Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception

Info:

Developer/s: Naughty Dog

Publisher/s: Sony Computer Entertainment

Platform/s: PlayStation 3

Genre: Action-adventure, platform

Release Date: 2011-10-28

Review:

In 2006, Naughty Dog released the first Uncharted game, entitled Uncharted – Drake’s Fortune, setting a precedent for action-adventure gaming which the likes of Tomb Raider could never possibly match.  In 2009, the bar was raised even higher with the fantastic sequel Uncharted 2 – Among Thieves, which was awarded game of the year and is to my mind, one of the greatest games ever made and the best of the trilogy.  The first game set the rules, the second built upon that, improving upon absolutely every aspect – game-play, visuals, story-telling and what have you, and now we have Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception.  So what makes the second installment better…?

To make it very clear, Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception is an amazing achievement in terms of gaming, and is a prime example of cinematic gaming done right.  However, the reason why I reckon that the second installment is superior is due to the fact that with Uncharted 3, Naughty Dog have played it safe in that rather than try something new, they’ve essentially used the second game’s ingredients as a template for Drake’s Deception.  Needless to say, this is far from a bad thing as Drake’s Deception is an exhilarating experience (especially in the later levels and one scene involving a plane…), it’s just a shame that the developers didn’t try to raise the bar even further.  Then again, it is rather difficult to top an action scene where one is on a moving train trying to gun down a Black Ops Hind-D with an anti-aircraft turret.

So in Uncharted 3, the man with the incredible grip (he climbs everything) Nathan Drake returns once more with faithful companion and mentor, Victor (Sully) Sullivan as they embark on a quest to find the legendary lost city – The Iram of the Pillars.  Needless to say, much like Uncharted 2 – Among Thieves, Uncharted 3 is a globe-trotting adventure including locations like London, Yemen, Colombia, Rub’ al Khali and the Arabian Peninsula, which nicely contrast the Asian locales of the second game.  Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception has received a multitude of awards as critics praised every aspect of the game, however the title of  ‘Game of the Year’ was snatched from it in 2011 by Skyrim respectively.

The game starts off in a seedy pub located in London, where Nathan and Victor have agreed to meet a man named Talbot who’s interested in buying Nathan’s ring.  However the transaction gets derailed when the pair accuse Talbot of trying to pay them with counterfeit bills and needless to say, this erupts into a bar-room brawl which then escalates into the back-alley variety.  Nathan and Sully are then subdued by one of Talbot’s associates – Charlie Cutter.  After Talbot’s client – Katherine Marlowe, takes the ring, Cutter then guns Nathan and Sully down, supposedly leaving them for dead.  The story then begins with a flashback to 20 years earlier, where a 14-year-old Nathan is exploring a museum in Colombia in search of Sir Francis Drake’s ring (obviously the ring he intends on selling in the present).  The museum is also where Nathan meets the 39-year-old Sully as well as Marlowe.  From here, Uncharted 3 becomes a globe-trotting and gun-totting adventure that further expands on the Uncharted mythos, in spectacular fashion I might add.

As per usual, this third installment of the Uncharted series, boasts some of the most impressive visuals seen in a game, due to impressive motion capture and voice-acting.  Using 2 motion capture studios – a smaller one in their studio as well as a dedicated stage at Sony Studios (responsible for the motion capture and audio), Naughty Dog were able to raise the bar for video-game motion capture, as Uncharted 3 was shot in the same fashion as a major Hollywood production.  It is the reason why Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series is so fluid and realistic.

Uncharted 3 uses an ‘upgraded’ version of the engine they used for the first 2 games, resulting in better visuals, environmental effects, physics as well as environmental deformation.  The game also includes new innovative technology that makes elemental effects such as fire, smoke, water and moving sand (the desert sequences look unbelievable) all the more realistic. Six years down the line, it’s impressive to see what Naughty Dog have managed to squeeze out of the PlayStation 3 hardware,  even though Uncharted 3 is undoubtedly graphically superior to Uncharted 2, the graphical leap is far narrower than between the first 2 games, simply because the developers were unable to push the hardware any further.  When you consider that Uncharted 2 is just below 25Gb whereas it’s sequel hovers in at around 50Gb, if developer’s wish to make ‘bigger and better’ games in the future then we may start to see PlayStation 3 games being spread over multiple Blu-Ray disks.  The PS3 hardware has really been put to the test with Uncharted 3 as players are led from one epic scene to the next.  From escaping a burning chateau as fire creeps up the walls, to wandering around an expansive desert landscape as sun and fatigue threaten to undermine your efforts, Uncharted 3 is a beautiful looking game.  Throw in an Indiana Jones style chase sequence on horseback and a daring escape as players are thrust from an aircraft as the hull tears itself apart and you know you’re in for something special.

