This week, Sony released Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, the latest installment in the popular Uncharted franchise. Like the titles that came before it, Uncharted 3 was designed by a studio called Naughty Dog, which is best known for crafting distinctly cinematic experiences – heroes leap, ancient treasures are snatched by nefarious evil-doers with thick accents. Does Drake's Deception measure up? Let's go to the scorecards.
"The third chapter of Nathan Drake's story takes him on a quest to find a lost city on the Arabian Peninsula," writes Brett Molina of USA Today. "It appears Sir Francis Drake had embarked on this expedition, too, leading Nathan to pick up where his ancestor left off. Along with Nathan is close friend Victor Sullivan, an older gentleman who serves as a father figure in some respects. Developers at Naughty Dog explore their relationship a bit deeper in Drake's Deception. Both appear very protective of the other and share a common thirst for perilous treasure hunts. Also seeking out the 'Atlantis of the Sands' is a mysterious villain called Marlowe, who seems to have some history with Nathan and Sully."
"The story is rich in intrigue, helping Uncharted 3 pull off the rare feat of making cutscenes as engaging as the action sequences," writes Nunzio Ingrassia of CBS. "Naughty Dog has once again weaved a captivating story that incentivizes the player to uncover the mysteries behind this latest tale. The voice acting and camera work – a few of the staples for the franchise – continue to be the best video games have to offer. The actors breathe life into these characters, compelling the player to care about each throughout the 10-to-12-hour campaign."
"It is an impressive achievement for Naughty Dog to have created a story and a universe that can support itself based partly on character development," notes Ryan Fleming of tech site Digital Trends. "There is one level early on that delves into Nathan’s past, and it is hard not to smile as you play through it. The whole section could probably have been told in a quick flashback, but the exceptional writing makes it interesting enough to draw you into it. You care about the characters, and you like them. The voice acting is as good as any voice acting anywhere, and Nolan North deserves special recognition as the voice of Nathan. The main dialogue shines, but it really transcends when you hear him muttering to himself, or expressing an actual sense of fatigue, humor or other, more subtle emotions."
The storytelling, part 2
"Uncharted 3 does have its flaws," writes Hayley Tsukayama of the Washington Post. "As Eurogamer's Simon Parkin points out in his much-discussed review of the game, Naughty Dog developers are so dedicated to their story that if you try to take a side path, you’ll be guided – sometimes gently, sometimes fatally – back to the task at hand. There was a cut scene or two when I felt as if I were watching a movie — and not in a good way, yelling helplessly at Drake to please, please, reconsider his actions. Ironically, it’s not really a game for people who like to explore."
"Visually the game sparkles," writes Michael Sheridan of the New York Daily News. "The game play and cut scenes are virtually seamless. One sequence that has Drake running and jumping through a burning chateau, flames licking the walls and things exploding, is so stunning to watch you nearly forget you're playing."
The graphics, part 2
"To say that the graphics in Uncharted 3 are unparalleled is an understatement," writes Matt Blum of Wired. "Based on the clips I’d seen, I was prepared to be impressed by the visuals, but I wasn’t prepared for the jaw-droppingly incredible scenes I would see – and I mean what I say, too: my jaw literally did drop several times. I don’t care that they had to invent a plot that tied together a cruise ship that gets turned on its side with a trudge through the Rub’ al Khali desert, because both scenes are so amazing just to look at – let alone to guide Nathan Drake through – that I’d honestly be happy with them even with no plot at all. Some of the visuals came close to literally taking my breath away: waterfalls that actually looked like water; particles of dust caught in beams of sunlight as you run past them; being caught in a burning building with flames so real you can almost feel them. And I could go on."
"As with any game sporting substantial multiplayer ambitions, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception needs to undergo the full onslaught of a public showing before a proper verdict is made," writes Brady Fletcher of EGM. "The time I had with the generous online portions proved entertaining enough, but it’s the single-player adventure that matters, and the co-op, for example, just feels underwhelming in comparison. It’s well done, as are the multitude of team-based and competitive modes, and if you’re looking for this sort of thing and a solid extension of Uncharted 2, you won't be disappointed."
The final word
"Decades ago, all the talk in the world of games centred on beating Hollywood at its own game – but what we got, instead, demonstrated how difficult that was," writes Steve Boxer of the Guardian. "But Uncharted 3, perhaps for the first time, represents what we all hoped games would eventually evolve into. Its production values are sky-high, and it puts you at the centre of a gloriously rich and irresistible world, controlling a character who is heroic, but also convincingly human. It's also mildly didactic, and feels less dumbed-down than any mainstream movie we've come across in years. For once, you're able to forget that it's a mere collection of ones and noughts: the sheer slickness and believability of Uncharted 3's production and characters ought to induce widespread self-flagellation in Hollywood."