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Jeremy Jastrzab
31 Oct, 2011

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Review

PS3 Review | It's good, and that's no deception!
Within the space of two games, Uncharted has established itself amongst the top new franchises of the current generation and a bright feather in Sony’s exclusivity cap; a rare achievement in modern gaming. With groundbreaking graphical achievements, gripping narratives, a stellar cast, epic set pieces and rock solid action gameplay, the Uncharted titles have often credited with bringing movies and games closer together into the one cohesive medium. Having probably achieved more success than they initially thought they’d have, Naughty Dog returns after two years with their third title from the franchise, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

However, to refer to the games as a trilogy would be unfair. While cliffhangers and continuity are all the rage, all the Uncharted titles have cohesive stand alone stories that would be ruined if Naughty Dog went back and tried to tie them directly together. It would be just like calling the first three Indiana Jones movies (a clear and huge influence on Uncharted) a trilogy. Drake’s Deception happens four years after the quest for El Dorado in Drake’s Fortune and a further two after following Marco Polo’s trail to Shambhala… where protagonist Nathan Drake picked up another one of his (supposed) ancestor’s trails, which ties in with the archaeological days of T.E. Lawrence (a.k.a Lawrence of Arabia), in order to find the legendary Iram of the Pillars (or ‘The Atlantis of the Sands).

Guys! Now's not the time to see if I'm ticklish!

Guys! Now's not the time to see if I'm ticklish!
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It’s not the story itself that has made the Uncharted titles so successful in capturing the attention of the gaming public. It’s the mix of the journey, the action twists, the relatable history, stunning locations, and the relationships between the characters that make the whole narrative so compelling - the thrill of the whole ride. And Drake’s Deception does well to fit the established archetype, though by this point there is more examination into the just who is Nathan Drake; some of this past, the qualities that make him human, his relationship with Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan and the price he pays for his ambitious pursuits.

Naughty Dog has freely admitted that a lot of the development of Uncharted has the same direction as film production. And Drake’s Deception continues this establishment of ‘movie games’. So the graphics, presentation and gameplay are all tied in together to try and create a joy ride like no other. From a technical and graphical stand point, Drake’s Deception is as marquee as it gets on a console. Everything to the attention to detail, the raw technical prowess, the variety of locations, the choreography and direction, the vibrance, the use of colour all come together to make Drake’s Deception a unique and pumping visual feast (a few blatant mo-cap idiosyncrasies aside) in complete real time. You only have to closely examine the facial expression to realise the leap across two years. Couple this with an amazing sound track that captures the action, the moods of the story and a sense of adventure, as well as sublime voicing performances from the entire cast, and you have amongst the best presentations of 2011.

Geez... What on Earth did I do last night...

Geez... What on Earth did I do last night...
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Gameplay and continuity hold a tenuous relationship with such a presentation though. Drake’s Deception isn’t the same rollercoaster that Among Thieves was, as it settles for a slower cooking narrative with a more gradual crescendo. It’s still thoroughly enjoyable, especially for the fans of the series, and an amazingly well paced ride. Overall though, the title isn’t quite as well realised as Among Thieves. The main enemy tries to play smarter, praying more on questioning Drake mentally, which leads to a more reverent use of the supernatural (assuming one particular bit was a weird glitch) but as a compromise it asks too many questions and starts leaving too many unanswered. While the story lives by its twists, some are borderline predictable, and players will come to expect Drake to fall on every third climbing obstacle… Still, those enjoying the ride are unlikely to notice the rush and lack of grandeur in what’s meant to crescendo of the game.

Gameplay wise, there have been some good additions to the otherwise familiar fare. Melee combat is now fun, pragmatic and dynamic, thanks to having the extra dimension of counters, context sensitive environmental attacks and the ability to fight multiple enemies at once. Flipping between gunplay and melee is now a must to survive, rather than veneered suggestion. Throwing back grenades is just about the best idea ever, lending more chaos into the set pieces while adding balance to the accuracy of enemies. Furthermore, there have been a couple vehicular style additions which work pretty well and some of the best puzzles in the series to date. Unfortunately, given the additional focus of Drake the individual and the haste of the game’s back end, it seemed like there weren’t enough of them.

Red Dead Uncharted.

Red Dead Uncharted.
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Just how much control you have when you’re playing will be an issue for some. Visually and thrillingly, the chase and platforming sequences are as good as ever. It seems that an effort’s been made to have less incidental point A to B stuff, in favour of the thrill, but this is a double edge sword. If everything is a thrill, then it stops being a thrill; is thrill in the journey enough to know that it will end when it wants you to and not before? Enemies are still contentious though. Their sponging has gotten softer over time, and the ones that to take a lot of hits are actually well armoured, but the hit detection and reactions are still frustratingly erratic and not always reflective of what’s happened. The AI is noticeably erratic too. Sometimes they are very accurate from long distances, sometimes acutely alert that you’ve silently killed someone and sometimes ruthless at a close quarter. And other times they’ll run into your face, go off and take cover somewhere unknown or forget that they’re in the middle of a fire fight.