So Uncharted 3 has the graphical goods but what about playability? Those familiar with the first 2 games will be well-adjusted for this third entry as the controls are just as responsive and fluid as one would expect them to be.  Apart from the usual run-and-gun game-play, Naughty Dog have taken the time to expand upon the melee combat which now includes a counter system – extremely useful when going up against a wily foe.  Needless to say, quick-time events make a return, but they’re so well-placed and implemented that even the quick-time haters will have to appreciate them.  Once again, various treasure pieces are hidden throughout the entire game, and if you don’t manage to find them all the first time around, they will entice you to play the game through again.  Further adding to the longevity of Uncharted 3, is the online multi-player mode that will keep you playing long after you’ve completed the game, though personally I don’t really care for competitive modes in games as the single-player story experience will always be my primary interest.  At certain sections in Uncharted 3, you will be required to solve puzzles in order to progress the story, though the puzzles themselves are relatively straight-forward logic problems and if you do get stuck one can always check Drake’s journal for clues or, if you’re really stumped or just lazy, after a certain amount of time, a help prompt will pop up, offering to solve the puzzle for you (lame).  One thing that I did find irritating about Uncharted 3 was the difficulty curb.  Naturally as you progress through the game, the enemies become more challenging and better equipped – completely understandable, but when the game decides to place you in a room with minimal cover and multiple bad guys engaging you in melee combat as a platoon of overhead snipers and grenadiers take pot shots at you, forcing you to break from cover (resulting in instant death in most cases), then it just becomes frustrating and absurd.

Much like Indiana Jones, Uncharted 3 has an established main musical theme, instantly recognizable and wonderfully catchy.  From the trademark intro music to the exhilarating action sequences, Uncharted 3 ensures that you feel like you’re the hero in some epic Hollywood film.  But it’s not only the score that makes the game so engrossing.  Uncharted 3 has some of the best voice-acting I’ve ever heard in a game.  Nolan North returns once again to voice Nathan Drake, and as expected the dialogue is as witty and humorous as ever, as Drake comes armed with his usual amount of sarcasm and wry wit as he dishes out the quips left, right and centre.

If for some or other reason, you required further inclination for getting yourself a copy of Uncharted 3, do yourself a favour and track down the Explorer Edition, which includes a Nathan Drake statue, life-size replicas of his belt buckle and ring/necklace (with leather strap), a 3D lenticular image,  Special Edition of the game including the DLC and pre-order bonuses, packaged in an art book, made in the fashion of Drake’s journal.  All these items come packaged in a stylish wooden ‘travel case’ which has space for 19 PS3 games.  Talk about value for money *phew*.

Conclusion

Uncharted 3 has done the series proud and is a worthy addition to any gaming library.  Once again, Naughty Dog have outdone themselves by pushing the PS3 hardware even further to create a near-perfect gaming experience, with some of the best and most cinematic game-play and visuals you will encounter in modern gaming.  Uncharted 3 is the definitive adventure game, and I say that confidently even with the new Tomb Raider on the way (though no Tomb Raider game has come close to Uncharted, so won’t exactly hold my breath), so even though it’s not without its faults, I highly recommend it to anyone whoever wanted to experience an Indiana Jones style adventure.  Get it…get in now.

