Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (PlayStation 3)
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Genre: Action-Adventure, Third Person Shooter
Release Date: November 1, 2011
It’s finally here, the next installment in Naughty Dog’s award winning Uncharted series. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception will take you around the world with treasure hunter Nathan Drake. Be prepared for action, suspense, and lots of one-liners as you search for the fabled “Atlantis of the Sands”. Once you start playing, you won’t be able to stop!
The game starts off with a quote from T.E. Lawrence that Nate narrates as the camera begins pan onto him and Sully as they walk down the streets of London. When they finally arrive at their destination, they encounter an old ‘friend’, Katherine Marlowe, who wants Nate’s ring. She claims that she was the one who deserves the ring and the secrets it holds. Nate soon discovers that his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake, was sent on a secret mission to find the “Atlantis of the Sands”, and that Nate’s ring is the key to finding it. Nate and his friends decide to partake on yet another quest of global treasure hunting.
The story focuses on the father-son relationship that is shared between Nate and Sully. It explores unanswered questions about both of their pasts and shows why they continue to go on these life threatening adventures. Chloe and Elena do return, but aren’t featured as prominently as they were in the last game. A big difference this time around is the approach the villains take in opposing Nate. Unlike the previous antagonists, Marlowe and her mysterious organization use psychological tactics in order to instill fear into Nate and his friends.
What I really like about Naughty Dog and the Uncharted games is that not all of the story is spoon fed to you. They leave some spots open to your interpretation to create your own conclusions about small elements in the story. For example, they never explain how a certain set of creatures guarding the treasures got there; they leave it up to your imagination. These open areas of story are not exactly plot holes since you can basically infer how and why these beings were there.
Uncharted 3 has the best graphics I have ever seen on the PS3. Naughty Dog has really set the bar once again with their ability to craft such crisp, realistic graphics. All of the character models look so life-like to the point where there are scenes in the game that make you feel like you are watching a live action movie. Small features like the physics between the characters and the environment, such as Nate’s arm catching on fire, the sand blowing onto him, and the water dripping off of him, show how realistic the game is.
The environments are so vivid and contain the smallest details. One scene that takes place at a chateau has a jungle surrounding it. As you move through the jungle, the light from the sun sends sparkles through the creek. The trees surrounding you are green and lush, with moss even gathering on some rocks. The scenery just wants to make you stop and look at it for awhile to take all of it in. Another breathtaking area was seeing the sand dunes in the desert glimmering in the sun, while wafts of sand breezed right by you. The transition from gameplay to cutscene is so seamless you cannot even tell if you’re still controlling Nate.
One problem I did notice was that sometimes the textures took time to load. This is just a minor flaw though they are usually loaded before you start a level, and when they aren’t it only takes a few seconds for them to load.
Naughty Dog brings back the cinematic and orchestral soundtrack that makes this series unique and gives you the feeling that you are on an adventure yourself. During chase scenes the music is very forceful and exhilarating, making you scan for what pathways to take next as the enemies are yelling at you. This combination makes you feel as if you’re really in the game. On the opposite end, if you’re walking through a temple, the music will be much more calm and relaxing. It invites you to just take things slowly and admire how grand everything feels. From starting up the menu with the already timeless classic of Nate's theme to the epic Arabian vocals and instruments booming at you, Uncharted's music is amazing and keeps you enticed throughout the whole game.
The voices from the characters also differ depending on which way Nate is facing them. If your far ahead of your partners, their voices will actually sound muffled. If you’re exploring a cave you can hear the echo’s vibrating of the walls. It is also enjoyable to hear all of the banter Nate makes between his comrades. All of the noises implemented for the weapons and explosions are top notch as well. The small details in the environment like birds chirping, water pouring in a spring, and wood burning really set the tone for the different settings. The only thing that felt weak was the enemy's sounding too generic and repeating phrases, but this doesn't really matter much when all the sound effects in the game make up for it.
