GAME NAME: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
DEVELOPER(S): Naughty Dog
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment
PLATFORM(S): Playstation 3
GENRE(S): Action Adventure
RELEASE DATE(S): 11-1-11
Uncharted 3 is a masterpiece. Naughty Dog has created an amazing game that reaches, and even surpasses, the high bar they set for themselves. The beautiful artwork, gigantic set pieces, soulful music, and adrenaline induced scenes make this game far and above most others today. Just when I thought that this game had shown me everything it had to offer it pulled the camera back and whispered softly into my ear “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Uncharted was right, no matter how much I play this game I have not seen nothing yet. Once the campaign is over Uncharted offers you an extremely robust multiplayer experience that has kept me hooked since the games release, and way before if you count the Beta and Subway promotion. Everything in this game works towards the goal of being the best damn adventure game you could ever buy.
The game kicks off with a sprawling bar fight that hits you in the face with the changes they have made to the combat. No longer is brawling just jamming on the square button with an occasional triangle counter. This time around you end up fighting multiple enemies at the same time with grabs, punches, and counters. Plus the environment plays a huge role in combat this time. Punch a guy into a wall and enjoy tenderizing his gut. Alternatively, if you are near a table Drake just picks up that wrench and forcefully fuzes it to a thugs skull, just from you hitting on the square button. All the attacks are contextual based on what is around you, how much health the enemy has, how fast you are running, and what gun you are holding. All of that combined leads to some crazy fist fights that will have your heart pumping, especially when you get to the big guys. “Big Guys” are sort of a class of their own, the game even changes the way you play while you are fighting them so that you can focus on the guy that could kill you with his big toe. You are then given a sort of one-on-one encounter in a desperate attempt not to die. It is little things like a focus change or a contextual frying pan that really take the combat in Uncharted from kinda fun to a useful and fun alternative to shooting.
Even though punch outs are a viable choice to conflicts you will still spend quite some time shooting in this game. There have been some complaints that the gun play has been “changed” somehow and this seems very true in the single player campaign. There were several times where I felt that I had the shot but that something just went wrong. Most of the time though the shooting feels spot on and does not stop you from enjoying the experience. To combat the sometimes wonky shooting Uncharted has the best grenade tossing mechanic ever. There are literally four distinct ways to lay a grenade at an enemies feet. You can blind toss it, hold the grenade button for a perfectly aimed arc, roll by and drop it like it is hot, or aim and then and throw the grenade like a foot ball at the target. You can even grab an enemies grenade and toss it back at them if you time it right, which is very useful sometimes when you are surrounded. All of the guns feel very distinct as well and all seem to serve their own purpose in the sometimes puzzle like combat scenarios. Enemies will come at you in a certain wave pattern that will force you to think on your toes because the baddies are relentless. Multiple times I was pinned down as RPGs were shooting, snipers were aiming for my head, and a big guy with a shotgun was right on me. Thankfully you have so many ways to kill baddies in a fun way that it almost seems cruel to them, but it is oh so satisfying to do. Even with the slight shooting bugginess I always had fun firing every weapon in the game.
What would Uncharted be without some traversal over things large and old? Drake is back with his typical almost missed jumps and super grip. You spend a lot of Uncharted holding on to things and jumping from that thing onto another thing. It is all great, just like the games prior, and never feels boring. Sometimes the camera pulls way back to show you the scope of the thing you are climbing on which is always awe inspiring. It would be very easy for this sort of gamplay to become old quickly but before that can happen you are thrown some interesting scenarios to keep the climbing fresh. I wish there was more to say about the “monkeying around” in Uncharted but not a whole lot has changed. If you played the first two games then you know it is good and if not then let me tell you, it’s good.
Some of the “interesting scenarios” I mentioned about climbing around are not always combat, sometimes they are just cinematic scenes. Uncharted 3 has by far the coolest cinematics in a game to date. Whether the camera is out far or right up on Drake you are always given a good angle and never lose control of the game. Not only are the scenes you are faced with incredible in their scope and scale, it is all done in game where you are in control. Chasing after a moving plane, still in control. Shooting an RPG while riding a horse, still in control. Wandering aimlessly through the desert, yep, still in control. I feel my point has been made that Uncharted always makes you feel like you are in control of the action no matter what it is. Cut scenes, while featuring a bit of action, seem like they are usually saved for talking and not for death defying insanity. My jaw hit the floor on multiple occasions while playing this game and sometimes five of six times within a half hour span. It has been a long time since a game really blew me away with something happening on screen, that I was controlling, but this game did it more times than I can count. I can not praise this aspect of the game to the extent that it deserves it.
