Ever since the first Uncharted game, Nathan Drake has often been compared to Indiana Jones. With Uncharted 3, Naughty Dog takes that connection one step further, offering up one of the most memorable openings I’ve experienced in gaming. You're not even handed your first pistol until roughly midway through the fourth chapter of the title, but you honestly won’t mind when you see how Naughty Dog manages to pull you into the experience through a clever and touching first few chapters. This is Nate and Sully’s story, and it’s an emotional roller coaster ride that only Naughty Dog could deliver.
If you’ve played the previous two Uncharted titles, then you know what you’re getting yourself into with Uncharted 3. You’ll partake in a globe-trotting adventure where you’ll be fighting a lot of goons, climbing a lot of rickety structures and narrowly escaping incredibly elaborate set pieces. The game wouldn’t be Uncharted if those three tentpole features weren’t present.
As far as the big-action set pieces are concerned, Naughty Dog has once again upped the ante. Uncharted 3 is filled with some absolutely thrilling moments ripped straight out of a blockbuster adventure movie. These moments come often, and usually leave you gasping for air with your jaw on the ground. I’m honestly not sure what you’ll be thinking about more after finishing each of these exhilarating sequences; how the hell did Naughty Dog manage to pull them off, or how, exactly, is Nathan Drake so lucky that he’s able to consistently survive them?
While the set pieces come fast and furious, Uncharted 3 still needs something for the player to do between these bombastic action sequences. That’s where the climbing segments and cover-to-cover shootouts happen. Surprisingly enough, I found myself less and less engaged with the gunplay of Uncharted 3 as the campaign wore on. For the most part, firefights play out roughly the same every time, forcing you to kill a certain number of thugs/agents/pirates before you’re allowed to progress forward. Being completely honest, shootouts just become tiresome by hour four of the eight (plus) hour campaign experience. There are only a few instances where there’s a welcomed wrench thrown into the formula to make firefights feel fresh. For example, there’s a moment where Drake participates in a vertical shootout on the side of a massive tanker ship.
It also doesn’t help that enemies have this uncanny knack for pinpointing your cranium and blowing it apart even when you’re maneuvering like a madman. In addition, and this is what’s most frustrating about gunplay, enemies only target Drake, even when he has three other buddies accompanying him. They will literally walk right past everyone else like a god damn Terminator on their way to Drake’s position. This design flaw leads to many infuriating encounters.
However, it’s not all sad panda face in regards to combat in Uncharted 3. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the newly-enhanced melee system. Come to think of it, hand-to-hand fistfights are the best aspect of combat because of how cinematic and visceral they are. I think Naughty Dog knew this as well, as they champion the new moves, counters and finishers during the game’s fantastic opener in a London bar, as well as a few other crucial moments over the course of the game’s campaign.
If Uncharted 3 didn’t have an engaging story to counterbalance the lacking firefights, I might have been slightly turned off from the single player experience. Luckily, this is Naughty Dog we’re talking about. They know story, pacing and character extremely well, and they put all three of those facets to fine use over the course of Uncharted 3’s campaign. While playing the actual game portion of the title, I honestly couldn’t wait until the next cutscene kicked in and fed me a little more of the game’s plot through the impeccable interaction between the game’s ensemble cast. For anyone that knows where my interests lie in gaming, story is what matters most, and Uncharted 3, like both previous Uncharted titles, stands as a shining beacon of my deepest desires from this medium. You’ll definitely laugh, possibly cry, and, without question, be thoroughly entertained from start to finish.
But the Uncharted 3 experience doesn’t end with the single player campaign. The game also has a robust multiplayer component for both competitive and cooperative play. What’s odd about Uncharted 3’s multiplayer is that people have already been playing the full experience for roughly a month now, thanks to the Subway “Taste for Adventure” promotion. So, honestly, what I have to say able multiplayer doesn’t really carry as much weight, as you can go download it for yourself for free and form your own opinion about it right now.
However, it’s technically my job to explain what works and what doesn’t in this review. In a nutshell, a whole lot works. The competitive game types are all fun and varied, and the cooperative modes are a blast whether you’re playing over the Internet or split-screen. Naughty Dog has a done a stellar job designing the maps around Uncharted’s unique vertical-based gameplay. Every single map on disc has multiple tiers and passageways to make firefights constantly feel fresh and frantic. Furthermore, the maps that incorporate some sort of dynamic battlefield shift are some of the most inspiring available. We got a taste of this with the “Airstrip” map from the Uncharted 3 beta event, but there are a few more that come packaged with the full game. In addition, the game constantly rewards you with new boosters, medal kickbacks, character skins and accessories for progressing up the level chart. There's rarely a moment in multiplayer where you're not working towards unlocking something in the game.
In the end, did anyone really expect Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception to be a letdown? The question was never if it would be good or not, but instead, just how good would it be? The answer to that conundrum: Uncharted 3 is very good. Sure, the gunplay of the campaign may be frustrating and tiresome at points, but Naughty Dog does so much right with this game that it’s unfair to really harp on one negative when there are so many positives. So you may take that deep sigh of relief, Naughty Dog has not let us down in the slightest; Uncharted 3 is just as good as the previous two entries in the series, and that’s worth celebrating.
CraveOnline received 1 advanced copy of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception for the PlayStation 3 from Sony. We weren’t held to an embargo date for coverage. Before starting our review, we completed the entire campaign on normal difficulty, as well as logged a handful of hours into the game’s competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes.