Uncharted as an intellectual property has been the 'jewel in the crown' for Sony and their stable of great PlayStation exclusives. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves were well received critically and financially. So undoubtedly there was a metric ton of hype for Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. With so many games coming out right now, I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Should I buy into the hype? Do I need to get this game?"
The answer, in a word, is yes. Uncharted 3
blew me away. The game kept me off balance the entire way, delving
deep into character development and taking Drake in a new direction. Uncharted 3 is not just a prettier Among Thieves hitting
the same tired plot points. Without spoiling anything for you, the
story focuses harder on relationships between individuals. As the
characters are further developed and the consequences of those their
decisions really carry weight and emotion. It's a credit to the
storytellers at Naughty Dog that there is such dynamic relationships
between Nathan Drake and his supporting cast.
The Uncharted games have some of the best writing; the witty and funny banter that takes place in and out of cut scenes, along with Drake's great monologue is a staple of the series and the magic has not been lost in Drake's Deception. Dialogue is facilitated by the exceptional voice acting, which is another staple of the Uncharted series. All of the cutscenes are acted out in a studio by the actors which, along with the chemistry they've developed from working together, brings the script to life. The script is delivered just right and that makes the entire game feel more organic. None of the lines come off flat or forced. Amy Hennig deserves tons of praise for her direction on this game.
The world is beautifully detailed with sharper textures, detailed particles, and amazing bloom effects.
The platforming and cover system work together to allow you to traverse
the levels while moving from positions of cover. Drake
transitions in and out of these animations with wonderful fluidity and
at the same time feels more solid and grounded than ever before. This is
mainly because of the amazing job done by the animators. Abrupt
changes in direction require a person to plant their foot and push off
like in real life and Drake now moves in a way that really conveys that to
the player. It all makes Nathan Drake a more believable character.
I've done nothing but wax poetic on Uncharted 3 so far, but I had minor frustrations in a couple areas traversing the obstacle courses that are Uncharted levels. At times the camera would move to an angle that messed up my jump but that was rare. The gunplay could use a bit of a tune up as well. I had to jack the sensitivity up really far in order to get close the level of responsiveness that works for me in most third person shooters. While I'm sure Naughty Dog will be improving shooting mechanics through an update it is definitely the weakest part of game, but it is not anything close to broken. Even with these very minor issues, the gameplay experience is exceptional.
Level design is obviously a huge part of the success for a game like Uncharted and Naughty Dog has really cranked it up. One of the levels features an ocean bay that looks more like a graveyard for retired sea vessels. The rusting ships pitch up and down over the ocean swells as Drake navigates his way to a huge cruise liner converted into a modern day pirate ship. Where before it was more about going through each level guns
blazing, a lot of areas were laid out in a way that allowed me to get
into positions where I could take out enemies with stealthy melee attacks. Melee combat is one area that has received a welcome update. The improvements allow for action movie-like fights to take place with timed counters and even the ability to grab and then shove enemies strategically.
As in Among Thieves,
multiplayer is back and all of the single player mechanics translate
perfectly. Players can still navigate the maps just as they would in
the single player campaign. Wall hanging and climbing out of normal
line of siight still allows opportunities to drop unwary opponents or
get to specific areas in co-op games. This creates intensely
competitive matches that force you to watch your back at all times and
allows for dynamic co-op play, since the game engine lends itself to
flexibility in level design. You'll
find better competitive multiplayer experiences out there but the co-op
games are really good fun. Although the single player is the main
feature for Uncharted 3, there's certainly enough in the multiplayer
experience to keep you coming back if you want to play with a couple
friends... or strangers for that matter. Uncharted 3 is easily the best game I have played this year, and I have played quite a few. It's not just a video game, but an experience. The gameplay and presentation culminates into something that is sort of like video game nirvana. It's brilliant, beyond brilliant really. Naughty Dog has created another gem, firmly asserting Uncharted's position in the pantheon of legendary video game series. Until another game supplants it, Drake's Deception will be the game that all other games are measured against. It really is the complete package.