Less discriminating players and those enthralled by the spectacle won’t mind the deficiencies in the gameplay (or lack of it), but it’s very hard to stay mad when you have the unique set pieces that only Uncharted can provide. Naughty Dog has outdone themselves across the eight to ten hours that the story lasts, with set pieces now spanning vertically, environmentally and vehicularly, to create one memorable experience after the other. Previously, you felt that you were being challenged by the controls, but most set pieces now are genuine challenges with your environment as well as your enemies. You’ve probably seen a lot of these in videos, but you’re best off going and experiencing them for yourselves, rather than having it explained to you here. The only issue was the lack of a grand finale, which seems like a decision to avoid the criticism levelled at the artificial padding on the back end of Among Thieves. In hindsight, this criticism was invalid and Drake’s Deception really could have used it.

So, where now?

So, where now?
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Multiplayer has actually seen some very worthwhile improvements. The ‘Buddy’ system is flexible and rewarding, allowing you to form impromptu teams, back out of terrible ones and work together to amplify your rewards and unlocks. There is as much a treasure hunting experience in the multiplayer as there is in the story, though these work towards experience increasing and unlocking customisable items, ‘boosters’ and ‘kickbacks’. Struggling players will now have ‘Power Plays’ to try and get them back in the game. And finally, some of the dynamic environments will provide scenarios like you’ve never seen before. With a story much more focused on Drake this time, the co-op breaks away from the confines of the story to provide the player with five separate and unique levels that take a lighter approach, but still make you feel like you’re playing something that could have been part of the story. Some will find it a shame that the PlayStation pass is being implemented for this title (namely those buying second hand).

Are you a fan of the Uncharted series? The review and the score below are irrelevant to you then. You will get exactly what you want out of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. It’s the rollicking ride that you all know and love, with amazing set pieces, some good improvements and a compelling cast. Nathan Drake is a highly likable and relatable protagonist, and now we get to know more about him. If anything though, it isn’t as well realised as its predecessor, primarily through the rushed, underutilised finale and slightly excessive trimming. Multiplayer, both competitive and co-operative, has been genuinely improved and provides an exciting alternative for PlayStation 3 owners. At the end of the day, for what it lacks in complexity, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception makes up for it in spades in delivering thrill and adventure.
The Score
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception gives the fans just about everything they could possibly want. And it's with excitement and anticipation that we wait and see how it can get better. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Content

Uncharted 3: An Interview with Keith Guerrette - Part 2
10 Nov, 2011 We close off our chat by finding out just what the Naughty Dog employee thinks of the Uncharted movie.
Uncharted 3: An Interview with Lead FX Artist Keith Guerrette - Part 1
09 Nov, 2011 In part 1, we sit down with one of Naughty Dog’s finest to talk all things Uncharted 3, the franchise's history and just what an FX artist actually does.
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception TV spot
15 Oct, 2011 WARNING: Face melting graphics inside.
23 Comments
2 years ago
Quote
(assuming one particular bit was a weird glitch)
Gotta ask, what was the glitch?
2 years ago
Day one purchase. In my opinion, the best new franchise of the modern age (franchise in my opinion is 3 games or more icon_smile.gif).
2 years ago
Cyph wrote
Day one purchase. In my opinion, the best new franchise of the modern age (franchise in my opinion is 3 games or more icon_smile.gif).
Second or third week purchase for me icon_redface.gif, i could buy it and put it aside for a week or two. But i am swamped with games at the moment and can't afford to add another to the rotation for this week at least.

In saying that i might do the crazy thing and leave it for my mum as something to buy me for christmas. The downside is that i'd be waiting a longgggggg time to play it.... but long enough to clear most of my backlog.
2 years ago
Definitely day one. Looking forward to finally having the Level 35 cap removed in multiplayer...
2 years ago
Jeremy - so I'm assuming U2 is your favourite in the series?

For me I just really love the simplicity of U1. I really liked how it stayed on the island and fully explored the idea of an island setting.

Loved U2 as well, but the story was better in U1.
2 years ago
I agree with arbok that Uncharted's story was better than the sequel, though I did like the new characters and more varied locations. As a game though Uncharted is clumsy as hell. Its ripe with hit box issues, fiddly aiming, and a botchy cover system that, coupled with half arsed encounter design, makes the combat too much of a chore for me to lavish.

