Lara Croft has let herself go. Indiana Jones 4 was rubbish. The less said about National Treasure the better. Has the good name of archaeology been tarnished forever, or have Naughty Dog finally earned the right to call Nathan Drake a true adventure hero?
A globe-trotting tale of smoke and mirrors, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception once again follows silver-tongued, quick-witted Nathan Drake and his long-suffering partner-in-crime Sully in a race against time to find Sir Francis Drake’s lost fortune, buried in a lost Arabian city known as the “Atlantis of the Sands”. It’s a plot that would obviously be perfectly comfortable with Indiana Jones behind the wheel, but by now you should know better. The Uncharted series has always been praised for sharing many qualities with a Hollywood blockbuster and the third outing is no exception.
From London bar brawls and burning French chateaus, to sinking ships and hidden Arabian crypts, the pace of Uncharted 3 doesn’t let up for one second. I felt genuine moments of peril when, despite being the one in control, even I was unsure how Drake and Sully were going to make it out alive. However, for all the exotic locales and conspiracy theories floating around this game, the heart and soul lies with the relationship between Drake and Sully. As we are finally treated to the origin story behind the pair, the plot becomes less and less about finding the lost fortune of Sir Francis Drake and more about exploring the relationship between the two as, on more than a few occasions, Drake sticks his neck on the line for the sake of his old pal Sully. Once the dust of the final showdown has settled, the understated ending rounds off perhaps one of the few perfect stories in gaming history. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house…
Graphically beautiful, the game relies on motion capture technology to perfectly punctuate the emotional rollercoaster of a story. Revelations about Drake, Sully and the lost fortune are greeted with the same response from the characters as they are by the player. Each location is gorgeous, realistic and really does justice to the real life versions that inspired them. Even the elements (fire, wind, sandy air) all look stunning, even if they are all designed to get in your way. Coupled with excellent voice acting from the usual cast, and music that wouldn’t seem out of place in any biblical epic, Uncharted 3 does a perfect job of making the most out of this cinematic experience.
Gameplay consists of all the usual high-octane firefights, perilous platforming and noodle-scratching puzzle solving that came with the previous installments. It’s a tried and tested formula that Naughty Dog sure aren’t going to mess around with while they’re at the top of their game. All of these elements bind seamlessly with the story, keeping up the momentum and not leaving the player to get bored for one second. Dialogue between the characters keeps going during the gunfights, and it’s times like these that it really hits home that the story is at the centre of this whole game. The only issue was with the sometimes awkward hand-to-hand combat, and if I’m being honest, I probably wouldn’t have complained if not for comparing it to the fluidity of the combat system found in the equally brilliant Batman: Arkham City. The price tag alone is worth it for the single player experience, with the usual replay value coming from the treasure hunting that was made popular by the previous games.
Once you’ve finally beaten all twenty-something chapters of the game, it’s time for some multiplayer and since Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, gamers have been chomping at the bit to see how the popular system can evolve. The big addition to the online multiplayer is the new Booster and Kickback system. Similar to the COD perks, Boosters can make the difference to your game by giving such as faster recovery of your sprint time, or receiving extra ammo for taunting a downed enemy. Kickbacks are earned in-game and will allow you to power up your character, or spawn a much-needed weapon. It’s a whole lot of fun and will certainly mean that Uncharted 3 servers will be kept busy for the foreseeable future. Just as the Xbox is blessed with Gears of War and Halo: Reach, Sony fans can now rejoice at a multiplayer alternative to the usual suspects.
For Sony’s all-singing all-dancing entertainment machine that only does bloody everything, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is perhaps the perfect companion to the console. The story is of course at the centre of the package, but coupled with the over-the-top action and the wonder of historical myth, this game is perhaps the closest interactive experience we have to the classic adventure movie. It’s time for Doctor Jones to hang up his hat and whip. Congratulations Nathan Drake, you’ve got the job.