony’s exclusive ‘Uncharted’ franchise. Today we review ‘Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception’. Which means that it’s time for everyone to take a little time scouring tombs for treasure, hanging from walls shooting people, and hearing constant witty banter. But do we have another hit here… is #3 going to his Raiders of the Lost Ark or his Crystal Skull?
Greatness from Small Beginnings
This line has sort of been the running motivation and theme of the entire series. However this game takes it to a much more literal sense – giving you a deep understanding of exactly where Nathan Drake came from. Finally you learn his history – beyond the tidbits they’ve given before now. You even get to see his first meeting with Sully, which was awesome. I have to say that the story just keeps getting better every time they put out a new game – and the hallucinogenic elements of this game just added some really unique visuals and story ties. They really have stepped up every aspect of the storytelling. You even are forced to watch Sully die twice in this game – yes. Twice. In two completely different places. Oooh… bet that one has you confused, doesn’t it?
The other running theme of this game is right there in the title. The title is taken very literally within the game, and there is, quite literally, deception everywhere. You never quite know what to take at face value, which leads you to really have to question everything – which could have been very frustrating. But due to some truly masterful execution, it actually adds to the story a great deal.
The story wraps itself up nicely and even has a nice touching ending. The cutscene at the end is on the shorter side, but doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve been ripped off at all, and the final bit of banter as the scene closes just does such a good job of ending it with a smile.
Better Than a Movie
The heading says it all. The game is meant to be Naughty Dog’s take on the action mystery genre – such as Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider, among others. And this game truly elevates every aspect of it. Especially the presentation. The graphics are not merely ‘among the best of the generation’ – they ARE the best of the generation. There are only two other games I can think whose graphics are in the same league as Uncharted 3 – God of War 3 and Final Fantasy 13. Every aspect of the visuals are phenomenal – from the character design to the incredible backgrounds they give you to the special effects and animations. And the trippy visuals you get during the hallucination sequences are both eerie and awesome.
Not only the graphics have been elevated – the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve ever heard. Like in previous games, the use of both the epic and the ambient is extraordinary, and they’ve done an even better job here. Every single track is perfect for the overall mood of the scene. Not even one felt out of place, which is rare. The sound effects are just as good as they’ve always been. And I’ll tell you one thing, by the time you’re halfway through the game you’ll be turning most corners listening intently for the creepy chittering sound that I came to dread.
The voicework is among the best in gaming. This is the type of voice work that every game should aspire to. There are no lines that sound out of place, everything sounds fluid, and there’s an extraordinary amount of back and forth banter which all helps to explore and expand the personalities of the characters. I cannot say enough good about the voice acting – it really does such a perfect job of everything that good voice work is supposed to do for a game.
Puts the ‘Action’ into Action-adventure
Now we get to the most important part of a game, the gameplay. The game has an increased emphasis on hand to hand combat, and while they have refined the combat a little – I feel they may have oversimplified about. You can win pretty much every melee combat if you just alternate pushing Square and Triangle quickly unless grappled, then spam circle until out of the grapple and go back to Square/Triangle alternating. Which is a bit of a problem. But since the hand to hand combat is still in the minority, despite the increased emphasis.
The second subsection of the gameplay is the stealth aspect. The stealth plays much the same as it did in previous games. Now, I did notice one or two bugs relating to this. If you are really really good at the stealth aspect, you can actually bug the game. I had two places where I successfully killed every enemy in a region without being noticed – it took a lot of trying, but I did it. And the game didn’t advance. What I had to do was either blow up a propane tank or throw a grenade to trigger the ‘combat event’ which really was sad. If you manage to do that, the combat event should either start on it’s own, or you should be rewarded by just getting to skip it. Not by having to find some way to trigger the event after you’ve killed everyone. Aside from that, however, the stealth play was actually pretty cool.
The third, and largest, subsection of the gameplay is the shooting. Now the controls for this are every bit as responsive as Uncharted 2, and really as any other shooter out there. This game is the proof that you don’t need to sacrifice accuracy in order to go third person. Some tweaks have been made to improve the experience from Uncharted 2, so the shooting does feel a bit different. But these changes are universally for the better. They’ve upped the kickback of guns, making them feel a bit more like guns. They’ve also increased the accuracy of the shooting by making the trajectory of bullets more standardized – ie. the bullet will leave the gun at the same angle each time. There’re a few other minor tweaks that have been made, but they can all be summed up by saying that this is one of the most responsive and fun shooters to play I’ve ever played. Whatever changes they made worked to deliver a responsive, reliable, and fun shooting experience.
