in Review

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

One of the seemingly endless stream of “threes” coming to gaming the last few months, Uncharted 3 had the odds stacked against it. After all, while the first game in the series was commendable, it wasn’t especially remarkable. So when that second game came out and basically defined the cinematic gaming experience, it raised expectations considerably higher for the third part of the trilogy. After all, how do you top one of the greatest games of the current generation?

You don’t. You just give us a lot more of it. If the first game was Romancing the Stone and the second was Raiders of the Lost Ark, this is Last Crusade. It’s a bit more of a family affair, focusing on the relationship between Drake and Sully, something I imagine a lot of fans have been waiting for. Drake’s Deception digs deep into both of their pasts, while also digging up so more Sir Francis Drake and TE Lawrence history too.

Experiencing the story is the real joy of these games, so I won’t say too much. Everyone’s back. The gang is once again looking for a long lost city. Some bad people are coincidentally also looking for this long lost city. The quest takes Drake all around the globe and too a variety of locales. At this point, I think Naughty Dog is simply unmatched in their ability to craft environments, as we’ve not experienced basically every form of the outdoors through these games.

Probably the most poignant moment of the last game came at the end, when Lazarevic pointed out just how many people Drake killed over the course of the game. Of course, Nate just kind of brushed that off, because, damn, that’s some shit. I don’t know how you answer that. Similarly, this game asks the question why Drake and Sully go on these quests, since they’re often so dangerous and rarely pay off for them. It’s another great question and its handled a lot better this time around. In fact, I think the story as a whole is better this time, simply because it gave me the maximum opportunity to spend time with characters I already love.

Gameplay wise, not much has changed. Shooting feels a little more magnetic, I think the aim assist has been made a little more generous. The game is still the best on the market when it comes to throwing grenades, and the motion sensitivity of it is disabled by default now. Hand-to-hand combat is a bigger component this time around, and it’s definitely learned a little from Arkham Asylum, feeling more reactionary while still maintaining its button-mashing roots.

The multiplayer suite is great, as anyone who went to Subway in the last month already knows. The coop missions provide fun little “What If” stories and it’s just great to play this kind of game with other people. The competitive modes are solid, though I’m not sure they’re the kind of thing I’ll be returning to, even a few weeks from now.

The set pieces do their best to step up from what Uncharted 2 did. Naughty Dog clearly spent a long time developing wave technology, because the levels that take place at sea are pretty extraordinary and possibly even sea sickness-inducing. Similarly, a sequence in the desert is pretty amazing, especially because it takes place entirely in gameplay. There’s plenty more that I’d love to spoil for you, but I probably shouldn’t. Just know that this game really steps it up.

But it’s not really enough just to be iterative. Uncharted 3 does some really amazing things, but I expected it to do that. Because my mind was already blown by the last game, it could not be blown again by this game doing similar things. I know that sounds stupid, but when your game is this good, those intangible feelings become more pronounced.

Uncharted 3 will forever live in Uncharted 2‘s shadow. Maybe two years wasn’t long enough for another revolution. The next time, if there is a next time, hopefully they can change the world again. If not, well, this is still an amazing, otherwise unparalleled experience that makes me happy to own a PS3. That’s not bad.