Sony sure struck the jackpot when they decided to let developer Naughty Dog do something other than make yet another Jak and Daxter game on the Playstation 3. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was a fantastic game that only got better the longer you played it. Its sequel, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was universally acclaimed as the game of the year in many people’s eyes, though personally I found the story and setting to be less entertaining than the first. Still, it wasn’t like I wouldn’t be there to grab the newest game once it hit shelves. Now that it’s out, let’s see what the verdict is on Drake and his merry band of mischief makers.
As I mentioned, I wasn’t too keen on the story in the second Drake game. It didn’t suit the character as I had imagined him. I didn’t like the notion of being an actual robber instead of a tomb raider. I also must admit I wasn’t at all keen on the new love interest, who seemed to be shoved down our throats at every turn for much of the game. So while I was going to get the new game, I was hesitant about if I would enjoy it or not.
I shouldn’t have worried. The story in Drake’s Deception is very entertaining. It manages to not only tell a good story, it also fleshes out some of Drake and Sully’s early history. Some of the levels in the game are told through the eyes of a young Drake, when Sully was in his prime. These levels could have been incredibly cheesy, but somehow Naughty Dog managed to walk a fine line of believability when it came to the dangers young Drake faces and how he escapes. It brings to mind the introductory scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade actually. I can honestly say seeing a game where Sully in his prime was the star would not be a bad thing at all.
One new addition to the story is in fact one of your team mates. Actually a new teammate isn’t really all that interesting. They did that in last game, after all. So how about a new teammate who is claustrophobic? Think about all the dark tight spaces you might have to encounter while being Nathan Drake. Or while being around him. Think that might be fun if you hate dark enclosed spaces? I thought they played that angle very well, and also foreshadowed what was to come very smoothly.
The rest of the story is at times highly imaginative and then very derivative. For the first three quarters of the game the story had my complete and undivided attention, an impressive feat at a time when other AAA titles are out there waiting to be played.
The new game doesn’t look all that different from the last one. With the last one being one of the best looking games on the Playstation 3, I can say that looking a lot like its predecessor isn’t exactly a problem. The main difference here is in the locations. Where the first game was almost entirely jungles with some ruins strewn about and the second one was a lot of city combined with wintery mountains and caves, this one takes you through ancient fortresses, deserts and abandoned cities. One level has you wandering around in the desert after a plane crash. Another level finds you chasing your foe through a market in a city in Yemen, a market that feels very alive. That’s another thing. In the scenes where there are civilians, the goings on in the background look real. Not photo realistic, but rather the NPCs look like they have a reason to be there. So unlike Assassin’s Creed, where the crowd is all just one big blur, here you have situations where you are almost embarrassed to be interrupting the conversation going on between two NPCs so that one of them can unlock a door for you. I would love to see more of that in games going forward. I think it’s high time games stop just plopping generic people in front of you and expecting you to suspend your disbelief.
The series has always been amazing when it came to the sound and Deception proves to be no exception. The sound effects are terrific, the music is at times haunting and at other times stirring. It’s also location appropriate. Levels played in the Middle East have music that feels like it would belong there. So too with levels played in France and England, where the music is much more Western oriented.
Then there’s the voice acting. I’ve noticed that I’m really tired of Nolan North. He’s everywhere. Every time I start up a new game I hear his voice. He’s got a very distinctive voice you know. Thankfully I’m not tired of him at all in the place where he belongs, which is as Nathan Drake’s vocal chords. So yes, North is awesome here. Let’s not forget the rest of the cast. Sully, Elena, Chloe, Jack Cutter (Jason Statham casting call anyone?) and the villains are all terrific.
In many ways you could be justified in calling this game an expansion pack more than a new game. The controls, for example, are exactly the same. Aiming, a contentious issue with many this time around, feels no different to me. The gunplay is just like it was before, with levels and enemies arrayed against you requiring quick thinking and quicker movement. Standing out in the open for too long gets you shot full of holes. The enemies actively try to flank you when you take cover, so you must be always on the move, going from cover to cover. You also have to learn when your current location is terrible defensively and be ready to run. New this time around is the ability to return a grenade to its sender before it blows up.
