Nov 1, 2011

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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Review

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Review

High expectations come with any sequel of a popular franchise, but things are a little different when the predecessor was 2009’s Game of Year.  Uncharted 2 set the bar high for action-adventure titles with excellent shooting, voice acting, epic battles, and a decent story to go with it. Naughty Dog knew they had to step up their game with Drake’s Deception, and that’s exactly what they did. It’s hard to imagine Naughty Dog being able to top what they brought us in 2009, but Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception improves on the few issues its predecessor had and delivers yet another fantastic adventure.

If you are going into Drake’s Deception thinking it will have the type of improvements seen from Uncharted 1 to 2, you might be a bit disappointed. Uncharted 3 isn’t a big departure from the last title, but what it does do is provide gamers with a stronger connection to the story/characters, streamlines the action, and improves on the melee combat.

The plot of Drake’s Deception is along the same lines as the previous titles. Drake and his gang of treasure hunters are going after something that an “evil” organization wants. Without spoiling the game, there are the expected twists and turns one would expect from an Uncharted story. The difference this time is it’s a bit more personal for Drake and the characters we’ve come to know. The voice acting and writing help to further engross the gamer into the world of Uncharted. The lively back-and-forth discussions between the characters are back and even more prevalent in Drake’s Deception.  The chapters throughout the game show how Naughty Dog can still provide an excellent narrative to go along with great gameplay. More importantly, the chapters throughout the game don’t deviate from the story like they did in Uncharted 2; there are very few moments where I asked myself, “What’s the point of going here?” The final two chapters are some of the best in the franchise, and while the ending might not satisfy some, I didn’t feel cheated at all by how the final chapter wrapped up.

While the story remains as thrilling as ever, it is all brought together by the epic set pieces and excellent gameplay that we’ve become accustomed to. New to Drake’s Deception is improved melee. This time around there is a definite focus on melee combat, and the introduction showcases it right away with a brawl in a bar in London.

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Melee animation has been improved, but we also see a lot of environmental interaction as well. In the bar scene and other fight sequences in the game, Drake will grab whatever is close by to get a leg up in the fight. The combat is very similar to the Batman titles, where two buttons do all the work from punching to countering. It’s more realistic and slower than in Batman, but it’s just as exciting. Watching Drake dodge punches, grabbing bottles or a fish to take out an enemy is very satisfying, but it can feel a bit overpowered. Boss battles throughout the game also focus on these melee instances with bigger enemies. This can get a little tiresome, but they are presented in ways where it makes sense, at least in terms of a video game.

The other aspects of the game remain pretty similar to its predecessor: shooting, climbing/platforming, and using cover are for the most part unchanged. Blind/Hip Firing is more effective this time around, but you’ll need it, as enemies tend to flank more often. The combat sequences usually take place in larger areas than in the previous titles. The levels are fairly linear; however, in Drake’s Deception you are given more freedom as to how you approach the fire fights. Almost every fight in the game can be taken stealthily or guns blazing. The environment allows for far more traversal, allowing you to flank enemies from above or funnel them into an area where they can’t flank you. Not only do you have a choice when it comes to combat, you are rewarded either way. Using stealth takes more time, but you can avoid a lot of fighting this way. Choosing to open fire will cause far more enemies to spawn, and you’ll get the exciting, though sometimes frustrating, firefight that you wanted.

Enemy AI still isn’t that great, but they will flank you, and it changes the way the fight scenes play out. They’ll throw more grenades, which you can toss back now, and while enemies are throwing grenades and keeping you behind cover, others will run around to areas where they can get a better shot at you. This means you’ll have to act faster, and you can no longer hide in one area while you wait for enemies to pop their heads out.

The action is all brought together in amazing set pieces throughout the game. Whether it’s an on-foot chase scene through a market, or the sinking boat or crashing plane, each set piece is as exhilarating as ever and sets Uncharted 3 apart from all other action-adventure games. The camera angles further immerse you into these dire situations by panning out to show you the scope of what you are climbing onto or how high up from the ground you are. Adding to this experience is what you can call “situational animations.” This is where you are in control of Drake even in scenes that seem to be a cutscene or a predetermined animation. Throughout the game, you’ll be asked to hit buttons or move Drake in a certain direction in order for the cinematic scene to progress (as seen, for example, in the opening moments of the game). These situational animations blur the line between cinematics and gameplay, and offer you an experience that you can’t find anywhere else.