Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception PS3 Review

Drake’s Deception hits a sweet spot. It takes everything I love about the Uncharted franchise and finds new, unpredictable ways to surprise and shock. There isn’t anything notably bad about Uncharted 3, it provides an absolutely stunning single player experience that its contemporaries should compare themselves to. Some familiar problems return to slightly taint the overall presentation, but the faults are few and far between. Whichever way you look at it, Drake’s Deception is one of the best games you can play this year.

Developer Naughty Dog needed to give something different this time around. Drake’s Fortune and Among Thieves still remain among the best games available on the PS3, however they felt predictable. I knew what was going to happen before it actually did, I knew how those games would end before the credits rolled. I didn’t have that disappointed feeling with Drake’s Deception. Instead of letting me down by following a clichéd structure of betrayals and Hollywood style endings, Uncharted 3 consistently made me smile by doing the unexpected.

Amongst the list of unexpected twists, Drake’s Deception has a far more personal story. Flashbacks to childhood memories and a deeper exploration into Nate and Sully’s relationship reveal the emotions between the protagonists. Loss and loyalty are both constant themes, providing some great moments of tension, scenes of awe and intense floods of relief. The heroic personalities of Nate and Sully, along with their companions Elena and Chloe, are joined by new allies join the quest to uncover secrets and lost treasures. The expanded cast provides some of my favourite scenes in the series, never letting the serious stakes take prevalence over the humour and charm the series revels in.

The ugly face of Lazaveric from Among Thieves is long gone, replaced with a different threat in Drake’s Deception. The brute force of previous bad guys is replaced with the dark threat of an occult group, headed by the cold, calculating Katherine Marlowe. Accompanied by a band of equally malevolent individuals, Marlowe attempts to stay one step ahead of Drake at all times in order to gain what she so persistently seeks, all the while manipulating your favourite heroes to aid her evil motives.

All of this is delivered with the overwhelming cinematic edge the franchise is known for. Conversations flow naturally with sensational voice-work creating believable characters that you love and care for. There is no player interaction in cut-scenes, instead only forcing you to watch, however that isn’t a problem. The film-like nature of the delivery means that you’re drawn into this globe-trotting tale from the off.

From the unknown undergrounds of London to the gargantuan emptiness of the Rub’ al Khali desert, the barren plains of Syria to an abandoned boat yard, Uncharted 3 is varied and beautiful. After playing Among Thieves I was apprehensive to whether Naughty Dog could better the visual presentation, however they’ve outdone themselves. Uncharted 3 is the best-looking game I have ever seen.

Detail swarms the screen, characters look incredible and colours are vivid, whilst sumptuous lighting, phenomenal textures and varied art styles keep every location alive with expert design. Sand accumulates realistically on Nate’s clothing as he struggles through the desert, flames lick believably from a torch as it illuminates a secret crypt and the sun glows fiercely on the horizon, scorching the ground below your feet. This level of detail also extends to the myriad of Drake’s animations. He walks differently depending on the surface he’s treading on, reaches out to touch walls as he clumsily brushes past them and consistently expresses himself with both his gestures and facial features.

The fluidity of Drake’s movement extends to the overall gameplay. Platforming mechanics remain almost identical to the franchise formula, however some minor changes attempt to further refine the experience. Most of these slightly detract from the creative freedom, keeping the player on a firmly linear path throughout the platforming areas, however they result in a far more flowing sequence of events.

The fun of wall climbing is integrated into the cinematic set pieces. Plummeting out of planes and tumbling into canyons is just part of the job for Nathan Drake and the incredible set pieces ensure that you’ll play Uncharted 3 more than just once. Shooting mechanics are as consistently strong as always, but the cover system still has some frustrating problems that will test your patience on occasion. Gears of War this is not, failing to reach best-in-class status, however it does an admirable job of remaining great.

Despite the minor frustrations, I recommend playing on the normal difficulty or higher, as the easier difficulty sees some skittish AI issues causing some minor problems. The tougher challenge allows the system to test your abilities as an adventuring scamp.

As sad as you will be when you complete the single player, that doesn’t mean the Drake’s Deception experience is over. Co-operative and competitive multiplayer accompanies the staggeringly good offline experience. Whilst these components fail to hold a candle to the campaign, they still allow players to take the climbing, shooting and diving to the online lobbies. Co-op play is a considerable amount of fun, allowing you and up to two others to dive into one of three game modes. The strongest of these modes places you in levels ripped from the campaign to battle an onslaught of enemies. It’s very combat orientated with no level of platforming involved, however this works despite not being overwhelming.

As for the competitive portion of play, it offers a deeper experience than the co-op, with more longevity to boot. The mechanics from the single player make proud appearances, so you can expect to be climbing up walls, popping in and out of cover and using an array of guns and explosive tools to your advantage. The experience is considerably different online, requiring you to learn different approaches in order to become victorious. As with all multiplayer experiences nowadays, a crowded handful of new guns, perks and upgrades are unlocked as you progress to keep you battling through the night and to pretty good effect.

That said, multiplayer doesn’t really add much to the main attraction, which is the single player. This is where Uncharted continues to shine, giving new and surprising ways to make you smile, while consistently stunning you with its visuals, characters and incredible sense of scale. It’s a close call between Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception to the crown of best game in the franchise, however I think the unpredictable twists that are woven into the fantastic story let the newest episode reach a new pinnacle and I recommend everyone to play it. This is the game that Xbox 360 owners should envy.

9 out of 10