-Shooting takes some getting used to
-On-rails sections aren't that great
Final score: 9.5 / 10
Controller support: Yes
A working PlayStation 3
The Uncharted series is one of the best selling franchises that ever appeared on the PlayStation 3, so you can imagine that expectations ahead of Uncharted 3's release, which happened this week, were extremely high.
Promising to deliver yet another fast-paced cinematic adventure for protagonist Nathan Drake, while also exploring his relationship with companions like Victor Sullivan, or his love interest, Elena Fisher, Uncharted 3 is looking extremely sharp. Add in the cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes, and it's an offer most PlayStation 3 owners won't refuse.
So, is Uncharted 3 another stellar representation of the series or should it be erased from the history books? Let's find out.
Nate explores his relationship with Sully ...
... while facing off against Katherine Marlowe
Story and Concept
While the first Uncharted served to introduce us to the main characters and present their relationships, and the second further explored them while focusing on protagonist Nathan Drake and his love interest, Elena Fisher, none of them actually tried to shed some more light on how Drake ended up with his longtime partner and mentor, Victor “Sully” Sullivan.
Uncharted 3 finally focuses on this aspect, showcasing just how Drake and Sully met, how they started working together, and how they're now trying to survive one of their biggest and most dangerous adventures yet. In the meantime, the narrative also explores the new relationship between Nate and Elena, this time on a more serious note, as well as the Drake's motivation to keep going into these adventures.
It’s pretty safe to say that Uncharted 3 is the most adult experience the series has so far produced. It explores not just all kinds of environments, from London back alleys to French chateaus or Arabian deserts, as well as boats, planes and other such things, but also all the main characters, and finally has non-cliché villain, in the form of the extremely dangerous Katherine Marlowe.
Don’t worry, however, as they’re still plenty of amazing moments and dramatic set pieces that will leave your jaw on the floor better than pretty much any Hollywood blockbuster. Given the length is around 10 to 12 hours, depending on your skill, you’ll also be much more entertained than going to a movie.
While the core concept hasn’t changed, Uncharted 3 delivers a huge amount of polish over the things its predecessors did and succeeded more or less. Virtually all areas have either been tweaked or refined, while others have been drastically improved, all to deliver perhaps the definitive Uncharted experience up until now.
As I’ve said above, while Uncharted 3 doesn’t deliver that big of a leap forward like the second title, it’s all about tiny improvements and little touches that make the experience that much more interesting.
Animations are more precise and filled with smaller touches like Drake raising an arm to steady himself or touching the wall at certain moments. It’s his tired walk that really drives the point home that he’s exhausted and dehydrated in a huge desert, it’s his smaller movements when he tries to climb all sorts of things that show he’s not Spider-Man, and, of course, it’s the little things in cutscenes that make it that much more hard to realize that this is still a game and not a movie.
Given that it’s still an interactive experience, you’ll still engage in all sorts of things, from exploring and climbing to puzzle solving or shooting and brawling. Exploration is pretty much the same as in last games, although I did find that it’s a bit hard to make Drake focus on a certain ledge. As such, when you’re on a chandelier and want to jump to the railing of a staircase, you’ll need to carefully move the left thumbstick until Nate finally shifts his body in a ‘ready’ position.
Levels are extremely varied and quite big even for a linear game like Uncharted, and, just like a true explorer, I’ve often found myself checking out every nook and cranny for hidden treasures. While Uncharted 3 isn’t an open world game, it offers quite a lot of freedom to players, even if it won’t give The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim any serious competition in terms of dialog or quest choices.
The game’s linearity was criticized by some reviewers but I personally like that Uncharted 3 embraces it, because it delivers a quality experience and amazes in quite a lot of moments, even if I know I didn’t have a lot of choice about what Nate did or said through the story.
Puzzles are back and are a bit more numerous than in the first two games, as Drake still needs to resort to his trusty notebook in order to solve a variety of challenges. Some are pretty straightforward but the game isn’t shy about throwing in some pretty difficult ones even early on. If you don’t realize it at first, you’ll be prompted with hints and dialog between characters will soon explain what you need to do.
