Game Review: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Uncharted 3

A friend recently commented on how, since purchasing my PS3 back in September, I am running through some of the greatest hits in the video gaming world in, what appears to many, a break-neck speed.  I don’t know what would be a normal speed… but I am aware that I have spent an inordinate amount of time wrapped up in these pixilated worlds over the last few months.

After completing the main quest in Skyrim (I will return to this world many times in the near future, just needed a break and a good place to take that break… the main quest fit that bill perfectly), I took a wee break of a week and returned to the console to play what every review says to be the best of what the PS3 has to offer, Uncharted 3:  Drake’s Deception.  I was dubious of that claim seeing how I had just been enveloped in what many have been calling the “game of the year” and couldn’t quite imagine how a linear non-RPG game could even compare.

I had nothing to worry about… Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was an amazing, rollicking, non-stop adventure that had me and my girls laughing, screaming, hooting and hollering in a way that only the greatest films have ever produced.  From beginning to end, this game proved to be nothing short of the most fun I’ve had in years.  Sure, Skyrim is epic and detailed… Red Dead Redemption’s story is heartbreaking and choc-a-block full of grand vistas and hard scrapple characters… but Uncharted 3 is pulse pounding fun with grand set pieces, well fleshed out characters, incredible voice work, and the most incredible graphics I have had the pleasure of seeing in a video game.

Over the holidays, another friend had purchased a 3D TV and test drove it with his copy of Uncharted 3.  His description boiled down to, “it was like being in a movie, except you are directing what the action will be.”  It was difficult to get a grasp on what it was he was saying until I popped it in myself (sans 3D unfortunately).  Opening in a dingy London alley and moving into a pub for a back room deal that goes awry, you are thrust into a bar room brawl that has an extremely cinematic look and feel while at the same time guiding you through the basics of this game’s melee system.

Obviously, since this is the third in the series and I have not played the previous two (they are up next in my queue), I wasn’t fully aware of the who’s, why’s and what’s of the characters and the initial plot.  One person told me I should play the previous games first, another told me not to bother.  I’m glad I didn’t bother.  It is not difficult to understand the basics of what is going on.  Nathan Drake, the protagonist and a distant relative of Sir Francis Drake, and his partner Victor “Sully” Sullivan are adventurers in what must be an homage to Indiana Jones and the serial dramas of the 30’s that gave rise to George Lucas’ entire oeuvre.  Seeking treasure and fortune, this pair finds themselves in a number of spectacular situations. 

What I realized I was missing is the backstory of these characters… but, after the prologue in the pub, the game goes back twenty years to flesh out the first meeting of Nathan and Sully and to put some understanding of both men’s motivations and character.  Giving away more than that would be wrong… but it eventual makes its way to a rooftop chase that was the second clue that I was playing something different… something grand… something that can only described as Fun (yes, fun with a capital F).

One of the more amazing aspects of the graphics and how seamlessly the game moves forward are the minor touches that you may not notice immediately, yet the impact adds to the realism of what you are seeing.  The way Nate’s hand will brush against walls when you walk past them… how he will slightly stumble over a root or rock… glancing down at something on the ground as you pass… and ultimately, the number of times I had to wonder whether or not I was playing or it was a cut-scene.  That was an experience I had not encountered in anything I’ve played previously.

One complaint I have read about with this franchise is that Naughty Dog, the developers of Uncharted, comes up with the ideas for the major set pieces and then creates a story around them as opposed to the set pieces being more organic and germane to the storytelling itself.  To that I say, hooey!  Much of what happens in the game is unlikely and obviously contrived… like, how many headshots can someone take before falling over?  5?  Really?  Nathan can climb buildings, swing on vines, escape various disasters and never once run out of breath?  Really?  Yes… really… and I could not care less.  How did Indiana Jones get into that submarine?  How did his hat stay on?  These are the nitpicking naggeries that give geeks and nerds a bad name sometimes.  I’ll just say, go with it.

So… what are these set pieces I’m talking about?  A crumbling, and eventually burning French chateau you must race out of… a gun battle in a Syrian ruin as you uncover various clues and puzzles throughout… a capsizing ocean liner… surviving a cargo plane crash… and a finale that had my older daughter declaring, “THIS! IS! EPIC!” as my palms soaked in sweat and my face alternated between shock and pure unfettered joy. 

The review of this game in Playstation, The Official Magazine says that this is the game we PS3 owners should show to our Xbox friends and ask them if they have anything that compares.  Apparently, the answer would be no, but I am not sure about that.  I don’t imagine this game is for everyone.  If you are a strictly RPG or MMO fan, this game could be viewed as a pretty trinket with little substance.  I finished it in about 12 hours, and I’m sure a better gamer would finish in 10.  Skyrim for instance took me 80+ hours to get through a fraction of the complete game.  But I rarely had anything close to the thrills I encountered with Nate and Sully with any other game.

I have already tried convincing a few others to give the game a spin, and one person in particular is now looking at PS3’s based on how much I raved about Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.  Whether this game is for you or not is not for me to say… but I can say that the 12 hours I spent playing were some of the better hours I’ve spent in a while with my clothing on (best to keep the gaming thing in perspective). 

I’ve purchased the first two games, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and am eager to jump into this world twice more.

Spiders… why did it have to be spiders,
Cornelius J. Blahg

4 thoughts

  1. Hey CJB,

    Enjoying your media reviews, especially the zombie podcast (with its shoutout to our old friends the O’Deas). I recently picked up a PS3 as well, and had a Gamefly subscription to catch up on console tech (I’d been without one since an early Nintendo). Red Dead Redemption is one of my favorites. Drop me an email if you want to swap online accounts and shoot up some digital zombies!

    Justin

  2. Thanks Justin…

    I have not yet tried any online gaming… I am completely intimidated by the mighty gaming prowess of 13 year olds… I’m terrified! I will keep it mind though. I’m sure zombie killing with an old friend would be great fun though.

    I can’t believe you listened to the podcast! I want to do it again, it’s just a pain finding the time and trying to make something interesting without a partner… I havent given up on the idea yet.

    As for Red Dead… such a great game. My 9 year old just finished it on her own (more or less). Now I’m wrapping up the first 2 Uncharteds and about to move onto Batman: Arkham City. Arkham Asylum was great… Review coming soon!

    Thanks a million for reading… When I become brave enough to dive into the adolescent pit of the MMO, I will certainly get in touch with you. Yeah… Zombie killing with a friend… Sounds great!

    Thanks again,
    CBJ

  3. I got my first opportunity to see this game in person at a co-worker’s house from DISH and noticed what a great feeling it is to be able to play a new game in the series. I can’t afford to buy the game right now so I added it to my Blockbuster@Home queue, it’s an affordable way to play and rent games, and right now you can even try it out with a free trial. I can’t wait to play it in the comfort of my own home. I did happen to notice this game has amazing lighting and shadowing effects and it adds a whole new dimension to the game which UC 2 didn’t have. Almost adds a 3D effect in and of itself.

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