That might sound a little strange, but bear with me for a minute.
It’s no secret in either the gaming world or in Hollywood that films based on video games tend to be pure crap. Ask any gamer to choose a quality theatrical release that got its start as a video game, and he or she will more than likely be hard-pressed to name any serious contenders.
Titles like Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
prove, however, that this question is becoming more and more irrelevant as the gaming industry progresses. Hollywood will always try to cash in on the financial success of video games, but mark my words, Tinseltown will never, ever release a game-based movie that’s as fun to watch as Drake’s Deception
is to play.
Naughty Dog has a masterpiece on its hands here, and despite a few very minor flaws, Uncharted 3
takes its place as the best Playstation 3 game released to date, and one of the best games released on any platform this year.Drake’s Deception
begins as protagonist Nathan Drake and his treasure hunting partner, Victor “Sully” Sullivan work out a deal with the game’s primary villain, Katherine Marlowe. I won’t spoil any more than that, but suffice to say that this is the franchise’s best story yet. Despite being an elderly woman, Marlowe is easily the most convincing villain the series has seen. Her sinister subtlety is far more effective than the menace displayed by past antagonists like Roman, Navarro, Lazarevic or Flynn. Marlowe’s right-hand man, Talbot, is also a wonderfully convincing enemy to face.
Naughty Dog delves into the backstory of Nate and Sully, and inject that story with a surprising amount of depth. The simple fact that some of Uncharted 3’s
most memorable moments don’t always come in the form of action set-pieces isn’t a knock against the game, it’s high praise. The game’s action is hard to top, but a few of the quieter sequences are just as powerful. Just wait for Nate’s sit-down with Marlowe or his stint in the desert.
Purely as a gaming experience, Uncharted 3
shines. At its core, this game feels quite similar toAmong Thieves
. Drake still shoots, takes cover and does a whole lot of climbing. Much of it feels far more refined this time around, though. Specifically, hand-to-hand combat has been revamped, and though it’s not always the way to go in a fight, the brawling system feels exceptionally satisfying, especially after battling and beating a heavily armored enemy.
Shooting has also changed quite a bit since Drake’s last time out, though it might take some getting used to. Naughty Dog community manager Arne Meyer put it best when he addressed some fan complaints following the game’s release:
“In Uncharted 2
the bullets would leave the barrel at a pre-set deviation when you were aimed in,” Meyer said. “What this means is that the bullets would not fire straight out of the barrel all the time - they could come out at an angle. Therefore, you could have a target clearly in the reticule and still miss it by a wide margin. This was frustrating, because it was difficult to tell why you were missing a target.”
“As a result, we wanted to be sure you had a better grasp of whether you were hitting or missing a target. In Uncharted 3
the bullets now fire straight out of the barrel 100 per cent of the time. However, we have recoil - where the reticule moves/bounces as you fire. Therefore, it is easier to tell if you are missing or hitting a target. Now it is much more obvious when you are hitting or missing based on the reticule itself.”
The sensitivity is also much higher, making the proceedings a little more precise. Enemies are faster this time, and the popular AK-47 no longer has the range it once did.
What this all adds up to is this: Uncharted 3
isn’t worse than the previous installment in the shooting department, it’s just different. I’m partway through my second playthrough now, and I honestly prefer this game’s gunplay. The sensitivity is especially difficult to adjust to, but it’s all worth it in the end.
So, hand-to-hand combat and gunplay are better, and the climbing and exploring mechanics are as good as ever. It must be said, however, that the true greatness in Drake’s Deception’s
gameplay lies in the intangibles.
It’s difficult to describe just what makes navigating a burning chateau or escaping from a crashing plane just so cool, but these sequences and so many more are some of the most memorable ever put into a game. I haven’t spoken about the cinematography in too many games before this, simply because games aren’t cinema. Uncharted 3
manages to skirt the line between movie and game, and it does so with undeniable grace.
Therein lies my biggest problem with the game, which isn’t really a big problem to begin with. I often didn’t feel as though I was in control of the action. One of my favorite scenes in the game is a prime example. The crashing airplane has been showcased in a number of trailers, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. The problem is, much of this sequence is heavily scripted. Sure, the player mashes buttons and toggles them when prompted, but many scenes like this felt more likeHeavy Rain
-style interactions than actual gameplay sequences.
That said, a lesser game would’ve relegated stuff like this to a viewable cinematic. Naughty Dog lets us play it, and although I’d like a bit more control over the action, especially as Drake falls from the sky, I’ll admit it: as an Uncharted
fan, I’ve been a bit spoiled over the past few years.
My other minor quibble lies in the game’s tendency to be a trial-and-error affair. All too often I found myself dying and reloading over and over again. The difficulty spikes here are often jarring, and one wrong move can sometimes lead to a reloaded save. A stealth section of the game’s ship graveyard scenario was particularly irritating.
Again, I must stress that all this is minor compared to the game as a whole. This might be the best-looking game I’ve ever played; sand has never been so pretty to stare at. The character models are about as perfect as they could possibly be, and we can thank the game’s approach to production for that.
Drake, Sully, Elena Fisher, Chloe Frazier and other characters in the game were fully motion-captured by the actors who voiced them, and the voiceovers were recorded as they moved. This enhances the filmic quality of the proceedings to a ridiculous degree. If you took away all the details in Drake or Elena’s character models and just showed them moving as stick figures, I could probably tell you which character was being portrayed. Just like in real life, everyone moves and walks differently.
Once the single-player has been played and played again, there’s still a multiplayer component to look forward to. Much of this will be familiar to Uncharted veterans, but Naughty Dog introduces Boosters and Kickbacks this time around. Think of these like Call of Duty’s
Perks. They allow players to customize the experience to their playing style, and are surprisingly balanced considering the option count.
The gametypes here are pretty standard, but I think that’s the point. I doubt this multiplayer will ever be as popular as that of Call of Duty
, but hopefully players give this a second look. It’s too bad the PSN isn’t as robust as Xbox Live, because a better framework would definitely support Uncharted 3
. There are so many character customization options and unlockables in this game’s multiplayer that it’s tough to not get addicted to the mode.
There’s also a cooperative mode, which can be played in both offline and online setups. As someone who doesn’t utilize the PSN much due to Internet limitations, the ability to play co-op locally is much appreciated. I also noticed that Uncharted 3
allows competitive split-screen play using two PSN profiles on the same television. This isn’t offered in many games on the PS3, and I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate this addition. I don’t want to see split-screen gaming go the way of the dodo, but a variety of recent titles have seen this mode inching closer to that fate. It’s good to see such a high-profile title supporting the option.Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
is absolutely a must-play. I haven’t heard the term “system-seller” in quite a while, but this game defines it. There hasn’t been a better time to pick up a Playstation 3, especially considering all the other highly rated titles that have dropped this year. Drake’s Deception
stands above all of them.