It’s Dangerous to go Alone…
Uncharted 3, like Uncharted 2, has a fully fledged multiplayer experience. While I highly doubt it will ever become an e-sport, or reach the same prestige as the top shooter multiplayer games do – it is a lot of fun. There are multiple game modes, a leveling system, perks, skins, and all the fun shooter stuff you expect in multiplayer – except it’s uncharted style so you get all of the platforming and action that you can do in the single player – in multiplayer. Some of the levels even have some really unique mechanics – such as one where for the first segment you’re playing on two trains that are traveling side by side which was a lot of fun.
The game does it’s best to make every aspect of it fun and rewarding – you even get minor bonuses for using cover and not dying for a while, etc. All of this adds up to an addictive and enjoyable experience. The multiplayer does have one flaw, and that is that it seems to be a bit punishing to snipers due to the acrobatics and the high action fast pace of the game. Overall, I have to say, that’s a pretty minor gripe.
On the side of the multiplayer, there are also two cooperative multiplayer modes. One is basically a variant on the ‘horde mode’ style – where you play with a few others and have to survive waves of enemies. The other is a cooperative story-mode where you participate in story style missions as a team. Both of which work well with the game and feel like a natural fit.
The game still features the ‘unpredictable jump length’ issue I mentioned in my coverage of Uncharted 1 and 2, where if you are doing a jump that isn’t intended you seem to jump a lot shorter and lower of a distance than if it is an intended jump – which can cause frustration if you are in a situation where you aren’t sure where you have to go but you can see somewhere that looks reachable. The game also still had the little break in reality where your characters could be holding a conversation audibly 5 feet from an enemy without him hearing. Either a LOT of people in the Uncharted variant of Earth are deaf, or it’s just an oversight in the name of having fun banter. I’m guessing the latter, but it kind of broke the illusion. Another aspect that went way past suspension of disbelief was the fact that the enemies intentionally remained in suicidal circumstances in order to continue to attack you despite being seemingly only everyday mercenaries and soldiers. One example: People remained behind in a burning building to delay you so you couldn’t escape it.
The game featured a few AI glitches near the start – right at the start Sullivan bugged out and seemed to be in two places at once – his graphic was in one place, and his body blocked off a different passage – until I went back to get him, then he went through his ai script normally, except the enemy he was supposed to fight during that script was already dead so he punched and kicked for a little while at nothing, and then pushed a shelf over onto nothing. Things like that, not damning to the game, but certainly things that should’ve been caught.
The game also is designed to strongly appeal to completionists offering achievements for using each weapon a lot, for each difficulty, among others – but also adding a ton of collectibles everywhere to find. And to make it even more cool the collectibles now LOOK in the environment like the item they are. No more looking for the little flickering light – now you actually get to see what the item you’re about to pick up is, whether it’s a statue, a ceremonial dagger, a ring, a coin, etc. The collectibles are actually there. Just another one of those little touches that helps so much with the immersion of the story.
Two last minor things worth noting are that for many of the climbing paths they added multiple routes you could take that led to the same place and that the game is fairly short with a campaign lasting around 10-12 hours. Respectable length, and given the quality of the story – not a big deal, but still fairly short.
Uncharted 3 is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had. I enjoyed every minute of it despite the minor ai glitches, suspension of disbelief-breaking moments, and weird jump controls. Nearly every aspect of this game screams ‘polished’ – and it seems like they were so focused on getting everything else perfect that a few minor things just slipped through. Even if you haven’t played Uncharted 1 and 2 – and have no intention of ever doing so – denying yourself the experience of Uncharted 3 would be denying yourself one of the best action experiences you can find in any medium – book, movie, television or game. The game is incredible in pretty much every way. I really can’t write enough to do it justice in a review because I really don’t want to spoil much of the story but it is absolutely one of the best games I’ve played in a long long time.
- Graphics are pretty much the best I’ve ever seen.
- Music is perfect.
- Voice acting is superb and feels very natural.
- Controls are incredibly responsive and intuitive.
- Story is awesome – one of the best among all mediums for the action genre.
- Stealth combat is fun.
- Shooting is accurate and responsive – updates made to shooting from prev game definitely make it more responsive.
- Cinematic aspect of game is amazingly well done.
- Characters feel so real and believable.
- Multiplayer is fun and varied.
- Cooperative modes are a natural fit.
- Collectibles have been graphically improved and now actually appear in the environment looking like they actually do – not just little twinkles.
- Ending is very well done, and ends on a perfect note.
- Some minor AI glitches.
- Jumps are inconsistent in length and height – able to jump much further when making ‘intended’ jumps.
- Game’s length is only around 10 hours.
- Some aspects break my suspension of disbelief, which made certain parts less immersive than they could’ve been.
- Competetive multiplayer feels a bit punishing to snipers and slower-style players.
- If you’re good enough at stealth killing – you may cause the game to bug.
- Hand to hand combat is a bit easy if you just repeatedly alternate square and triangle.
Review Written by: Sean