Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception: review


The staff at Naughty Dog are masters of disguise. Masters of disguising loading times, masters of disguising linearity, and – ultimately – masters of disguising their Uncharted movies as videogames. That last costume, however, is skimpier here than in the previous two instalments.

The Uncharted series has provided stories that are consistently engaging to watch, and this is certainly no exception. The story here jumps between Drake’s past and present, revealing new details and raising new questions (most of which are not answered); but the devil’s in the details. The dialogue, as ever, sparkles in a way only the very best writers can achieve, and the acting is superb across the board. The final all-important touch is provided by the virtual actors themselves, whose facial expressions and body language are handled with perfect subtlety and attention to detail.

So Naughty Dog has a lengthy story to tell, and in terms of the audio-visual experience it’s difficult to imagine how they could possibly tell it any better. The game never, ever looks less than stunning. The problem is that for over half the game, the cinematic moments where the developer is fully in control of events – which merely punctuated the experience in Uncharted 1 and 2 – dominate. The player’s presence is tolerated rather than welcomed.

Peggy Mitchell menaces Drake and Sully, while Grant and Phil wait in the background for her to cook their tea.

That is certainly not to say that the game begins as a prettier version of Heavy Rain. There are several sections where the player is allowed to jump, clamber and fight in a traditional gaming manner. The issue is that these moments of gameplay are separated little and often not only by cutscenes, but by cutscenes in a paper-thin disguise where the player is required to do no more than hold the analogue stick forward (often moving much slower than the player would choose), or press/tap a button. Initially, the game is saturated with this method of telling the story at the player. The compulsory hand-to-hand fights which pop up on occasion have touches of this too; if the game wants you to be caught in a grapple, you will be caught in a grapple.

At times, even the comfortably familiar hallmarks of Uncharted gameplay are overused. It won’t be long before ledges crumbling and flooring collapsing become background noise rather than thrilling surprises; and an early escape from a burning building goes on a little too long, and crams just a touch too much of this unstable environment trickery into a short space of time.

It’s not really until about halfway through chapter 12 (of 22) that Naughty Dog relinquishes control of Uncharted 3 to the player for large chunks of time. From then until the end, it’s a consistently fantastic game (excepting a brief but annoying difficulty spike in the penultimate chapter) which reminds you why the series is loved so much. The times where spectacle pushes gameplay out of the way are still there, but are sensibly spaced and handled better than ever. One of the later chapters is in fact nothing more than an extended interactive cutscene; but it’s so unexpected and so expertly done, surely even the harshest of critics won’t care.

The cover system works as well as ever, encouraging you to carefully pick off distant enemies – though bizarrely, the aiming is a little less precise than in previous games even after adjustment – while blindfiring in a panic when they get a little too close. You’ll often choose your targets carefully too; take out the distant sniper first, or the approaching shielded enemy? Or the heavily armoured shotgun-wielding goon making slow but worrying progress toward your position? There’s a safer piece of cover over there; can you make it?

Surprisingly perhaps, exactly how combat plays out is often up to you. Mixing gunplay and melee strikes works even better than before, and can save your virtual skin when you’re low on health but need to reload. Your allies can actually shoot straight, and one-hit-kill stealth attacks can be used any time the enemy doesn’t see you coming. Silenced weapons are virtually non-existent, but you won’t care. Fights are tense, exciting, and fun.

The variable combat and athleticism of the characters translates extremely well to competitive multiplayer. There aren’t a huge number of maps, but each is brilliantly designed to make the experience as close to singleplayer gameplay as possible. What boil down to killstreak rewards and perks have been included, but ‘Hardcore’ mode throws these to the wind. Although there are only a few game modes, the wealth of unlockables – not to mention the superb gameplay which equally rewards skill, quick reactions and careful planning – will ensure that many are still playing online months after release.

"I've got your gu-un, nyah nyah!"

There are co-op options for 2-3 players, including a series of specially made co-op story levels; and kudos to Naughty Dog for including splitscreen play. They feature familiar characters (past and present) and scripts just as witty as offline, including some laugh-out-loud moments. There are even treasures to be found, varying by level and difficulty, which unlock customisation options in competitive modes. Otherwise, it almost feels like a different game. Players are fed non-stop ‘proper’ gameplay, which is good; but cheap tactics – such as pumping waves of enemies forward, and spawning more behind you without warning – are used to negate the co-op advantage, which is not. It’s a good way to kill some time with friends, but the long-term appeal is questionable.

Make no mistake; Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is very, very good. The tricky question is: how good a videogame is it? When you’re playing the game, it is brilliant. When the game is playing you, it is still brilliant; but when the game plays you for minutes at a time, the player is working to please the developer instead of the developer working to please the player. While just about forgiveable here, this is not a trend we should be encouraging.


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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

One comment

  1. steven g /

    I loved the uncharted 2 single player, but enjoyed the multi-player even more. Im yet to play Uncharted 3, but based upon this review I think the value will be in the multi-player long term. Uncharted is PS3’s Gears of war in terms of third person online shooters – apart from you can climb things and and jump!

    I bet sales for uncharted 3 are short term nothing exciting, medium term very strong.

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