Uncharted 3 First Look Preview

By Garnett Lee, Dec 17, 2010 6:00am PST The dramatic two-stage reveal of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception left everyone who saw it, self included, with questions. First, the trailer that debuted during the 2010 Spike VGAs showed series hero Nathan Drake next to the flaming wreckage of an airplane, ready to set off into the dunes of a vast desert. Then came the first look at the game in action on the Jimmy Fallon show. It found Drake with his partner Victor 'Sully' Sullivan trying to make their way out of a mansion engulfed in flames as thugs tried to slow them down. What has he gotten himself into this time? To offer a few answers, Sony got together several members of the team at Naughty Dog to present an extended version of the demo seen live on Fallon's show.

Creative Director Amy Hennig explained how Drake wound up in his latest predicament. It began with the team asking themselves what would be really hard to do? They ask themselves this technical question because the challenge spurs them on to their best work. Having done snow in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, sand came up as an even tougher environment to work with. From there they looked for the interesting links, the historic mysteries, which form the basis for Drake's adventures. The legendary Lawrence of Arabia and his search for the fabled lost city of Iram, "The Atlantis of the Sands" as he called it, fit the bill perfectly. Like that, Drake was left to face one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, the massive Rub' al Khali desert on the Arabian Peninsula.

But it's not all sand. Drake takes a globe-spanning journey before winding up there. The game's director, Justin Richmond, described some of the new features of the game, as the demo picked up with Drake and Sully exploring a dilapidated chateau in France. They'd been led there following Lawrence's trail. Before the action began, Richmond discussed the desire to better 'ground the characters' in the environments, leading to the development of "touch points". Exactly like they sound, these spots allow characters to casually interact with their surroundings the way people naturally do--leaning against a post or nonchalantly holding a handrail for instance.

Uncharted is an action game, though, so naturally Drake's adversaries quickly arrive on the scene. They set the building afire, and a mad dash to escape ensues. This affords the ideal opportunity to highlight Drake's improved traversal abilities, such as being able to reach up and behind himself to get up from underneath a ledge. Drake can also now climb on any physics object, opening up the possibility for all number of harrowing situations. The first such move shown was a movie classic: Drake leapt to a chandelier, causing it to start swinging, and then used that motion to propel his jump the rest of the way across a room. Of course the chandelier then crashed to the floor.

This breakneck pace became the theme of the demo. As the building burned and fell down around them, Drake was forced to make one narrow escape after another. I asked Hennig about potentially wearing players down with such relentless action. She said that they're well aware of that potential. Some levels will be all "at 11" while others provide a necessary break in the action. It all comes down to where each fits in with the story, according to Hennig. From there they watch their playtests for player fatigue (among other things) to fine tune the pacing.

Never one to shy away from a fight, Drake faces an ample supply of bad guys on his way out of the mansion. His trigger finger is no less itchy than ever and gunplay appears largely unchanged from the previous game in the series. Hand-to-hand, though, is a whole other matter. Drake gets a fighting upgrade that puts him in good shape to take on a bar room full of opponents with his bare hands. Though the control specifics weren't shown, the results were plainly evident.

Along with punches, Drake packs powerful moves like an uppercut, elbow drop, and headlock. Where it made sense, these moves worked in conjunction with the environment, pinning an opponent against a wall, for instance, before delivering a haymaker. He also picks up new silent takedown techniques that give him options to keep the fighting quiet for a little while before "going loud". In the demo he pounced on unsuspecting enemies from above (I'm calling this move the "flying squirrel"). More similarly stealthy options will be part of his repertoire.

Drake will get ample opportunity to put all these skills to use against a new foe that was described as more insidious than any he's faced before. All that was revealed is that they are an ancient order with a fanatical leader. But, using a little imagination, add a murky opium den here, a misty djinn there, and it sounds like fertile ground for the climax to Drake's adventure. Though they won't want to tip too much, there's sure to be more to see between now and Uncharted 3's November 1, 2011 release date, including details on improvements to multiplayer promised to make it the 'go-to' online game for PS3.

Developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is a PlayStation 3 exclusive scheduled to launch on November 1, 2011.

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