Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception [Review]

Nick Santangelo
Contributor
 
November 10th, 2011

Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception

I know what you want to read below. You want to read all about how Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a bona fide GOTY contender that sets a new benchmark in the action-adventure genre. It would be fantastic to be able to write that review for Naughty Dog’s latest, but it wouldn’t be honest. Despite achieving its goal of delivering another thriller of a blockbuster movie trapped in the body of a video game, the developer has wildly missed the mark on many of the actual “game” elements; that cannot be overlooked.

Drake’s Deception looks and sounds absolutely spectacular – it’s probably the best on the PS3 in both of those categories. The inspired art direction and incredible technical wizardry on display combine to form a marvelous delight for the eyes that will wow even gamers with the highest of standards. Players trot ‘round the globe to exciting locales such as Syria, France, and England; and they’ll all be sold on the illusion of actually being there.

The architecture is marvelous and it all comes to life thanks to the brilliant iridescence Naughty Dog paints it in and the believable NPCs they fill it out with. Cities are bustling with life, castles feel ancient and give the impression that wonderful discoveries are awaiting around every corner (they often are), and the natural beauty of the moon-lit dessert is awe-inspiring in its grandeur and depressing in its desolation. Both small details like individual grains of sand caught in Drake’s hair and in-your-face elements such as entire environments being ripped asunder create the impression of a great atmosphere. It’s difficult to put down something that appears so captivating.

Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception

Deception’s score is also outstanding. It’s always clear precisely what level of urgency is appropriate for any given situation. Each piece further pulls one down into the depths of the portion of the game over which it is played. As all great scores do, this one creeps into the player’s subconscious and informs him/her exactly how they should be feeling from moment to moment.

Voice work is superlative, as it has been throughout the trilogy. Nolan North is Nathan Drake; the character could not have been so successfully brought to life by anyone else. Sometimes the cheese gets stacked a bit thick, but those lighter moments help to break up the more serious aspects of the title and usually come across as good, stupid fun. The rest of the cast turns in fabulous performances, too. Superb writing blends wonderfully with the voice-overs to create characters with development arcs that are fascinating to watch, rather than the caricatures of other games that are amusing only in passing.

Speaking of the writing, the scribes have again weaved a yarn worthy of the silver screen. It’s another crucial ingredient in recipe that will keep nearly everyone hooked until curtain call. The bond between Drake and father-figure Sully is strengthened to the point of it becoming one of gaming’s most believable relationships. Elena is oddly absent in the early going, but pops in eventually to play a prominent role. The villains aren’t nearly as multi-dimensional as the heroes, but they certainly possess personalities that go beyond the mere Pinky and the Brain “Try to take over the world!” basics we’re used to as gamers.

Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception

Uncharted 2 was famous for being stuffed full of wondrous set pieces. This threequel can’t quite keep pace with it in that regard, but it tries its damndest to do so. The aforementioned dessert is fantastic and it’s just one of several beautiful environments that your eyes will be glued to. Nothing on display here can overtake the quaint towns of Nepal or insanely awesome train hanging over a snowy cliff, but this third entry certainly has its moments in that regard.

It unfortunately loses some of its majesty by the almost laughable amount of crazy shenanigans that Drake survives without a scratch. Naughty Dog tries their best to paint a picture of a man at wit’s end that somehow summons the strength to overcome, with everything in the world stacked against him, when he stumbles without water for days through the dessert into an ambush. Taken by itself it would have been a fantastic sequence, but it just doesn’t work due to what came before it.

Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Naughty Dog
Score
3.9\5
Visuals
5
Some of the best ever seen on a console. Uncharted's graphics impress on both the technical and artistic level. There's some minor issues with things like lip-syncing, but nothing nothing terribly problematic. Naughty Dog has produced another beauty.
Sound
5
Stellar voice work and excellent musical tracks are two of the accomplishments Naughty Dog should be most proud of. The menu music is grating after a while, but that's hardly enough to knock down the score.
Controls
2.5
Drake's Deception features some of the worst aiming in any shooter around, and its platforming mechanics are sloppy. It’s unfortunate that such poor controls were married to a game that gets so many other aspects right.
Game Play
3
Enemies that literally pop up out of thin air and rain down hell with deadly precision make for awful battles when you factor in the frustrating nature of shooting and the fact that many enemies take more damage than a Sherman Tank. Melee combat is a bit better, the puzzles are inventive and the platforming would be fun if players weren't made to fight the poor controls and camera work.
Fun
4
Despite some deeply flawed elements, Uncharted 3 still manages to be incredibly fun much of the time. You'll enjoy this sequel, but not because of the gameplay.

META

Nick has been a gamer since the 8-bit days and a member of the MTB editorial team since January of 2011. He is not to be interrupted while questing his way through an RPG or desperately clinging to hope against all reason that his Philly sports teams will win any given game he may be watching. Seriously folks, reading this acknowledges that you relieve MTB of any and all legal liability for his actions.

Specialty:

2 Responses to “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception [Review]”

  1. Mike Kilmer says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your assessment. I loved the story of the game, the graphics are amazing, the set pieces are ridiculous. But I too felt, really? He survived this again numerous times. The controls i found extremely frustrating, especially in the beginning. I found myself a bit better towards the end of the game, but as you said, a game like this needs finely tuned shooting, and they somehow made it worse than Uncharted 2 by adding recoil. Very well written review. 

    • Thanks a lot for reading, Mike! Good to hear from you. It’s unfortunate that Naughty Dog took a step back in a lot of areas from the mostly-fantastic second game in the series.

      Recoil works just fine in games that have tight aiming, but this series has always had clunky controls. Toss in bullet sponge baddies, enemies on boats that bob up and down and guys that slide in and out of cover and you’ve got a real mess on your hands. Still, Naughty Dog again proved that it can make one hell of technical wonder mated with a story and characters that players actually care about.

Leave a Reply