Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
The Uncharted series has become one of the most successful new IPs of this generation, providing a genuinely gripping narrative, incredible action and some of the best script and voice work in the medium. But can the third title in the series, Drake's Deception, top the hugely celebrated Among Thieves?
Continuing directly from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception follows protagonist Nathan Drake and his circle of companions as they search for what is dubbed the Atlantis of the Sand. Taking you on a journey through a wide variety of location including jungles, desert and ancient ruins, the action and exposition is very much Uncharted as you know and love it: third person shooting and platforming at its very best. However, the narrative soon shifts focus and takes a long hard look at Drake's sanity regarding his death defying tomb raiding and risk taking. It's storytelling at its most impactful and sophisticated, exploring seldom touched on issues and emotions whilst also providing some of the best action seen in the medium. There is no denying that Drake's Deception delivers a pulse pounding and thoughtful story, one you simply must enjoy for yourself, but there are visible cracks in the overall package.
The gun play is less precise than in previous titles and whilst it takes less bullets to down foes - except in multiplayer where is often takes too many - it's still a little frustrating ducking in and out of cover whilst you ineffectively fire back. It's also a very linear game, rigidly so. Platforming is practically automatic and despite wide open areas there's only a single path of progress, one that you may not initially see as you're running from enemies or trying to maintain a flowing set of jumps and climbs.
Fortunately the majority of these flaws can be overlooked. Elements like clever puzzles that often require you to consult your diary and very few intrusive onscreen indicators show a more immersive side. It's an engaging game, one that handles the pace so expertly with bouts of exposition juxtaposed with bouts of action leading you through the narrative swiftly.
Utterly Incredible presentation further cements your immersion. The soul stirring score paired with exceptional, believable voice acting of a well written script make the adventure relatable and tangible. Of course the visuals are still top notch, with even facile animation looking spot-on and conveying emotion like few other games can. But it's the little details that truly impress. The flailing arms and legs as you jump, the grasping of walls and banisters as you hastily run rounds corners or up stairs. It's a tremendous level of detail and polish, and it pays off in selling the world to you.
It is, however, a little on the short side, clocking in at around eight hours. It's also a very familiar journey. Drake's Deception is clearly trying to make the lighting of Uncharted 2 strike twice and the formula is starting to become a bit predicable as a result. Set-pieces certainly build on the infamous train section of Uncharted 2, successfully surpassing it in over the top style and awe, but the rest of the package plays so similarly to its predecessor you'd be forgiven for feeling disappointed and uninspired. Drake's Deception suffers only because Among Thieves was so phenomenal.
Multiplayer returns and too provides a familiar experience for the most part. Running the gamut of modes for a maximum of ten players to kill, capture flags and achieve certain objectives. The cooperative modes stand out as something a bit more unique. On offer are three modes, a two-on-two game matching teams against each other in carrying treasure back to a chest at their respective bases before the roles are reversed. Coop Arena acts like Gears of War's Hoard mode, pitching waves of enemies against your three man team. And finally Coop Adventure, the most impressive mode out of the three, mixes Coop Arena with cinematic story elements to essentially create a mini campaign. It's genuinely creative and engaging for three players to get involved and enjoy a little storytelling with the carnage of waves of enemies, although the limit to three players is slightly disappointing.
Additionally Weapons and characters can be customised with in-game currency to create the class you prefer, as well as the ability to join games already in progress and spawn off team mates making a welcome introduction. Boosters also return and can be levelled up to grant bonuses to your character, whilst medals are liberally dished out for actions on the battlefield that provide instant perks such as a rocket launcher to increase the carnage. Additionally 60 second Power Plays are activated for the losing team to give them a fighting chance to even the odds. It's a multiplayer package more in line with its contemporaries and whilst it doesn't quite have the polish and balance of say, Call of Duty, it's definitely no throw away experience. This is even more evident by the maps, which are easily some of the most creative and interesting seen in a while.
Each map sports an excellent layout and unique design that's easy to navigate, but it's the dynamic ones that steal the show. One has a sandstorm role in destroying visibility whilst another has you running and gunning through a moving train. The most impressive one has you attack a cargo plane as it's readying for takeoff only to be whisked away to a completely different environment. It's a great selection of maps, offering variety and interesting mechanics to keep thing fresh and exciting.
Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception is absolutely a great game; however, it appears to have hit a ceiling. Whilst the storytelling is exceptional the actual gameplay is showing significantly less innovation over its predecessor. Naughty Dog is a victim of their own success with the majority of Drake's Deceptions flaws being derived from comparisons with the previous title in the series. It's still one of the best adventures available, just not the best.
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