Uncharted 3 Drake’s Deception: some thoughts

OK, I finished the single player campaign of Uncharted 3 this afternoon (I haven’t tried any of the multiplayer or co-op) and I have to say it’s probably the best PlayStation exclusive that I’ve ever played. Yes, even better than inFamous 2 which I really, really enjoyed (I tell you, Naughty Dog and Insomniac have to be the best PS3 developers out there).  I enjoyed the story from start to finish and it’s a visually stunning game, too. That said, there are some niggles and situations that prompted a few “WTF?” along the way.

Now, there will probably be spoilers in this write-up, so perhaps you shouldn’t read it if you don’t want your Uncharted 3 experience spoiled before you finish it.

What I liked

The story: While the original Uncharted might have had a better story, Uncharted 3 really captured my attention with its narrative involving Nathan Drake’s hunt for “the Atlantis of the Sands”, a mythical buried city. The game starts in London, with Drake and long-time friend Victor Sullivan in a pub hoping to trade a ring said to have belonged to explorer Sir Francis Drake for a large case of cash. As you’d expect, things turn pear shaped, the deal goes sour and what follows is a game of cat and mouse between Drake and Sully and the two key baddies, each wanting to find the hidden city and its secrets.

The story has flashbacks to when Nathan Drake was a boy, growing up in Cartegena, in Colombia, and Elena and Chole from the previous two games make appearances. Uncharted 3 really does span the globe, too, visiting the aforementioned London and Colombia, Syria and  Yemen. I really liked the dialogue exchanges between Sully and Elena – it really personalised the story and gave the character’s personality – and the writing is the sort of stuff you’d find right at home in a top-rating TV show.

The set pieces: Remember the train sequences in Uncharted 2? Well, that was topped several times  in Uncharted 3 with some set pieces that frankly left me speechless. Top of that list is the latter part of a chapter set in a ship graveyard and takes place on a sinking cruise ship, the base for a ruthless sea pirate. The sequence flips your perspective around dramatically and it truly is a wonderful achievement. Another sequence that was short but just as memorable is one set mid-air aboard a cargo plane that involves Drake having to fight for his life. Another memorable sequence is set in a blazing chateau. I’ve got “epic set pieces” written down several times in my notes – and I’m not kidding: sometimes I had to pick my jaw off the floor things were so epic. Sometimes, too,  the camera will pull back and Drake becomes a tiny figure with the game world around him. It’s then that you really see how big in scale Uncharted 3 is.

The melee combat:  sometimes, even when I was outnumbered, I would take on enemies in melee combat and punch them senseless. Other times I’d creep up behind them and silently take them out. The combat felt visceral and solid, with Drake often flipping an enemy over his shoulder, acrobatically grabbing their gun as it sailed through the air.

The visuals: Uncharted 3 is the best looking game on the PlayStation 3 without a doubt. It really is a stunning game to look at and Naughty Dog must really  have pushed the PS3 to the limit. The game is just stunning to look at. I can’t say anymore than that.

What I didn’t like so much

The difficulty spike:  I played the game in normal difficulty – as I tend to play most games. I reckon it’s the difficulty level that most people will play a game on, but some of the WTF moments came near the end of the game – in the last three chapters – when the difficulty level seemed to spike dramatically. In one situation, where I had to guide Nathan Drake through a blinding sandstorm, I had to take care of not only two armoured vehicles with top-mounted guns, but several guys with laser-sight on their pistols, and a couple of heavies touting shotguns and wearing plate armour. The aim was to blow up the armoured trucks with explosives (rocket launchers, mainly) that were strategically placed around the location (there seemed to be three). I lost count about how many times I died in this sequence and I don’t think I suck as a game player (maybe I do?) but I died a lot. And this was just on normal difficulty – I hate to see what this sequences is like on the highest difficulty level.

The melee combat: Well, some aspects of it. It seemed that sometimes the combat turned into almost a rhythm game: punch a foe, press triangle to duck his punch, pound circle to break out of a hold, punch him again, press triangle again, punch him again then knock them out. It was like a mini-game for fighting. I was also surprised to have to fight the same “big” guy several times throughout the game. Wasn’t beating him in a punch up once enough?

That’s it. Look, as I said the niggles I had with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception are small but I think worth noting. They didn’t ruin my overall enjoyment of Uncharted 3 but did cause me to curse a few times. Uncharted 3 isn’t the perfect game but it’s one that I had a good time playing. It’ll be interesting to see where the franchise goes from here. Does Nathan Drake have any more adventures in him?

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