Review: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

After the monumental success of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, a third game was sure to happen. Two years later, Naughty Dog announced Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and just like any other fan of the series, I was cautiously excited. The bar set by the second game was very high, prompting the big question that’s been hovering in our heads since – could the third game in this epic trilogy possibly top the second?

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

It’s good to be back!

Drake’s crew is back and this time around it’s a bit more personal. The game once again revolves around Sir Francis Drake, Nathan Drake’s ancestor. The story starts with Drake and Sully meeting up with Talbot (one of the antagonists) to do a trade with Sir Francis Drake’s ring for a huge lump sum of money. The trade goes sour and after a quick introduction of the improved melee system for the game, we are introduced to the true villain of Drake’s Deception, Catherine Marlow, who has a strong resemblance to actress Helen Mirren. Believe it or not, she is actually the best villain to have come out of the series.

Sir Francis Drake’s ring is said to be a key to unlocking one of Drake’s secrets. A flashback happens showing a very young Nathan Drake stealing the ring from a museum 20 years ago. Not only does it show the importance of the ring, it also shows the other focus of the story, the relationship with Drake and Sully. A bromance if you will, rather than the common relationship between Elena and Drake from the last two games. Sully is considered a mentor or a father figure to Nathan Drake and during his attempt to steal the ring, you witness Drake and Sully meeting for the first time. Not too dramatic, but it was great to see how it all started. The third game greatly expands what we know about Drake, a welcome touch.

As expected from an Uncharted game, the story is good, worth experiencing in its ten-hour duration. But this time around, something is a little off. The pacing of this game is completely different from its predecessor. In Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, everything that was happening on-screen was perfectly paced from start to finish. All I had to do was just absorb all the epic moments happening before me. In Drake’s Deception, there were parts in the story that made me go “Wait, why?” I won’t mention the specifics in order to keep the review spoiler free, but some scenes just felt unnecessary, or felt added just for over-the-top scene that came with it. I still came out satisfied with the story. But one thing’s for sure; you can clearly feel the developers’ self-inflicted pressure to outclass their second game.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Decepiton

If you’re worried about polish, don’t be. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception’s production value is just what we expect from Naughty Dog these days. The motion capture and voice acting are superb. The cinematic feel which makes the game different from others is spot on, plus you can sense a bit of maturity in the characters. Nathan Drake is still the smart-ass treasure hunter with a say about everything around him. Sully is still that guy you can always count on and Elena Fisher is charming as ever. You can tell something obviously went wrong between Drake and Elena in between games two and three, so I like that the devs play around with that and hint at it throughout the story. Chloe from the second game makes an appearance, but sadly, hangs around for only the first half of the campaign. So does the new character Charlie whom I started to like too.

Uncharted wouldn’t be Uncharted without those epic moments and Drake’s Deception delivered on that front. The third has the best ones in the series and can still make your jaw drop. If you think the featured cargo plane scene was epic, wait until you play through the ending part of the game. I had such a huge smile when it ended. That last part of the game literally pushed the PS3 to its limits. These moments defy the Uncharted series, and it’s good to see that after three games, the epic plateaus just get better and better.

The gameplay is still the same with a few tweaks. The climbing system doesn’t have much of a change but is still easy to grasp and is satisfying. As you climb around buildings, ruins, and burning chateaus, it was easy to figure out where exactly to go and not once did I find a bug that ruined the experience. The fact that the climbing was easy allows the player to pay more attention to what Drake is going through and enjoy it. When Drake is near certain death, the simplified controls allow you to maneuver him through the stage quickly, allowing you to focus on survival.

Another two core components of Uncharted 3’s gameplay are the cover and shooting systems, which stay somewhat the same. The cover system is simply one button to either get into cover, or maneuver yourself around the environment to keep yourself safe. The shooting is like any third person shooter, with L1 to aim and R1 to shoot. The aim for the third is said to be completely different for the worse, but I honestly had no issue with it. It’s not even a real issue anymore, since Naughty Dog quickly responded with a patch to improve the aiming.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Brawling 3.0

Melee has been greatly improved in this installment. When engaged in melee combat, the game slows just a bit for you to react and do a counter or a dodge against the enemy. Depending on the situation, every time you counter-attack, Drake will do something entirely different. Press the button when told to do so and if the enemy has a grenade in his pocket, Drake will pull the pin and push him away. When near objects like beer bottles or other objects, pressing the melee button will automatically make Drake make use of it to get the upper hand. Enemies can also two man you (one holding you down) but can easily be taken care of if you pay attention. It a lot more dynamic compared to how it used to be. You can tell they wanted melee to be just as exciting as everything else in the game. They seem very pleased with the improvements and pit Drake into six-on-one situations a lot, forcing the player to use the improved system.

There are puzzles in the game that prove as sort of an icebreaker from all the action in the game. They are quite clever and really make you pause to think about it for a minute. To figure out each puzzle, you are given an option to press Select and bring out Drake’s trusty notebook, which has all the notes needed to solve the current puzzle. All the clues you need are in the environment and on the notes, so all you have to do is think outside the box. Every puzzle has a good balance. Not extremely hard, but clever enough to satisfy you when you’ve figured it out on your own.

You put that all those features together and you get an Indiana jones movie, being played by you. Every element of the game complements each other so well it’s a treat to even watch. In one part you find yourself surrounded by thugs and are forced to brawl yourself out of there, while the next has Drake hanging for his life, trying to climb a rusty boat, but at the same time shooting baddies already at the top. The gameplay never gets dull, but sudden changes in its difficulty scale can surprise you.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

In one part you find an area with a reasonable amount of enemies, and then all of a sudden it feels as if you’re fighting a whole army that starts spawning out of nowhere, catching you off guard. It took some time to deal with that part of the game. After I finished that area, the difficulty all of a sudden went back to normal, as if the devs wanted to make that part a nightmare for the heck of it. It then appears again out of nowhere towards the end. Instead of slowly increasing the difficulty in the game as you progress, you are given this sudden spike of increased difficulty in one area that makes you want to throw the controller out the window.