The core gameplay has not changed too much from the previous Uncharted games. You still have the basic cover system and run-and-gun style for your choice of attack. A small but helpful improvement is the ability to throw back grenades. When a grenade lands next to you, a little gauge will pop out right above it. If you press triangle right when the little meter hits the white zone of the gauge, you will throw the grenade back to the enemy. This means in dire situations an enemy’s grenade could be your savior!
A drastic improvement that has been made is to the melee combat. Right from the start, the game teaches you how to effectively use your melee skills. The square button is used to begin your attack, but now your opponents can counter attack you in the middle of your combo. By pressing triangle at the right time, you can counter their attacks similar to Batman: Arkham City. Some new features that have been added are grabs, weapon steals, and unique death animations.
The grabs allow you single out an enemy and choose to throw them or continue attacking them. Sometimes this will lead to Nate stealing their weapon. Weapon steals occur when you do not have a long gun or handgun, and you begin to melee the opponent by grab or by attacking. Nate will punch the enemy and grab their gun as it flies through the air, allowing you to use it right away.
The last improvement to melee is the special death animations that can occur when you are near an object or part of the environment. For example, when Nate is fighting in the pub, he will reach for the bottles on the tables and smack the opponent with it. If you’re near a window he will throw them out, or if you’re closer to the wall, he will grab them by the head and smack them into it. There are so many different outcomes that can occur during the melee combat that you will be trying to figure out each possible way to finish your enemy in style. There was one that I personally enjoyed, where you slap an enemy in the face with a fish in slapstick manner.
One negative in the gameplay is the controls, at least when it comes to aiming during the campaign. Before, aiming felt freer and you were able to move the gun in a circular motion, now aiming feels like you are more restricted. We tested this out ourselves and noticed that you cannot make a circular motion with the sight on the gun, but more of a square movement. This does get in the way when you are trying to aim from a far distance and you cannot focus on an enemy. Luckily, Naughty Dog is planning on fixing the aiming as they noticed themselves that it feels a bit clunky. You do get used to the controls the longer you play the game, but the current controls make it easier to abuse the blind fire and run-and-gun mechanic.
The traversal gameplay has very little changes; Uncharted 2 had already drastically improved this mechanic from the original title. The platforming and scaling follows the same formula, to get around certain areas you will need to climb and jump around obstacles. This is what gives Uncharted its action and adventure aspect rather than just being a shooter. The puzzles return and they seem to be much harder, yet more enjoyable then the past puzzles. To figure out the puzzles you still have to look at your trusty journal to find clues to solve them, and some are so crazy, but rewarding to do. There was one we personally loved that involved you moving some sort of light pole to a certain spot on the floor to create shadows that when aligned correctly allowed you to advance.
Another difference in the gameplay is how the controls and mechanics seem to differ from online multiplayer just a little. Extra features used in the multiplayer such as a sprint button, and faster movement for aiming are not implemented into the campaign.
The single player campaign on your first run through will probably clock in at about 7 to 8 hours if you’re playing on Normal. This is slightly shorter than Uncharted 2, but it’s not necessarily bad. You still can look for all 100 treasures hidden throughout the levels of the game. It really becomes quite addicting since the treasures are easier to see and it’s fun to explore the levels. Crushing mode is also unlocked right after you beat the game on any difficulty. If you’re looking to complete the trophy list, you will have your hands full with some hard trophies to obtain. Some features that are missing though are the ability to choose what guns you want to use, during single player, after you have beaten the game. The cut scene viewer and other standard bonus features from the previous Uncharted games are missing as well. Naughty Dog has stated there is a possibility some of these will come back in a later patch, but it’s too soon to tell what they could add.
Of course, the single player is not the only thing left for you once you have beaten it. Uncharted’s signature multiplayer makes a big comeback. Instead of using money as the main source for leveling up, the system now uses an experience bar. Each time you complete a match you will gain experience depending on how well you performed. The cool thing is it is easy to level up and you will feel a sense of satisfaction since every level rewards you with something new to use for your characters. This can range from unlocking weapons or new characters to new kickbacks and boosters available for purchase. This is where things get really cool.
