Uncharted 3 review

By Xav de Matos, Oct 24, 2011 9:30am PDT

No other game has halted productivity at the office quite like Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Upon learning the game was idling on a debug PS3 in our demo room, a handful of employees jumped out of their seat to watch the game in action.

There's a reason for that. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception combines the best single-player campaign in the series, with refined competitive multiplayer, and a story-driven co-op mode that ties up some loose ends from the second game in the franchise. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is simply the best PS3-exclusive on the market and one of the finest adventure games ever made.

It becomes obvious within the first three chapters of Uncharted 3 that we really don't know much about our heroes, save for their names and proclivity for quick wit. Uncharted 3 is a story about a hidden city buried deep within the sands of the Rub' al Khali, but it also focuses on the story of Nathan Drake. For so long we've understood the decedent of Sir Francis Drake to be driven by the secrets of his family, but questions about his beginnings were left unanswered: until now. Uncharted 3 delves deep into the history of Nathan Drake and his relationship with his friends and family.

Writer Amy Hennig delivers once again with another exciting script, wonderfully executed by Nolan North and the entire cast. Characters aren't key to the success of the Uncharted series, but they are certainly what brings fans back to the series. Very few games can have me laughing out loud in one moment and on pins and needles waiting to see what will happen next minutes later; Uncharted 3 has that ability.

The story of Uncharted 3 takes players across beautiful vistas as Nathan Drake, Victor Sullivan, and a few more familiar faces venture off in search of a hidden city that Sir Francis Drake and T.E. Lawrence were once on the hunt to find. On their tail is the vicious Katherine Marlowe who believes the discovery is rightfully hers, for reasons too "spoilery" to mention.

Uncharted 3 ramps up the action by throwing harder battles into the mix. On Normal difficulty there were a few spots where I had a tough time navigating the waves of varying enemy types. The game does a good job of balancing adversaries, throwing larger and more difficult baddies in my way to keep me moving. In larger battles, staying behind a specific piece of cover rarely worked.

Naughty Dog's mage-like development team has been able to extract every bit of power available to them and present a world that doesn't only look astounding in a graphical sense, but beautiful artistically. Controls felt as precise as Uncharted 2; but, gunplay felt slightly more impactful. I can't tell if it was the difficulty setting (as I would typically play the game on harder settings, personally) or if the shooting was refined, but there were no complaints about its responsiveness and feedback.

It's difficult to pinpoint highlights of the game without either gushing all over it or spoiling its sequences. Some of the best moments have been shown off in trailers, including an entire chapter that takes place on a plane that is slowly crumbling around you. Sequences you'd expect to be reserved for cutscenes are instead here in playable form, like when Drake soars through the air after being sucked out of a cargo aircraft at a few thousand feet in the air. When I played the sequence I was all smiles, eager to go back and do it again because it was so exciting to watch. When I showed it to the people in the office, the crowded room was stunned silent.

Co-op gameplay allowed three players to play a five-chapter story as a handful of characters in the Uncharted universe. The story in the co-op is an extension of the main game's adventure, but I recommend you play the single-player first, because it reuses locations and it might spoil some surprises. Co-op also ties up some loose ends from Uncharted 2, bringing back key characters to have Drake and Co. face off against. I won't spend any time discussing competitive multiplayer because it's available for you to play right now via a promotion between Sony and Subway. I will say, however, that I'm constantly surprised at how much I enjoy playing multiplayer in Uncharted--especially since its development worried me initially when Naughty Dog announced they were adding it to Uncharted 2. I really enjoy it, and except for some silly Perk-like "Kickbacks," it's something I really enjoyed spending time with.

As much as I'd like to detail every moment the game wowed me, I wouldn't dare ruin any surprises for fans of the series. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is an amalgamation of great ideas crafted and refined by developer Naughty Dog. It may be one of the best new franchises given to gamers this generation: with a combination of great gameplay, fantastic characters, and exciting stories, but that's a question PlayStation 3 owners will have to answer for themselves. After eight and a half hours of the game's single-player, and hours with the co-op and competitive multiplayer, there is little question in my mind: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is a fantastic experience and a game you simply must play.


[The Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception review is based on a final debug version of the game provided by Sony Computer Entertainment. Co-op was played in two online sessions with other journalists and developers from Naughty Dog. Competitive multiplayer is available now via a Subway promotion.]

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