Monday, November 28, 2011

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (PS3) Review

Released on November 1st, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is the hotly anticipated PlayStation 3 exclusive starring globetrotter Nathan Drake. It just so happens that today Naughty Dog released a patch to fix the aiming issues as well as add motion blur and a cutscene viewer. Regardless, I am going to review the game as if there was no patch-- how it should be reviewed. Would this game make for an excellent gift to your favorite PS3 owner? Let's discover the truth with this review.

Greatness from Slow Beginnings

The Uncharted series is known for its Hollywood style presentation, "oh my god" moments, and endless feats of endurance and one liners by hero Nathan Drake. It is said that all men dream but not equally. Well, one could make that argument for developers as well. Naughty Dog's third installment of their beloved franchise promises to entertain, amaze, and bewilder with its impressive production values, lovable cast, and terrific design with Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Does this title chart a course for adventure or a course for disaster?

Nathan Drake's latest quest has him recalling his youth as a pickpocket on the Colombian streets. It is here where he first meets up with Victor Sullivan who would later become his mentor. In Drake's Deception we learn about Nathan's past, his lifelong search for a priceless treasure, and the villains who lust for the same. Additionally, the plot this time revolves around Nate's silver ring, a token left by Sir Francis Drake himself. It is the key to finding the fabled Atlantis of the Sands. The bad guys, led by a sinister middle-aged woman named Marlowe, do everything in their power to trip up Nate and his crew, from burning them alive to making them the chew toys of an infestation of insects. The friendship of Drake and Sullivan is put to the ultimate test. Is Drake's pride getting in his way? Will it lead to his doom? All of these questions are answered in a satisfying story that thrills from beginning to end. The cutscenes show off the brilliant presentation of the game with astonishing voice acting that is the industry at the top of its game and characters that you cannot help but either feel attached to or loathe like one's worst enemy. It is truly a wild ride full of twists and turns. Everything from the banter between Drake's crew to Drake's one liners is well written and wonderful.

The heroes are ones you just want to root for.

Uncharted 3 is twenty-two chapters in length. The game itself starts out rather slow, steadily introducing new gameplay elements at a fair pace. The first chapter reestablishes the relationship between Drake and Sully and introduces fisticuffs. Punches are performed with the square button, dodging and countering is done with a press of the triangle button, and grabbing and pushing foes happens with the circle button. It is effortless to clear out a room full of foes just asking to be beat down. The next series of chapters flashbacks to Colombia where Drake first meets Sully and eventually becomes his treasure hunting apprentice. In fact, gun-play doesn't even happen until the fifth chapter, so to say Uncharted 3 starts off slow would be an understatement.

When an enemy doesn't take the hint, use brute force.

There are four main types of gameplay to be found in this third iteration of Uncharted: platforming, pummeling, puzzles, and gun-play. Sometimes a given chapter will isolate one type for the entire gameplay, but most combine a good mix of all four for good effort. While not your typical everyman (I don't know any guy who somehow survives every near-death situation and has tremendous upper body strength), Nathan Drake exhibits an impeccable platforming prowess. Ledges can be scaled, ropes can be climbed, chasms can be leaped across, and cliffs can be traversed. All in a day's work for Nathan Drake. Occasionally it can be difficult judging the distance between jumps or not necessarily knowing what to do or where to go next. This led to some rather annoying deaths, jumping to a place that wasn't meant to be jumped to or using trial-and-error to ascertain where the game wants the player to move. Combining platforming with shooting, Drake can fire his side arm or chuck a grenade while hanging from a ledge to gain a tactical advantage in battle. Of course, enemies love to throw their own brand of grenades as well. Either move out of the way or time it just right to toss it right back at their unsuspecting hind parts.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire--
as is everything else!

Speaking of guns, when flying fists fail to win the day, Drake has an assortment of high-powered weaponry to take it to enemies. From close-range shotguns to assault rifles to RPGs to sniper rifles to pistols, weapons are never scarce. However, Nate can only carry two weapons at a time, one side arm like a pistol or handgun and one main weapon such as a machine gun or rifle. Aiming before the patch was decidedly sluggish. It was as if the player was fighting the controls-- especially when moving in diagonals. This has since been fixed, but it is flabbergasting to think that Naughty Dog could mess up something that was so flawless in the previous two games. How does that happen? How do so many people miss this in testing and after the fact? Being able to patch the game just means that ND's mistake is rectified. Regardless, there really is no excuse. A developer at the caliber of Naughty Dog's should know better. Even with my qualms regarding the aiming pre-patch, each gun feels great and one could imagine this is how, say, a sniper rifle would feel in real life or could imagine the sound of a muzzled pistol firing. The feedback is a really nice touch.

