An Uncharted 3 and Aquatic Weaponry Review
Two years ago, the Naughty Dog team gave us Uncharted 2, an action-packed, bombastic, over-the-top, cinematic adventure that vastly improved upon the aspects that made its predecessor stand out, and that’s a tough act to follow. Regardless, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception manages to hit all the same marks and then some, adding a few key enhancements that make it an even more entertaining addition to this already fantastic franchise.
If you’re familiar with Uncharted – and you should be by now – then for the most part you have a good idea of what to expect in Nathan Drake’s latest globetrotting adventure. Intense third-person cover-based shooting, death-defying feats of free climbing, and ancient puzzle solving are all present and take place in breathtaking worldwide locales. Holding it all together is an exciting, character-driven story that evokes classic Indiana Jones and just a hint of Tomb Raider.
The synopsis of Uncharted 3’s plot will definitely sound familiar to fans of the series, wherein Nathan Drake and company follow the footsteps of an ancient explorer in search of fabled treasure and a mythical city of immeasurable wealth. The game does a good job of making that tried-and-true formula feel brand new again by offering up a variety of new environs for the player to explore such as an underground London castle, a weathered chateau in the middle of a French jungle, or the endless stretches of sand dunes in the middle of the Rub’ al Khali desert.
The real strength of Uncharted’s storytelling, however, comes from the relationships between the characters, and Uncharted 3 is no exception. Nathan Drake is still the wise-cracking, can’t-help-but-like-him protagonist you’ve come to know and love, who spends most of the game being shot at and taking just about every other kind of physical punishment there is. He is joined throughout the story by familiar faces such as long-time partner and friend Victor “Goddamn” Sullivan, ex-girlfriend and partner in crime Chloe Frazer, and intrepid reporter and constant love interest Elena Fisher, with new characters being introduced along the way as well. Katherine Marlowe is the antagonist of the game’s story, with a cold and calculating demeanor that differs greatly from the bravado and insanity of previous Uncharted villains.
The core of the game-play is largely unchanged, but there are a few things here and there that add to the experience, like the ability to toss back grenades that land near you, or the way Drake reaches out and braces himself against the wall when he gets close. The most notable changes are the tweaks made to the melee combat system. You still punch guys by mashing the square button, but now you can counter incoming attacks by pressing the triangle button when prompted. The melee combat animations are more dynamic, and much more entertaining. Drake will slam enemies into the wall before continuing to pummel them, or knock them out by forcefully bringing their faces into sudden contact with a nearby table. Charge into melee with an empty shotgun and he’ll use it like a baseball bat on someone. Drake can also pick up objects in his immediate vicinity such as a glass bottle or a crescent wrench, and use them to quickly dispatch enemies, which is immensely satisfying. There was one instance where I finished a hand-to-hand skirmish by knocking a man unconscious with a large fish.
There are moments in Uncharted 3 where the camera will pull back to reveal a beautiful vista of an aging city, or the sheer size of some towering structure that you’re climbing, where it’s all you can do to not just stop and take a good look around. Naughty Dog has refined their Uncharted engine to the point where they’re able to achieve some truly amazing visual effects, especially in terms of lighting, like the sun filtering down through the treetops and each individual leaf casting a shadow.
The multiplayer has received a significant number of updates as well. In addition to the persistent ranking system, skill medals and ability boosters introduced two years ago, players can upgrade their weapons and customize their character by spending cash earned in competitive or co-op multiplayer matches. Some of the maps in competitive mode have specific “events” like a sandstorm that rolls in on a desert level, obscuring everyone’s vision. Other maps move through different stages, like starting with spawning players on two subway trains as they move through the London underground, then finishing the match at the subway station after the trains pull in. There are also randomly triggered Power Plays that are designed to help out the losing team by giving them double damage or revealing the location of the winning team’s players.
I mostly stuck to the co-operative multiplayer, partly because I prefer that style of play, and partly because I get my ass handed to me on a regular basis otherwise. The Co-op Adventure mode returns from Uncharted 2, where you play through an alternate campaign complete with voice-acting and in-game cutscenes. Co-op Arena combines the Survival, Gold Rush and Siege modes from Uncharted 2 into one, dynamically switching between them throughout the match. Co-op Hunter mode combines co-op and competitive, pitting a team of two heroes attempting to complete a set of objectives versus a team of two villains who work alongside the AI to stop them. There’s enough gameplay variety in the co-op stuff that I would be completely satisfied if it was the only multiplayer mode.
No one but Naughty Dog has been able to offer the same style of action-packed, cinematic gameplay that Uncharted 2 was known for, and it bears mentioning that Uncharted 3 feels a lot like it’s predecessor, some would say almost to a fault. But can you really fault something for only being a little more awesome than before? If Uncharted 2 was a delicious chocolate cake, then are you really going to turn down the delicious chocolate cake with extra frosting and a cherry on top that is Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception? No, you’re going to eat your damn cake, and you’re going to like it.