The rest of the combat in game is virtually identical to Uncharted 2 as well. Fist fights and stealth kills return. Actually, the fist fights in this one start to get a little long in the tooth. You’ll barge into an area and have to clear out the place before it’s safe to continue exploring. This will involve knocking out a seemingly endless supply of goons before finally having to take out the heavy, the Uber Goon if you like. One or two of these fights was fun, but later on the fights just kept going.
Lastly the exploring/climbing part of the game has not been forgotten. Nor has the, “Oh my God, they want me to do what?”Â sensation that Uncharted 2 really worked so well. Be it riding on the hood of a jeep to board a plane while it’s taking off, climbing up the side of a ship as it’s being cut up for scrap to escaping from a burning castle as it collapses around you, Drake’s Deception can get your heart pounding.
Like all previous Uncharted games there are multiple difficulty levels. Also like previous games, things actually start to make more sense the harder the game gets. The game makes you play by the same rules as your opponents, you see. If you can take a lot of damage before you die, so can all of your enemies. But if you can die with one shot, so can they. So the easier difficulty levels can actually be more frustrating than the latter ones.
Returning from Uncharted 2, Drake’s Deception has a multiplayer component to it. The game types include Team Deathmatch, Plunder (capture the flag) and others, though while playing I found that nobody played anything except Team Deathmatch. Players earn money for scoring kills, which can be put towards unlocking new character models, weapon enhancements or fashion accessories. Co-operative gameplay returns too, with Co-op Arena, Co-op Hunter Arena and Co-op Adventure. Co-op Arena is just Horde mode Drake style. Co-op Hunter Arena involves 2 teams of 2 competing against one another to find treasures as the heroes or stop the treasure from being liberated as the villains. Co-op Adventure sees three players in a small story attempting to clear stages.
Some of the levels are quite original. Traveling through the London Underground for example was amazing, as was exploring an abandoned castle in France. Then again some of them feel like I’ve seen them before. Maybe they were going all Tarantino with homages, but one scene will make anyone old enough to remember The Living Daylights ponder, another will make you wonder where Brendan Fraser is since Naughty Dog just remade The Mummy, and a third brings The Poseidon Adventure to mind while playing through it.
On normal difficulty, the game gets progressively harder the deeper into it you go. Certain enemies really take some killing – so much so that it gets tedious. The weapon you have equipped and how you attack a level can go a long way towards how much enjoyment you’ll get from the game. The Magnum handgun is often more effective than all the assault rifles put together at killing the bigger enemies, but good luck finding ammunition. What bothered me the most was when I’d fire an RPG into an armored guard only to have him survive it because I hadn’t knocked his helmet off first. Stupid things like that.
Well, as I stated above the first three quarters of this game are amazing. I could not stop playing, and I was thinking of how I was going to write up the game of the year commentary. Then the balance went off kilter and I started to feel like the game had gone from awesome to absurd, so my need to play it over and over started to diminish. So how willing you are to put up with that will greatly affect how addictive you find this game.
People who enjoyed the first two Drake games will certainly get more of the same here, so if you enjoy your cinematic adventure games half tucked this one will be right up your alley.
If Naughty Dog are going to insist on putting Co-op play in, they should work it into the main campaign. What they’ve got right now is just a tease. They should also drop competitive multiplayer altogether. There are better games out there right now, even on the PS3, and people don’t play Drake for the multiplayer. But if you like it, well, it’s there.
Control and Gameplay: Good
Originality: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary:
Uncharted 3 is a bit of a mixed bag. The story is fantastic, but he gameplay is less so. Naughty Dog should start to consider tweaking the formula a bit if they are going to continue this franchise, as throwing armies of needlessly difficult enemies at your character starts to get old after a while. I’m not sure, but I might just be at that point after three games.