Sunday, November 6, 2011

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

While Uncharted: Drake's Fortune may have felt like a rough start for the franchise, Among Thieves was able to take the concepts to the limit and pull off the feel of a big budget movie spectacularly, simultaneously raising the bar to a near impossible height. I wasn't quite sure at first if Uncharted 3 would be able to live up to the expectations, but I am proud to say that, thankfully, it does.

As one would expect, the action begins right off the bat, although instead of climbing up a train we have Nathan in an extended barroom brawl. It is in the first scene that we meet Katherine Marlowe, possibly the best and most memorable antagonist out of all three games. Whereas Drake's Fortune revolved around the diary of Sir Francis Drake and Among Thieves used information regarding the lost fleet of Marco Polo, Drake's Deception has a centuries-old artifact used to aid in locating the city of Ubar, also known as the Atlantis of the Sands. What follows is an amazing journey across the world, from France to Syria, and plenty of mystery surrounding secret organizations and ancient myths made real.

However, the main focus in the story is more about human interaction. While we do see Nathan and Elena keep their romance alive, Sully and Drake take the spotlight, including a great look at their origin story that reveals exactly who they were twenty years ago. As the story unfolds, we see just what lengths they are willing to go to in order to help each other out as well as just how much they care about their survival.

Along the journey, the number of amazing set piece moments I witnessed was truly remarkable. If you've seen any summer blockbuster, you'd be able to recognize one or two memorable scenes, which this game completely outshines by throwing in as many as possible that still manage to contribute to the story. On top of this, Naughty Dog managed to improve the graphics to the point where I had to remind myself on occasion that I was playing a video game. The physics that accompany them are also well done on their own, making the locales all the more realistic.

The gameplay for Uncharted 3 is also improved well, but also steps back a little. Melee combat feels more natural thanks to the variety of moves Nathan now has at his disposal, which allows it to feel more like a viable method of taking out enemies than relying almost exclusively on gunfire. The gunplay on the other hand, while still relatively good, is another story. The dev team added a few more frames to his running animation that, while impressive, make it more difficult to aim while trying to run-and-gun. Still, the level design is very well done and platforming felt better in a much more subtle way, such as being able to reach for a ledge. The puzzles were also very clever and creative, which is a good thing considering they make you think a little harder about what you're doing.

While I did like the game overall, there were a couple of levels that stood out, if only because the rest of game was done so well. One in particular is the gunfight in a pirate graveyard, which has you surrounded by a seemingly never ending assault while highlighting the swimming mechanic. The section may have been easier if this was better implemented, but it did me no good, forcing me to jump from boat to boat and simply lie in wait to better line up a shot. The only other section that felt annoying was a desert level later on that had similar problems, except whatever challenge might have come from firing almost blindly turned to frustration as I anticipated specific enemy placement.

Uncharted 3 is an excellent example of what can be done not just with the PS3's tech, but also within the realms of storytelling. While I was eventually able to figure when certain gameplay moments would occur in a somewhat formulaic fashion, it was still good fun. What really got me through though was the fact that I was able to feel for the characters. I began to question as the game went on whether or not they would be able to make it out alive or even if the game would have a happy ending. This is a PS3 title that shouldn't be missed.

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