Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, the latest game in the PlayStation 3’s flagship franchise, is the best movie you’ll play this year. Brimming over with witty writing, memorable characters and exhilarating set-pieces, it is one of the best expressions of the game as cinematic experience we have seen to date.
With this series, Naughty Dog has created a franchise that comes as close to the rollicking, pulpy heyday of Indiana Jones as we’ve seen in years in any medium. Uncharted 3 propels you to the end of its single-player campaign with brisk pacing, plotting and spectacular visuals.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception reunites player character Nathan Drake with his surrogate father Sully, former lover Chloe and on-again, off-again girlfriend Elena for a search for the “Atlantis of the sands” in the deserts of Arabia. Over the course of this series of games, I have come to regard these characters with near as much affection as I have for Indiana Jones or the cast of Star Wars.
Most of the voice actors who brought the characters to life in the previous games reprise their roles, including Nolan North, Claudia Black, Emily Rose and Richard McGonagle. A few new characters have been thrown into the mix, most notably Rosalind Ayres as the game’s villain, an icy Helen Mirren-like English dame.
Unlike many games that get big Hollywood stars to phone in wooden performances, Uncharted 3’s actors are mostly voice and motion-capture pros who seem to really connect with the material. Over the course of the series, they have also developed a chemistry that shines through in the game’s polished in-game cinematics.
The storytelling and writing are as strong as ever. In many ways, the game parallels Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade with its revelations about the young life of its hero and its exploration of his relationship with his father figure. The plot weaves together fancy with little historical snippets about Francis Drake and Lawrence of Arabia as it gallops between spectacular set pieces around the globe.
Naughty Dog, the developer, has excelled in the artistic and technical presentation of the game. With rich detail and beautiful textures, the visuals are the best you’ll see on the PlayStation 3, bar Uncharted 2. Its showy action sequences are bathed in some of the most spectacular water, fire and sand effects we’ve seen in a computer game to date.
The body and facial animations are as strong as they were in the previous games, comfortably avoiding the uncanny valley effect common in motion-capture animation. Greg Edmonson’s score, from the stirring main theme through to his background score, is also sublime.
Uncharted 3 is probably the best-looking console game you’ll see this year.
The voice acting and music are, predictably, superlative.
The gameplay is slick and exciting, even if it isn’t deep.
The campaign weighs in at around eight to 10 hours and there’s also a fair amount of multiplayer content to explore.
Uncharted 3 is a polished and engaging blend of cinematic storytelling that puts most of Hollywood’s output to shame.
As for the gameplay, Uncharted 3 offers up the same mix of third-person combat and environmental traversal as its predecessors. The platforming and puzzle solving are not as deep as those of the Tomb Raider titles and the shooting mechanics are not as tight as those of Gears of War, but Uncharted 3 brings those gameplay elements together in a seamless way that remains unique.
It is a game that sweeps you along to its conclusion as much as you actively play it, but the ride is such fun that it doesn’t matter terribly much that it’s not as deep and complex in gameplay as some of the games that influenced it.
The cooperative and competitive multiplayer is back, and this element of the game has been expanded and improved in a number of ways. Though the menu of multiplayer options is not as comprehensive as Gears of War 3 and other multiplayer champs, the content in terms of gameplay modes, weapons and maps is fairly generous.
Uncharted 3 preview (via YouTube):
The game sets itself apart with its mix of environmental traversal and straight-up shooting. I managed to join matches fairly easily and enjoyed a relatively lag-free experience most of the time.
Uncharted 3 isn’t quite the quantum leap forward that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was. In some senses, it even takes a few steps backwards. The aiming feels curiously imprecise and feels like a regression from the taut gunplay of Uncharted 2. There are a few chase sequences that rely on clumsy trial-and-error for success.
There are only a handful of these moments, but they break the flow of the game. Those complaints aside, Uncharted is rousing entertainment. It’s a game that demands to be devoured as hungrily as a good airport novel or an especially well put together Hollywood blockbuster. — Lance Harris, TechCentral
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