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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Campaign Review

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I didn’t want to wait until I finished the co-op or dabbled into the final version of the multiplayer because Uncharted is all about the solo experience. It’s what brought me to this franchise and its the reason why I stayed with it.

I found Naughty Dog’s latest opus to be their best work to date. Uncharted 2 may have brought them into the limelight for many, but it was an evolutionary step towards their interactive action movie vision. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a culmination of all the technological advancements, gameplay ideas and lessons learned from the past five years.

Expecting Naughty Dog to just bring another variation of the train or truck convoy segments would be pessimistic and selling them short. UC3 not only offered more variety in its set pieces, but they integrated them with more finesse, player interaction and complexities.

Drake wasn’t just stumbling across a few crumbling floors while dispatching thugs. He was brawling across the elements including fire, water and even earth. These elements were used to spice up the usual third person shootin’ by creating dynamic platforms, unique low visibility scenarios and battles from the Dark Void perspective.

All these new fangled additions wouldn’t be much of a difference maker if it all lead to simple stop and pop gunfights. I played the game on “Hard” difficulty and if I didn’t diffuse a situation correctly, all hell would break loose and I’ll be overwhelmed within seconds. Stealthy approaches can thin out the herd, but as soon as they’re alerted, reinforcements were summoned post-haste.

In lieu of boss battles, Naughty Dog’s encounters have become all more important. Throwing out armored shotgun wielding brutes instilled fear and a sense of urgency to the fights. These brutes appeared dumb, but working in tandem with the “regular joes”, they provided the impetus for me to break out and do something other than sitting back and wait for them to “make a mistake”.

Grenades were a regular threat and so were the possibilities of being outflanked. I had to keep folks in check with regular bursts of gunfire and aggression. If they got too close, Drake’s fists were more than up to the task. I was even able to go to toe to toe with the linebacker sized brutes. It was risky because it left me wide open, but it worked out if I was behind the right kind of cover.

Naughty Dog experimented with a melee system quite a bit throughout the franchise. In UC3, they brought in the street brawling style of the Bourne series and the recent Bond films where anything was fair game no matter how dirty it was. Kicks to the family jewels, bashing heads with beer bottles and even the occasional fancy weapon disarm were now possible with the new melee system.

Describing the new melee system as a poor man’s Batman: Arkham Asylum wouldn’t be far off. It gave Drake the opportunity to be more than gun toting neck snapper. I found these bouts made him out to be tougher and not just an acrobatic monkey man. Unfortunately, I had to rely on button prompts to indicate when to counter, but apparently that won’t be the case on “Crushing” difficulty where I’ll have to rely solely on their tells.

The Uncharted have always had their share of scripted sequences that went awry. They weren’t game breaking, but they did curb momentum when I missed a jump or took the wrong turn. UC3 was no different, but with a few minor design tweaks, they could have smoothed things over. This would have been especially useful during the oh so important flashback sequences.

After Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and the limited screen time with Victor Sullivan, I wanted Naughty Dog to take a bit of time and look back at how Drake and Sully met. Naughty Dog granted my wish. They told the story of Drake’s past and hinted at what his future held all while sending him on his latest fortune hunt.

The search for the Atlantis of the Sands was an enlightening experience. I picked up a handful of Arabic words along the way and solved some of Naughty Dog’s most clever puzzles. I felt they portrayed the desert beautifully by emphasizing its sheer size and hardships through the most breath taking shots this side of movies.

Having capable technology helped pull off those epic moments, but it also helped ground the game in reality with the tinier details. Drake will brush his hands against walls for leverage and show that he’s not just running through a video game world, but recognizing there are things to interact with even if I’m not commanding him to do so. These little touches didn’t always look 100% accurate, but I felt it was a welcomed addition regardless. They panned out a lot better in the latter half of the game.

If this ends up being the last of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted games in the foreseeable, it couldn’t have ended at a better place. The dream of playing an action movie was finally realized with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The expanded breadth of their action repertoire, the insight into Drake’s past along with the journey through to Arabian desert made for a spectacular experience. I cannot wait to go through it again.

With games like this, it’s easy to declare the Uncharted series as my favorite of the generation.

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For more information on Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, visit the official website.

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