I recently replayed it (in preparation for Uncharted 3) and for me its a good example of a game where the sum total of parts make it worth playing, but when stripped back it exposes huge flaws. As a third person shooter Uncharted is a wholly average game in my opinion that cannot hold a candle to pure third person shooters.

That being said, I'm a fan of the series enough to be picking up Uncharted 3 at launch. I'm not crazy over the games, as they don't possess the qualities that drive me towards the medium, but they're good, pretty blockbuster fun, and given how significantly improved the core mechanics of Uncharted 2 were over Uncharted, I'm looking forward to the third and for the time being final chapter of the Uncharted series.
2 years ago
I got my shipping confirmation this afternoon - should arrive smack-bang on Thursday, leaving me all evening to throw aside the staggering pile of recent releases that I've collected, and dive straight back into some Dake action.

Interesting to read that the much lamented, drawn-out end section of Among Thieves is being given hindsight treatment in reference to this... having only recently played through AT, it's still rather fresh in my mind as a bit of a drudge (albeit a very beautiful one). I do wonder if I'll have the same reaction as you with such little time between playthroughs.

Regardless, and as you say, I am a fan and I have pretty solidly formed expectations that I'm pretty sure will be delivered upon icon_smile.gif

Cannot wait.
2 years ago
I don't quite agree with the sentiments about Uncharted 2 being clunky. How enjoyable the multiplayer aspect was is a testament to that as far as I'm concerned. I was quite amazed at how well the core mechanics transferred to the online arena. Different strokes for different folks I guess...
2 years ago
@Benza: There are potential spoilers for me revealing that, but suffice to say, an enemy appeared at a point where it was very out of place. I'd like to replay that bit to see if was somehow meant to fit in...

@arbok: Out the three, U2 is definitely my favourite, though U3 deserves a lot of credit too. For me they're not far apart, with U2 getting the nod for it's superior progression and improvement over U1 (and I love Nepal). I enjoyed U1 until the supernatural twist... (back at the time, the zombie proliferation was really kicking off)

@Karai: I've read that a lot, but personally, I never found this an issue. Maybe I was in a good mood? However, players who did find it extreme might find that with U3, it's an extreme in the other direction...
2 years ago
Great review Jeremy! I have no doubt that this will be my finest Day One purchase this year.

But after seeing a particular post on Facebook, I need to ask... is Nate topless in this one? icon_razz.gif
2 years ago
Jarrod wrote
I agree with arbok that Uncharted's story was better than the sequel
I detested the first game's story. And it's perfectly summed up with the following section.

There's a key in the game that's been sitting on top of a crumbling tower for 200-odd years, and thus the door it opens has been shut for that long. After traipsing about, you finally get the key. Open the door. Walk through the tunnel on the other side... to an ambush that was set up because your enemies found the five hundred side doors to that locked area.

Not to mention the literal plot hole in the game - that being the hole in the graveyard. A couple of hours gameplay later, and you find out you could have beat your enemies to the grand treasure by saying "Hey, what's down this hole?" and sticking your head in it.

It does have the best example of Dake being gaming's biggest sociopath though - after mowing down hundreds of bad guys without a second thought, the game stops for a cutscene where Dake is suddenly all upset at losing the chick he wants to bone. Good times.

But yeah, as far as storytelling goes, there were too many of those "Oh, by the way" moments for my liking.
2 years ago
Bev wrote
I need to ask... is Nate topless in this one? icon_razz.gif
I don't remember... icon_eek.gif Mind you, I wasn't really looking out for such things... icon_rolleyes.gif
2 years ago
why don't australia get the treasure hunter DLC bonus saver option? I tried to find it on PSN just then it was nowhere to be found. Tempted to get from the US but if it don't work - I guess I can just sell the AU disc... still. kind of lame. Its a substantial savings.
2 years ago
As I said in the other thread, the preorder option probably isn't going to appear until the game is actually released. So wait for the store update this week to see what happens.
2 years ago
Finished Uncharted 2 before work. Good lord the entire Shambhala is half arsed. Bad boss fight, crappy monster battles, and lazy encounters. It really highlights the problems I have with Naughty Dog's shooter design. Also, Chloe is fucking annoying.