While battling with guns, Drake can find cover to dodge bullets and frontal explosions. However, because the roll button and the stick-to-cover button is one in the same, I often stuck to cover when I wanted to escape from a fight. This meant getting pelted with unwanted bullets and massive frustration. Given that some firefights have few checkpoints, this made for some rage-like symptoms from yours truly. Furthermore, sometimes the camera would be placed in less than satisfactory locations making for even more undesired deaths and hassle. It is even more aggravating to have Drake hang from objects when I simply needed him to drop, move out of the enemy's line of fire, and go to a safe spot. I can only imagine how annoying Crushing would be as enemies chuck more grenades, Drake takes more damage, and death is easily obtainable.

Cover is key in Uncharted 3...
when it doesn't screw you over.

When Drake isn't firing like Duke Nukem on all cylinders or crossing hazardous chasms, he'll be venturing in ancient crypts, temples, and hidden castles full of brain-busting puzzles. In actuality, the puzzles here are a step beyond past games, and they truly are quite clever. Usually Drake will consult his journal (just like Henry Jones Sr.'s grail diary in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) for hints toward the puzzle solution. This is performed with a press of the select button. Some puzzles will require Drake to rotate a globe so the lights correspond to the correct continent while others will have Nate walking on a series of floor tiles, finding the right path to the goal to open a firmly closed door.

If you thought the train sequence in Uncharted 2 was amazing, as Bachman Turner Overdrive would say, you ain't seen nothing yet. The variety and intensity of the set pieces in Drake's latest epic are simply sensational. In one chapter the player will be fighting their way through a steadily burning chateau while another they will be crawling and wondering which way is up in a capsized cruise ship. Each scenario is more impressive than the last all culminating in an ultra satisfying conclusion. You might even be catching your breath after completing such a section. Just remember that it is only a video game...

Manipulate a jeep to reach the landing
gear of this plane. Stowaway time!

Apart from the single player campaign which will last most players eight hours (five difficulties offer even more replay value as well as 101 treasures hidden in secret locations), there is the multiplayer modes to sift through. Players can earn money playing through one of a myriad of modes including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Free For All, Team Objective, Three Team Deathmatch, Plunder, and Hardcore. This dough can be used to purchase new perks, weapons for the player's loadout, and new multiplayer skins. In battle, pretty much everything awards the player with a medal-- killing an opponent from behind cover, massive kill streaks, etc. The twelve maps are superbly designed, some even transforming mid-match such as a moving train shifting the battle to a different locale completely. There are approximately a dozen or so maps in all, all locales from the single player campaign. Additionally, there are cooperative modes for up to four players, three in all: Co-op Arena, Co-op Hunter Arena, and Co-op Adventure. These modes make sure that players will be plundering all the content of the game long after they've completed single player on the Crushing difficulty.

Battle with up to eight people in a single match.

Uncharted 3 is one of the most gorgeous games one will find on consoles. Naughty Dog pushed the PlayStation 3 in large quantities. The presentation is simply superb with incredible motion capturing, facial expressions, and amazing animations. It all looks and feels like an interactive AAA Hollywood summer blockbuster. The dialogue is dynamite with brilliant banter between characters, witty one liners, and it is all delivered in an extremely believable fashion. The orchestral soundtrack heightens many memorable moments throughout the course of Drake's third hunt for treasure. All-in-all, there are few games with as astounding a presentation as Drake's Deception.

The chateau is one of many beautiful locales.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is an imperfect game, but is one where you can tell a lot of love went into its creation. Yes, the cover mechanics can be irritating, and the aiming prior to the patch was not untarnished. That said, there are countless moments of excellence, a fantastic wealth of multiplayer modes, and a mighty script to accompany everything. If you possess sixty dollars and a PlayStation 3, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is a treasure that is priceless.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

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