Boosters make a return, but now each one can level up. Depending on what level they are, they can grant you extra abilities to use besides the basic starter one. Each of the boosters level up by earning specific medals during matches while they are equipped. Boosters have a wide variety of effects like making you heal faster, letting you see power weapons, making you silent, or, a personal favorite, giving you a grenade to pop out of you upon your death. Kickbacks on the other hand are sort of like kill streaks in Call of Duty, but they work a bit differently. In order to use a Kickback, you must earn the required amount of medals during a match. Kickbacks grant you certain powers that last for a short time, but can give you a comeback if used correctly. One allows you to spawn a rocket launcher to surprise your foes when they think you’re done for. It really is fun trying different combinations of boosters and kickbacks that complement each other.
There are unlockable guns as well that are obtained by finding treasures during your matches. Treasures are sometimes dropped when you get a kill or if you find a treasure chest. Just like in single-player, there are a lot of treasures to collect. They encourage you to try different game modes since some can only be obtained by playing in a specific game type. The weapons that are unlocked from treasures are especially cool since they are guns that past heroes and villains have used. You can get guns like Drake’s Ak-47, Sully’s Arm Micro, Marlowe’s M9, and much more. Another cool little feature is adding weapon mods to your guns to increase the accuracy, reload speed, blindfire accuracy, scope, and more. You can only have one mod added to a weapon, but they can definitely make the difference when you are face to face in a firefight.
Besides customizing your loadout, you can also create your own custom character. You can buy clothing for them, change the clothing colors, give them an emblem, and change their voice. If you use one of the pre existing characters like Nate, there is not much you can change besides their clothing color or adding a specific item onto them. The multiplayer has a variety of different modes to play in. There is Team Deathmatch, Plunder, Team Objective, Three Team Deathmatch, Free for All, Hardcore, and the Co-Op gametypes. Team Deathmatch is the same 5 vs 5 gameplay from Uncharted 2, but now there is the inclusion of Power Plays and Overtime.
If utilized correctly, the Power Plays can help a losing team make a comeback. When a team is winning by a significant amount of kills, the losing team will be given a Power Play. The losing team will receive limited time boost, like double damage, seeing all of the opponents, or one of the opposing team members gets marked. These all make the winning team easier to kill, but once the losing team catches up to the amount of kills or time runs out on the Power Play timer, the Power Play will end. These may sound unfair, but they are actually quite balanced. The matches get faster paced during a Power Play, and if your winning team works together they can actually avoid letting the losers catch up. Of course, Power Plays also benefit the winning team by giving them extra cash and experience for each kill they make, and in certain cases, you get medals as well that will go to your Kickback. Overtime is when both teams end up with a close enough score, like 49-50 kills, and a few minutes are added to the timer.
The new mode that stood out for us was Three Team Deathmatch which involves three teams of two players each fighting to get to 15 kills first. This mode is especially fun since it’s just you and your friend doing your best teamwork. Another really cool part of multiplayer is the Co-Op game types, specifically the Co-Op Adventure. There are six different stages in Co-Op Adventure and up to 3 people can get together and tackle them. What is really neat is that each stage has a little story in it, complete with voice over and banter that the single player campaign has. These side stories show ‘what if’ moments like Eddy, Flynn, and Lazarevic working together or Nate and his team looking for lost treasure. During these stages you and your two partners must work together and defeat each wave of enemies to get to the next objective. Sometimes you will have to grab a treasure and return it to a certain spot, or protect an NPC from getting killed. These Co-Op Adventure stages also have four different difficulties and the higher you play, the more money and treasure you will receive. Uncharted 3 allows for split screen and LAN multiplayer as well.
As expected, Naughty Dog has created an absolute masterpiece with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. An engaging story filled with beautiful set pieces, lovable characters, shocking twists, and old school adventuring. Not to mention the overhaul to the multiplayer and sheer amount of customization make it a blast to play. The minor flaws mentioned are easily permissible and hardly even get in the way. This game is a must have for any PS3 owner who wants to see the system pushed to its limit.
Review by SageMode and Kidamnesiac8