Buuut now I can grab Uncharted 3 after work and dig right in, with the two previous games fresh in mind. Wee!
2 years ago
I'm gonna put it right out there and say I'm probably the biggest Uncharted fan ever (the fact that I'm taking my holidays at the moment and picked up my Explorers Edition at 9am sharp pretty much confirms this). That said, the whole time I've been playing 3 there's been something off about it that I couldn't quite put my finger on. The graphics are phenomenal, the writing is superb and it's definitely the Uncharted I know and dearly love.
However, yesterday I just finished playing Batman Arkham City (well the main story anyway), a game that also boasts the aforementioned qualities (except being Uncharted, obviously), but differs in one major and far superior way; the gameplay. Batman controls and moves perfectly; Drake kinda floats and jitters around. Taking out thugs as Batman was precise and easy; shooting agents as Drake is fiddly and imprecise. Maybe these facets have always been part of the Uncharted franchise; I have played the previous two countless times and never noticed them (and now I'm almost loathe to again in case I notice the same flaws and tarnish their memories).
I'm not trying to make a direct comparison of these games, as they're totally different, but with Batman still so fresh in my mind it's brought the flaws in Uncharted into stark contrast.
But hey. I completely agree with the review; it's an outstanding experience visually and storywise, and I would also probably give it the same score (although if Batman hadn't have broken my rose tinted glasses I more than likely would have rated it a 10). I don't really know what I'm trying to say with all this rambling; I think more than anything it's just a way for me to deal with my realization that I haven't been playing the perfect game I thought I would be.
2 years ago
Quote
Maybe these facets have always been part of the Uncharted franchise;
They have been, especially in the first one Drake controls like a lunky piece of shit.
2 years ago
And yet Assassin's Creed still doesn't control anywhere near as well. I'm really hoping to see some attention paid to them in reviews, as they always nearly make me turn the game/s off for good.
2 years ago
See I've never had a problem with the controls in AC. When I miss a jump and die in those games it always feels like it's my fault for miss judging a distance.

The first Uncharted made me feel like I was constantly fighting the controls to get Drake to do what I wanted him to.
2 years ago
why don't australia get the treasure hunter DLC bonus saver option? I tried to find it on PSN just then it was nowhere to be found. Tempted to get from the US but if it don't work - I guess I can just sell the AU disc... still. kind of lame. Its a substantial savings.

To make us all happy its now on the store for $39.95. Price accordingly to the Aussie Exchange Rip-Off Dictum, lol
2 years ago
Benza wrote
See I've never had a problem with the controls in AC. When I miss a jump and die in those games it always feels like it's my fault for miss judging a distance.
Including the tomb sections, where the gameplay most resembles Uncharted?

Uncharted 1's controls were just plain horrible. Uncharted 2 improved them and made them far preferable to AC. Far too many times in AC do I try to jump in one direction only to have the game decide I was pointing to the left or right of what I was aiming for, both in tombs and regular gameplay. The most infuriating part is that the controls seemed to have changed very little between the three current games.

Uncharted 2 seemed to consistently have a better idea of what I was aiming for. I was hoping Ubi would take notice for Brotherhood, but it controlled the same again.
2 years ago
see I've heard that complaint a lot with AC so there has to be something to it. But honestly I never had that problem. I just recently played through AC 1 through to Brotherhood a couple of months ago doing all the tombs and everything but never had any problems with that kind of stuff.

Sometimes I hit the wrong direction and fuck up a jump, but it always feels like it's cause I actually hit the wrong direction and I'm more cursing myself for it then the game.
2 years ago
I definitely gotta agree with Benza on this one, even if I'm not a crazy huge fan of either series.

Even though I do have issues with AC's platforming controls, I think there's a great level of consistency and control over the assassin's movement and climbing. Yes sometimes it borks, but as a whole when I jump I know how far I'll jump, I know how high I can grab, and I know the multilayered platforming design allows me to grab multiple points. I can make a leap of faith and be confident in the payoff, and there's rarely a right/wrong path for platforming.

Uncharted, on the other hand, has very little consistency in my opinion. Sometimes Drake can make a huge leap, sometimes he cant. Sometimes he can climb on top of one obstacle, yet cannot on another of equal height. He'll grab one ledge, but not another. In terms of fluid, free form platforming sections (of which are few and pretty bare bones), I've had countless moments across both games where Drake simply hasn't responded the way I predicted, either by not grabbing a ledge, or grabbing when I expect to drop, or being unable to make a jump that seems the same distance as many others.

The tighter platforming sections of both games I wouldn't even call platforming, as they're so rigidly linear in design that they're literally 'connect the dots' level progression. In these sequences you literally just hold the direction you have to go and mash X. Rarely will you fail, or make a bad jump, as the game offers practically no divergence from the set path.

The clumsiness of Drake's controls is significantly lessoned in Uncharted 2 from Uncharted, so I can agree with Goober there, but as a whole I don't think its at all any better than AC, and the only times I'd argue it's 'better' its because the level itself is so tightly structured and linear that its near impossible to fuck up the utterly basic climbing controls, and these I don't think are a fair comparison to AC's climbing, as even at it's most linear and structured (the tombs for example) AC always offers a far greater degree of control over the player characters.

And that's my 2c.
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