Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception PlayStation 3
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Naughty Dog
If Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception was a movie it would be a strong contender for movie of the year for its action sequences alone. The action sequences are absolutely top notch and as good as anything seen in the gaming industry to date. Of course you could also have said the same thing about Uncharted 2 and it's only fair to say right at the top of this review that in no way does Drake's Deception manage to surpass the second game in the series. However, it's a real achievement to have simply equalled it in all of its excellent parts and only a slight disappointment that it hasn't really improved upon its precious few weak areas.
This time around Nathan Drake is searching for the lost 'Atlantis of the Sands'. It's a journey that once again has him globetrotting from a public house in the grimy back streets of London to the scorching heat of the Middle East. The environments Drake will find himself in range from the London Underground to a sinking ship in the Middle East combating pirates. If he's not exploring ancient wells Drake is escaping from burning mansions or desperately clinging for dear life to the exterior of an airplane mid-flight. You'll even get to play as Drake when he was much younger and met Sully for the first time. The action comes thick and fast and it's all the more interesting thanks to a story that does hold your interest, even if it's predictable at times. The characters in Uncharted 3 are also worthy of praise with the sinister Marlowe and ally Cutter being the most notable additions. My only disappointment was that Cutter doesn't feature anywhere near as much as I would have liked.
If you've played the first two games in the series you'll know exactly what to expect in regards to the gameplay. It's the same mix of gun-based combat, melee fighting, platforming, puzzle solving, a little stealth and stunning action sequences. Most of this is excellent but there are some areas where there is plenty of room for improvement. The puzzles are pitched just right so as to make you think a little and to make use of Drake's notebook. At times it pays to be stealthy and creeping up on your enemies to take them out with a stealth attack can be really satisfying. The melee combat has been improved somewhat however and is more enjoyable this time around. You now also have the ability to throw grenades back for a few seconds after they have been thrown at you. The platform elements in the game are very straightforward and aren't going to cause anyone any problems. However, there are times when you'll have to move quickly which prevents you from getting too comfortable.
There's an odd contrast in Uncharted 3 between the superb movie-like action sequences and the not so impressive gun fighting sequences in which you face off against a wave of enemies. The action sequences are superb, jaw-dropping even and are simply state of the art for a video game. The gun fighting sequences are actually quite good but soon become repetitive, feel artificial at times and after a while become very predictable. The contrast feels like an example of how predictable games are at times and how unbelievably good they could be in the future.
Practically all of the enemies in the game seem to have this annoying ability to require an unnatural amount of shots to kill them. In fact you could say the enemies in the whole of the series appear to be bullet sponges with their super-human ability to be able to absorb shots to the body and carry on regardless. When you couple this with enemies who are encased in armour (which has to be shot off before you can even begin to inflict damage) it really adds a level of frustration that just shouldn't be there. This has the adverse effect of protracting the battles and making them longer than they should be. In many other games this wouldn't be so noticeable a complaint but when the standards are set as high as they are in Uncharted 3, the poorer aspects of the game really do stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.
Once you're done with the campaign, and it should take anywhere between eight to twelve hours depending on what difficulty level you're playing on, there are plenty of local (split-screen is supported) and online multiplayer options for you to tackle. There are plenty of both competitive and co-operative modes to keep you busy. Personally I found the Co-op Adventure mode to be the pick of the bunch. Two to three players can team up and play through modified story based missions (which have been tweaked to make them more appropriate for a multiplayer environment). Your online persona will gain experience and level-up in addition to unlocking a variety of items and acquiring bonuses such as boosters which can help to add variety to the multiplayer experience. There are nine online modes in all including one entitled Hardcore which essentially strips all players of their boosters, medals and mods allowing everyone to be on an equal footing which is something latecomers to the multiplayer experience will certainly appreciate.
The whole series has been a visual feast and Uncharted 3 is another game that shows what the PlayStation 3 is capable of. That's not to say it significantly improves upon the visuals in Uncharted 2, because it doesn't, but that's more down to the fact that developer Naughty Dog have known for a while now how to get the most out of the PlayStation 3. If you're fortunate enough to have a 3D TV set, you'll be able to enjoy Uncharted 3 in 3D. I can't comment on the quality of the 3D however as I've don't have access to a 3D TV set. The frame rate remains impressive throughout the experience which is excellent given how intense the action can be at times with quite a number of enemies on screen at any one time.
Thankfully, Drake's Deception is subtitled and you'll be able to follow the game's enjoyable storyline. The dialogue in the game's cut scenes and the main dialogue during the main game are both subtitled. There are no speaker names placed alongside the dialogue to help make it perfectly clear who is saying what, but for the most part this won't cause any problems. None of the peripheral dialogue, the comments made by those who you are fighting against and passers-by etc., is subtitled but this isn't problematic in the slightest. Tutorial information is all in text. The game makes good use of icons to convey information. For instance you'll see a grenade icon appear when one is thrown in your vicinity. There's also an icon that notifies you that the grenade can safely be thrown back (if you act quickly of course).
Uncharted 2 was arguably the best game on the PlayStation 3 to date so to say that on the whole Uncharted 3 doesn't manage to improve upon its predecessor is by no means a negative conclusion to arrive at. Sure it's a little disappointing that there's little here that the series hasn't already given us but it's still the highlight of the PlayStation 3's game catalogue in 2011 by some distance. It's a shame that your enemies still have the unnatural ability to be able to take so many bullets and I would have also liked some of the game's more interesting characters to have been present for more of the game but on the whole there's no denying that Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is a first class addition to the series and certainly the best exclusive title on the PlayStation 3 in 2011.