Shooting is also similar to the first two games, although I have to admit that it feels a bit more tricky than in the second title. Weapons have more varied reticules, from the ever trusty AK-47 to the array of pistols or other rifles, and it takes some getting used to, as each behaves in a different way.
You don’t really have to worry about shooting not being your style, as Uncharted 3 has a drastically improved hand to hand combat system. While it’s not going to compete with the one in the recent Batman: Arkham City, for example, Nate has quite a varied arsenal of moves, ranging from usual brawling skills like punching, evading or countering, to ‘dirtier’ ones, like using bottles or the environment to take out foes, to special moves when he’s behind or above enemies, that are quite spectacular to admire.
While it’s hard to nitpick a stunning game like Uncharted 3, there are still areas where a bit of polish was needed, like the shooting. On-rails sections are probably the biggest offender however, as while the ones in the second game were few and very impressive (who could forget the truck one?) the ones in the third title are a bit too complex.
I’ve often found myself losing them because I was either a bit too fast and the scripted events killed me, or too slow because I didn’t know where to go, resulting in another death. This isn’t an isolated incident as quite few such sections, where Drake runs away from all sorts of dangers, take a bit of trial and error before you actually memorize what you need to do and where you need to do special actions.
Fight in all sorts of environments ...
... and survive against improbable odds
Uncharted 3 overhauled the pretty decent multiplayer mode we saw back in the second title, adding new features, streamlining many existing ones, and generally giving first person shooters like Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 a run for their money.
First up, there’s the cooperative multiplayer, either split-screen or online, which allows players to engage in a sort of Horde mode, called Co-Op Arena, or a story-based mode, in the form of Co-Op Adventure.
The first feels pretty good, as you don’t just need to defend your position against waves of enemies, but also complete objectives like transporting treasure, which amps up the action. The second is even more impressive, as players go through all sorts of scenarios, some borrowed from Uncharted 2, and try to defeat all sorts of enemies while advancing through the level.
Both cooperative modes are a lot of fun and will no doubt keep up to three players extremely entertained throughout their adventures.
We also have a competitive mode which is much more complex this time around, allowing for multiple gameplay modes, including the traditional deathmatch or capture the flag, but also adds extra features like medal kickbacks, which unlock special abilities for you to use, boosters, that upgrade certain powers for a limited time, or gun mods, that allow you to upgrade some of the features of your favorite items.
While the idea of multiplayer may still feel weird to some Uncharted fans, the third game does a proper good job with this mode and will certainly entertain quite a lot of people after the story is done.
Visuals and Sound
Saying an Uncharted game is a beautiful is pretty much stating the obvious, as Naughty Dog polished the extremely sharp graphics we saw back in the second title even more, working on the lighting and the environments to make Drake’s adventures even more graphically impressive.
While jumping from Battlefield 3 on the PC to Uncharted 3 on the PS3 doesn’t do the console game any favors, it more than makes up for the platform’s age and still delivers a beautiful experience that will delight many.
When it comes to sound, Uncharted 3 once again takes the yardstick and moves it further in terms of quality, as the orchestral scores are top notch and awe inspiring, especially when coupled with some of the gorgeous environments.
Voice acting and acting in general is top notch, with Nolan North doing another top notch job as Nathan Drake, while all the rest of the cast, Emily Rose as Elena, Richard McGonagle as Sully, or even Rosalind Ayres as Marlowe, do a stunning job of making the characters feel just like regular human beings interacting with one another. The dialog is also impressive, managing to be witty most of the times, with North’s delivery being spot on, but dramatic as well, when Drake and his companions are confronted with Marlowe.
Use stealth to your advantage ...
... and deliver painful blows to your enemies
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is probably one of the best games ever made for the PlayStation 3, sitting right up top with the likes of God of War III, managing to improve on the already stellar Uncharted 2 with smaller or bigger touches, depending on the area.
While it’s not perfect, with on-rails sequences feeling a bit off, you can’t go wrong with this action adventure title, offering varied gameplay, great visuals, fabulous acting, and more than impressive online modes.