As I said earlier, this game really pushes the PS3 to its limits. Where the game pushes the console is really in the environments and how many elements are moving at the same time. The best example I can give you is the boat stage, making the whole boat sway as it goes through a storm. Chairs, barrels and other objects (even you) start moving around, which also affects aiming, by the way. Not only did it look amazing, I’ve honestly never experienced a stage like that before. The environments in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception make it one of the best-looking games to hit the PS3. It also performed very well during my first play-through. Not a single frame drop, but I did experience the audio un-syncing from the video a couple of times.  Aside from that, the game ran very well all the way to the end.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Multiplayer

The multiplayer is still around and it’s way better now. There’s a lot more ways to customize your characters now – from clothing, more perks, banners, down to weapon mods. The traditional leveling system of any multiplayer is present and is believed to reach all the way to level 100. So yes, if you get addicted to it, you have tons of stuff to unlock. If you’re into reaching for the max, this multiplayer might take a lot of your time. The multiplayer aspect of Drake’s Deception will still include competitive and co-op modes, so there’s a lot to go around for any player.

There are tons of modes to choose from. The common Team Deathmatch is present and other basics like a domination type of game, they also have a mode that gives you a mixture of different modes in one match. Kickbacks make a return and are special rewards when you earn enough medals in a match.You set what kind of kickback you want in your load-out and when you reach the right amount of medals during the match, you can trigger it anytime.Medals can be earned by doing three assists, running around the map a lot, doing a triple kill, etc. Kickbacks give you an edge in a match – for example, spawning a loaded RPG in your hands to use right away or doing a smoke-screen kickback which randomly teleports you somewhere on the map, which is mainly used to avoid death.

Multiplayer plays differently compared to the single player. In multiplayer, you are given a sprint button. How I wish I had that on the real game. It’s a good addition; the sprint makes the match a bit faster-paced, making it easier to go around each map. Another addition which makes each match intense is the introduction of power plays. These power plays are given to the team currently losing to give them a chance to catch up. There are three power plays given in each match. The first power play is simply a mini objective: one player in the winning team becomes a VIP, and if the enemy kills that player, they earn two points for him. The second power play gives you vision in the mini map where enemies are for a short time. The third and last is pretty painful; it bestows double damage upon enemies. Now if you don’t catch up or even win after all those power plays, your team really deserves the loss.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

It’s mostly seen in Team Deathmatch, but the reason why I appreciate this new feature is that it gives the losing team an incentive to keep trying, while at the same time if you’re on the winning team, the game won’t be boring, since you’ll feel the pressure of the added power play. It keeps it exciting for both sides. I’ve experienced catching up and earning the win since we capitalized on the power plays and also felt the win after going on the defense when the team earns the power plays. It only lasts for a short while, so it doesn’t really qualify as overpowered. I didn’t see too many balance issues during my time with the multiplayer. I had a great time with the multiplayer and the connections in each match were pretty solid.

If you don’t like being competitive and just want to have some friendly co-op with buddies, there’s Arena and Adventure. In Arena you play with two other players and fight against waves of enemy AI’s. More like a survival mode, Uncharted style. In Adventure, you ally up with two other players to play a stage to do a set of objectives together. Think of it as another stage from the single-player, but with two other players. It has a small story in it too. Multiplayer was definitely improved this time around and it feels like it’s going to have an even longer lasting appeal than Uncharted 2.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a great game, although it fails to surpass its predecessor. Still, this is one adventure you should not miss, an amazing action-adventure in its own right. The thing is, you can feel the pressure it had to surpass its predecessor. The bar was left so high, it seems as if they were only able to reach that bar, but never go over it.

After the credits started rolling, I felt goosebumps running through me. But as I looked back, I knew right away which game in the trilogy I preferred. For the people who are fans of the series, there is no doubt in my mind you’ll enjoy the third installment. For newcomers, I suggest exploring the first two games in order to fully appreciate the third.

Score: 90/100

Pros:

-          The game looks amazing

-          Action scenes that Hollywood should start paying attention to

-          Improved multiplayer

Cons:

-          Story’s pacing felt off

-          Random spikes in difficulty are often frustrating


Comments

  1. tupasheep says:

    IMO the difficulty seemed a bit easier to take this time around. I mean, there were spots where everything seemed simple but you realize “whoa I’ve spent like half an hour in just this part of the level” but overall, I found the game a bit easier to finish than the first two. I do agree with the pacing, though. Something felt off. But, that really doesn’t take away much from how absolutely fantastic this game is.

    And I am not sure how they managed to top the past two games graphically, but holy cow they just did. I love this series. These three games (not to mention its portable prequel) knocked it out of the park. For this game, since the first two set the bar really high on all corners, I looked at story first, characters & character progression second, gameplay third, graphics fourth. Everything gets an A for me.

    We sure were blessed with wonderful games in 2011; Game of the Year candidates in Uncharted 3 and Arkham City. (Well I hear Skyrim is great, I haven’t played that but I’m sure the praise is deserved).

    When you get the chance, grab a Vita and Uncharted: Golden Abyss. I liked the story they told there as well. I’m not sure if the same writing team made the story but it’s very good. I hope this series never loses its touch with its story and characters, whatever system it’ll be on.