Grade: S

Uncharted 2 – Among Thieves

Info:

Developer/s: Naughty Dog

Platform/s: PlayStation 3

Genre: Action, adventure, stealth

Vintage: October 2009

Plot:

An artefact found in one of Marco Polo’s lost ships leads fortune hunter Nathan Drake to the Himalayas on the trail of the Cintamani Stone.  But he’s not the only one searching for it.  Hunted by an army of wild mercenaries, Nathan and his allies must risk everything to unravel history’s darkest secret…

Graphics: 5/5 – With visuals that rival Metal Gear Solid 4 (though there seems to be a lot of debate on various online forums as to which game looks superior, even I can’t quite decide) the sequel to the acclaimed Uncharted – Drake’s Fortune is a graphical masterpiece.  It’s not just the lighting, textures or environments that make Uncharted 2 look so amazing (however I do think the textures are superior to MGS4) – the camera angles that the developers

The visuals in Uncharted 2 are amazing, with action scenes that rival any Hollywood film.

incorporated for the action sequences is what makes this game so great to play or even watch.  The complexity of the visuals (fighting on a moving train, chase sequences through the Himalayas or escaping from a Hind D assault) are of Hollywood standards and the experience is so immersive that oftentimes it’s easy to forget that you’re playing a game as opposed to watching a film.  Many players will be pleased to know that Uncharted 2 is almost devoid of quick-time events (apart from certain close-range hand-to-hand attacks), had no noticeable glitching or screen tearing to speak of and it is also one of the few games to use Screen Space Ambient Occlusion.  What makes this game so superior to the first installment is that rather than being isolated to a single island (for the most part), Uncharted 2 is a globe-trotting adventure so Naughty Dog really get to show off their Naughty Dog 2.0 Engine with the myriad of different locations you will find yourself in.

Gameplay: 5/5 – Navigating Nathan Drake though the world of Uncharted is a breeze and somehow Naughty Dog have managed to make an already near-perfect navigation/combat system even better.  As expected, there are a myriad of weapons at your disposal – handguns, rifles, automatic weapons, grenades and so forth, all of which are dead easy to use thanks to the intuitive control system.  Hold down L1 to aim your selected weapon and press R1 to fire, pressing down L2 will ready a grenade and releasing L2 will allow you to throw it.  Press left or right on the D-Pad

The textures and lighting in this game is astounding.

to select your weapon (you can only carry two at a time so choose your weapons wisely) and press down to reload.  As I previously mentioned, you are able to engage in hand-to-hand combat as with the first game as well as sneak up on your opponents and take them out silently Solid Snake style.  Though the enemies can be quite formidable, cranking up the difficulty will reveal some brilliant AI as enemies will try to outflank you or make the best use of the cover offered to them as you attempt to take them out.  There is also an expansive online multiplayer mode as players can partake in both competitive and co-operative modes of play.  Multiplayer includes Death-match, Plunder, Elimination and plenty more.  Once again, various treasures are hidden throughout the game (a total of 100 pieces) which I’m sure all fortune hunters will be happy to search for and once you’ve completed a chapter you are able to go back to it within the menu screen just in case you didn’t find all the hiding places the first time around.  Being an adventure game, needless to say there will be puzzles to solve (which are usually fun) and as always – plenty of climbing.

Characters: 5/5 – With the sequel returns familiar faces as well as some new ones, Nathan, Sully and Elena return and thankfully the original voice actors reprise their roles.  The new antagonist Zoran Lazarevic, a Soviet war criminal is your main rival in the game however newcomer/femme fatale and love interest Chloe Frazer acts as the ‘Cat Woman’ type character whereby you’re never really sure whether she’s trying to kiss you or kill you.  What makes the characters in Uncharted 2 so brilliant is that the voice acting never sounds forced or silly and character interactions are pulled off wonderfully, be it playful banter between Nathan and Elena (which is genuinely humorous) or death threats from Zoran.

Soundtrack: 4/5 – Though Uncharted 2 lacks a truly epic score, the Indiana Jones-style adventure themes complement the game perfectly and no tune sounds out-of-place, creating an immersive atmosphere.

Lifespan: 5/5 – The main game will give you about 12 – 15 hours worth of gameplay and it is a longer, more expansive adventure than the first game and you will want to replay levels in an effort to obtain all of the hidden treasure.  What really adds to the longevity of this game is the online multiplayer mode which can potentially provide hundreds of hours worth of gameplay.

Overall: 5/5 – Uncharted 2 is one of the definitive games for the PlayStation 3, it’s no wonder this game was Game of the Year 2009.  Uncharted 2 oozes style from every pore, though the storyline may seem a bit contrived at times, the graphics, gameplay, presentation and execution of the plot more than make up for this minor short-coming.  This is a fantastic must-have game for every PS3 owner out there.