Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
If you ask me what I found the best game in the last five years, I would probably answer Bioshock, Irrational’s groundbreaking underwater experience, or Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Naughty Dog’s almost perfect mix of action, adventure, puzzling, comedy and unforgettable characters. In other words: the bar is raised sky-high for successor Drake’s Deception…
While Uncharted 2 immediately blew your socks off with a breath-taking intro level, in which you had to climb through a derailed train that was about to fall into a ravine, Drake’s Deception starts off a lot slower.
Nathan and Sully dive into a dark London pub to make an exchange with shady underworld figures. When the deal goes wrong, both gentlemen end up in a wild bashing party that immediately serves as tutorial. Immediately the improved melee combat gets noticed: Drake responds better, he has more moves at his disposal and can now also make use of the surroundings. You can for instance bash beer bottles on someone’s head or even throw him out of the window. Contrary to its predecessor the hand-to-hand combat this time remains useful throughout the entire game.
We have to wait until the sixth chapter before we find the first true “wow”-moment which is set in an early modern French castle. By then you’ve been playing about two to three hours. After Drake has shot and puzzled himself a way to the heart of the chateau a couple of hoodlums set the place on fire. You need to escape while the fire slowly but steadily turns into a true inferno. Walls and ceilings come down, flames and smoke block your way, but in the end Drake of course manages to save himself. The first adrenaline rush of Uncharted 3 is a fact and the rest of the campaign contains many more; the citadel, a sinking ship during a storm, a Living Daylights-like plane fight. The slow start is quickly forgotten.
And once the train is off, there’s no holding it back. Drake’s Deception turns into the well-oiled gameplay machine the series is known for. The cover-based shootouts are still challenging without becoming frustrating. The various pistols, machine guns and shotguns have punch and react perfectly on your input. Next to that Drake can also have some fun with grenades which contrary to other games can be thrown very intuitively and accurately.
The puzzles Drake gets in front of him are more challenging than in the previous part. There’s for instance a very memorable one in a room filled with poles on which iron pieces of a statue are located. To solve it you ned to shine with a torch on a couple of pieces from a certain angle in order to create a specific shadow.
Despite the increased difficulty of the puzzles you still don’t require an IQ of 150 or above to solve them. And if you don’t immediately see the solution, your partners will give you some tips. These hints are often too easy and are given a bit too fast in my opinion. This makes part of the challenge go away. If you take too long for a puzzle, the game will suggest to give away the answer, like some sort of in-game GameFAQs.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a true pleasure for eyes and ears. The beauty of the game is almost undescribable. The design and level of detail are fantastic, the game is filled with color, the animations are life-like and the framerate remains the same even with all the visual beauty. And the special effects are truly unequalled. Never before have water, sand and fire been shown so realistically. The developers say they looked for a challenge. Well, “challenge won”, I would say.
The game is also supported by the solid soundtrack by Greg Edmondson, again with the magistral Nate’s Theme in the lead. Nolan North (Nathan Drake), Claudia Black (Chloe Frazer), Emily Rose (Elena Fisher) and Richard McGonagle (Victor Sullivan) can fight amongst themselves who should get the trophy for best voice acting of the year. The bring their dialogues, whether they’re funny or serious, with such feeling and timing that you immediately believe the characters.
When the storyline after about twelve hours is finished, there’s still quite a lot to do in the co-op and competitive modes. The latter can be played in about a dozen ways including classics like free-for-all, team deathmatch, plunder (CTF) and king of the hill, but also more exotic modes like 3-team deathmatch and chain reaction (where you need to conquer zones in a specific order). Also the co-op (in teams of two players) can be played in various ways. In adventure co-op you get to go through specially adjusted singleplayer levels from Uncharted 2 and 3. Co-op arena has you survive ten rounds, and in co-op hunter a team tries to steal treasures while the others are hunting them. The hunters also get the support from some AI soldiers.
What makes the multiplayer so addictive isn’t the wide variety of game types or the populated servers, but the extensive experience system. Just like in f.i. Call of Duty you unlock more powerful weapons as you increase your level. Uncharted 3 however also has ‘boosters’. These are comparable to perks but have one big advantage: they also rise in level and become more powerful as you use them more often.
Next to that there are also ‘kickbacks’, some sort of one-time boosts you can earn by scoring medals. Summing up all other possibilities from the multiplayer (personal loadouts, a buddy system, bets,…) would have me pen down a few more pages, but in the end it comes down to this: fans of multiplayer in third-person can now choose another game basides Gears of War.
If you judge Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception on its merits you see a total package: a singleplayer filled with excitement and with more heights than the average mountain area, and an immersive multiplayer with endless options, all drenched in a phnenomenal audiovisual presentation that’s worked out up to the smallest details. Still I can’t say Uncharted 3 is better than the previous one. The game in the end does little new, the tempo sometimes stalls and also the storyline doesn’t manage to reach the same level as in the predecessor. But when that predecessor is Among Thieves, you can hardly count that as a downpoint. As make no mistake: Drake’s Deception is one of the best games of 2011.