Of course all the cinematic flair in the world would be useless without some great graphics to back it up, and back it up it does. To say this game is gorgeous would be a complete understatement. Uncharted 3 has the best and most beautiful graphics in a console game to date. Added to that is the spot on character animations that really make the characters come alive on screen. Watching this game move is a joy to behold, whether it is the sand moving under Drake’s feet or a subtle wink from a character. Everything works together to make the characters seem real and alive.
It is not just the graphics that make the characters come alive though there is also some great story telling and dialogue. Every story point, cutscene, and piece of incidental dialogue is fantastic but I felt like there was not enough of it. There were some pretty heavy underlying tones that got answers but it seemed as though there were some pretty major plot points that just got rushed through. I loved what I did hear but it felt like there was just not enough. Character development was one thing that the first two Uncharted games did perfectly and where this game seems to fall short with some of the characters. It was a major thrill ride and since I have played the other Uncharted games I was able to follow the character dynamics but a new player to the game may feel pretty lost. That is not to say that I did not enjoy every single second of story that there was, it just needed to be more fleshed out.
For those hoping that the Cooperative story mode will bring you the last filling bites of story that you might want from Uncharted, expect to be let down. The Co-op story mode is a blast to play but the story has the same impact of No john, You are the demon. That being said, I have not had this much fun with a co-op game in a very long time. This is like Horde mode with a point, in that you are given multiple objectives to complete all the while pushing forward to the next area rather than just hunkering down in an arena style match. Co-op also offers some extremely interesting and thrilling gameplay like climbing up a building while being shot at from above just to fight helicopters once you ascend the tower. You can also play on multiple levels of difficulty which will offer different pros and cons as well as different treasures. Playing on crushing will offer a huge cash boost and the rarest treasures but is no laughing matter, even though there are clowns. Co-op is a game mode that is a huge amount of fun and would be very hard to get tired of.
Uncharted also offers one of the most fun competitive multiplayer experiences that I have ever become obsessed with. It has the basic modes like Team Deathmatch and Capture the Idol but it does them in such a way that makes every match very dynamic. Your online character is just as good at scaling objects as Drake is and it turns the typical flat arena into a very vertical affair. Plus there is a “buddy system” that is active every time you start a team based match. What the buddy system does is keeps you constantly away of your buddy’s location, their status, and will let you spawn on them if they are not currently being shot at. Some of the other multplayer modes take the buddy system and make it the crux of the entire match, like Three Team Deathmatch or Co-op hunter. Three Team Deathmatch takes six players, breaks them into three teams of two, and then makes you rely on team work to get anything kills at all. Co-op hunter may be my favorite multiplayer mode of all time though because of the teamwork and asymmetrical gameplay in it. Basically you are either the Heroes, whose objective is to capture idols, or the Hunters, who have to stop the hunters from collecting idols. Both sides only have two human players but the Hunters play as a weakened character and are given NPCs to fight alongside them. As the Hunters you are given several different loadout options according to how many metals you have received. As you would expect you get metals for kills but you also get them for pretty much everything else as well, such as running in circles or picking your nose. The longer Co-op hunter goes on the stronger the NPCs become and the more advanced loadouts become available. It is game modes like this that really set Uncharted apart from all the other Multiplayer games out there and what has made me obsessed with it.
Another part of the multiplayer experience that really hooks you is the rank up and collectable system. You gain XP from every kill, metal, assist, treasure pickup, and breath you take. All of the XP becomes cash in your inventory which you can then use to buy the upgrades that you want. What this means is that by only playing for a few hours you can get the character loadout that you enjoy playing with instead of unlocking a bunch of crap you do not want. The other part that keeps you playing for more is the treasure system. Occasionally a treasure chest will open on the battlefield and everyone will make a mad dash for it hoping that it has one of the dozens of treasures in this game used to unlock some of the cooler costumes and such. You never know when a treasure chest appears what it will contain, or if it will actually be anything at all. It definitely scratches that gotta catch ‘em all mentality in my brain and just pulls me back in. I love every part of the multiplayer experience and highly recommend that people at least try it out for the first ten ranks, you will not be disappointed.
In summary Uncharted 3 is my absolute number one game of the year contender. It may not have quite the flash as Uncharted 2 did but by all rights it is a much more expansive and fun game. The only time this game falls short it is because of the super high bar it has set for itself. I can think of no other time that I have been so amazed at what I was seeing happening on screen as I was with this game. The gameplay is tight, the graphics astounding, the multiplayer is fantastic. I only dinged the story because I loved it so much and just wanted more of it. It will be a long time before another game comes along that makes me feel so much for their characters in the way that this game has. Every single factor in this game makes Uncharted 3 the pinnacle of adventure games and a must buy for any gamer.