Naughty Dog's Uncharted franchise has some massive expectations to meet. Fortunately, Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception delivers on every-level
With so many big games being released as multiformat titles, you may start to wonder why you opted for an Xbox 360 or a PS3. There haven't been many games recently that were an IP exclusive for your console. But Naughty Dog's sublime Uncharted franchise is enough to make you remember why you bought a PS3 in the first place. The Laura Croft and Indiana Jones homage is back and, in our not so humble opinion, the world is a better place.
Beautifully paced cinematic tub-thumping is married to a razor wit with characters and a plot we actually cared about. Sure it lacks the novelty factor third time around but - even though it can be a marketing man's substitute for quality- bigger, faster and, err, climbier is no bad thing.
Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception: Plot and characters
Fallible and vunerable Nathan Drake and his mentor Sully are back on a boy's own globe trotting adventure with some previously seen secondary characters return to give Uncharted 3 a more believable world to inhabit.
The whizz bang boy's own actioneer plot with Francis Drake, a soupçon Illuminati, a dash of nefarious Magi courtesy of real world characters like John Dee and Lawrence of Arabia himself are, of course, a pile of guff. When these postage stamp plot are done badly - we are looking at you Nicholas Cage in National Treasure- they are terrible. But when they are done with a deftness of touch to drop the player in to the action, they are very engaging. Fortunately, Amy Hennig's script never misses a beat.
Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception: Game engine
Three words: teenage Nathan Drake. Not just the techno-juju of an engine that is on a par with Dice's Frostbite 2 Battlefield 3 engine. And not just the way Naughty Dog enhances the superior firepower of the PS3 to make something so beautiful to behold. But what makes Uncharted 3 so engrossing is the attention to detail. Every trip and stumble of the teenage Drake has such incredible character. We can only imagine Naughty Dog had a conveyer belt of children going past its artists to get such an articulated sense of rhythm from every joint and muscle of kids in motion.
It's also the fact that Naughty Dog lets you take time to let you saviour the world by slowing the action outside set-pieces. The arrival at the French chateaux, the quiet desert, are lovely refrains that give you time to breath and marvel while improving the bombast when it comes.
Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception: Controls and combat
Drake's parkour climbing skills have improved and the team must've been looking at Batman's combat system. Yes, it is still essentially a button masher with delusions of grandeur - but what contextual takedown delusions!
Drake is even more fluid than he was in Uncharted 2 but you still have a tweaked shooting and stealth approach. Of course, we're not-talking open world choice- because Naughty Dog's auteur hand is essential to guide you through the directed action set pieces. But that is not a negative because there is so much more going on than a linear duck shoot.
Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception: Multiplayer
For the first time in the Uncharted franchise Naughty Dog has bolted on a healthy multi-player component with a comprehensive feature set.
It's a worthy attempt to add co-op play, death match with some action set pieces that drive the single player campaign- especially the well-publicised plane on a runway. There are even great tracking features for clans and a mission playout on the London underground with US actors forced in to mockney UK colloquialisms.
As good as it is, we can't see it holding your Playstation 3 fanbois' attention for too long with Battlefield 3 out now and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 out next week.
Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception: Verdict
Naughty Dog has just made the best Uncharted game we've seen. Drake's Deception is a stunning technical marvel that has surely pushed the PS3 to breaking point. But it would be sound and fury signifying nothing if it wasn't for the script, characters, plot and pacing that make this one of the best games of 2011.
Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception availability: Out tomorrow on Playstation 3 only
Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception price: £39.99