It's pretty interesting to see just how far Naughty Dog has come. They made their big break with Crash Bandicoot in 1996, which was the first of the PlayStation's signature platformers. It was a big hit and was followed up by two superior sequels that actually still hold up pretty well. Then the PS2 came along and with it came the Jak series. Though I don't have as much personal experience with that series as I do their other main franchises, I can tell you that it did show a really big progression from Crash; both of the ones I played were far bigger and more ambitious than any games in their former series.
And then we have Uncharted, Naughty Dog's big series for the PS3. Unlike its previous series it doesn't take on a cartoonish tone, focusing on a more realistic adventure movie feel and featuring gameplay that could be most accurately described as "Gears of Tomb Raider". The first one, subtitled "Drake's Fortune", was certainly a very good game, but it suffered from its share of problems - namely, a massive focus on constant shootouts that, while fun, would get repetitive when there wasn't any platforming or puzzles to break the pace as well as an unrefined melee system. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, however, got rid of these problems and became arguably the best game for PS3...that is, until now. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is out now, and good Lord, is it amazing! Let's take a look at what joys it has in store for us.
I'll start with what makes Uncharted 3 so awesome with its visuals. Yes, I fully understand that visuals aren't what makes a game good or bad, but I believe special mention has to be given here: the graphics are amazing. The environments are all absolutely beautiful and detailed and the setpieces are fantastic, and credit needs to be given for the fact that Uncharted 3 is one of the few games that features very realistic-looking human characters without ever setting one foot into the uncanny valley. And you can't talk about the visuals without talking about the score, and Uncharted 3 does a fantastic job here as well. Everything fits and sounds awesome; not much else to say, really.
With that out of the way, let's move on to the story. Story was one of the main strengths of the first two games, and Uncharted 3 is by no means an exception. Just like in past games, all of the main characters are great, and you love to hate the villains. The story itself is really intriguing as well, and, much like games such as Alan Wake or the Metal Gear Solid series, Uncharted attempts to create the feeling of watching a movie in its cutscenes; in particular, a really fun adventure movie, and it does so really well. Of course, the movie feeling extends beyond the story. Uncharted captures the feeling of not only watching, but PLAYING a movie better than any other series I've ever played.
Which brings me to the gameplay, and if you've played an Uncharted game before, you should already know what to expect. In case you haven't, though, I'll explain it. There are four main elements to Uncharted's gameplay: third-person shooting, hand-to-hand combat, platforming and puzzle solving. Third-person shooting could best be compared to Gears of War...except without massive amounts of gory Locust chunks flying everywhere. You've got a variety of guns and weapons at your disposal, and you will always be carrying a side arm as well as a main gun. And if you want to avoid getting destroyed, you'll have to make heavy use of cover as well. It's everything you would expect from this type of gameplay and it's a lot of fun.
Then there's the hand-to-hand combat. Now, admittedly, I don't remember much about Uncharted 2's hand-to-hand combat system; it could have been exactly the same or it could have been a bit different. Regardless, the hand-to-hand system in Uncharted 3 works really well. It's almost baffling how the developers were able to make a combat system focused on mashing the square button with the occasional quick time event so much fun and often even exciting. Basically, your attacks are - as I just said - done with the square button, although you can push an enemy in any direction using the circle button. During battle, you will occasionally have to press the triangle button to counterattack or repeatedly press circle to break out of an opponent's grip. I suppose what makes it so great is how intense it is. You'll often be using melee to pick off a single opponent in the middle of a massive gunfight, and you can push them up against the wall or other objects to trap them or even use the environment and the objects around you to your advantage. It's also worth mentioning that you can pull off stealth kills when hiding in cover or by simply sneaking up on unsuspecting enemies. It's pretty dang satisfying.
Now, as for the platforming, maybe my memory of Uncharted 1 and 2 is a bit fuzzy, but I noticed that this element is given a lot more emphasis than in the other two games. Even in Uncharted 2, while it didn't suffer at all for it, combat was what mostly stole the show, and I appreciate the effort taken to balance things out more in 3. Basically, platforming in Uncharted has a similar focus to that of the Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider series: climbing and acrobatics, or parkour if you prefer. You'll be doing quite a bit of climbing to get around in this game as well as stuff like swinging off of poles. It's pretty simple; all you'll be using for it are the control stick and jump button. Of course, you will occasionally have to take timing and not falling to your death into account. It's simple, but it's fun and it works. And it looks really cool. Finally, we have the puzzle solving. Straight-up puzzle solving has always been the least-emphasized element of the series, but regardless, the puzzles in this game are probably the most intelligent and interesting in the series thus far. They're fun to solve and they further help to keep things from getting tiring.
The biggest thing that Uncharted 3 does better than 2 is the action. The other Uncharted games featured a lot of action, of course, but in Uncharted 3, there is a ridiculous amount of it all the time, especially in the second half of the game, and it's pretty over the top. It's a game that, in addition to its fantastic graphics, storyline and gameplay, always feels incredibly exciting. This brings me back to the whole "playing a movie" thing; honestly, I can't tell you if this really helps that feeling or if it's the other way around, but I can tell you it's freaking awesome.
There's one other aspect of Uncharted 3 that deserves to be covered: the multiplayer. Now, Uncharted 2 featured multiplayer, but I never actually played it, so I can't compare. Regardless, to access the multiplayer of Uncharted 3, you will have to use a pass code. If you buy it new, the code will come on the back of the manual, but unfortunately, if you bought it secondhand, you'll have to pay a little extra. Of course, since you're getting the game for a lower price anyway in that case, I suppose that it matters little. Naughty Dog said it was because they didn't have enough money to do otherwise, so eh, I can live with it.
And honestly, I'd say it's worth paying an extra ten bucks for anyway. Online multiplayer is pretty much what you'd expect from the game, and it's a lot more fun than you would think. In fact, the multiplayer of Uncharted 3 is pretty darn great and will probably keep you playing for quite a while after you beat the campaign. It's mostly based around gunning down other players' avatars, and the Uncharted gameplay translates very well to a multiplayer experience. You have your usual team deathmatches and battle royales, but if you ever get tired of that, you have games in which both teams compete to see which can collect the most idols (it's better than it sounds) as well as "Team Objective", where the objective constantly switches between rounds. One interesting thing about the multiplayer is that unlike games like Battlefield and CoD that give you preset loadouts to choose from, you get to customize your own loadouts. This includes buyable upgrades for your weapons as well as some extra abilities. Overall, Uncharted 3's multiplayer is tons of fun, addictive and will keep you coming back for more.
When it comes to flaws, well...Uncharted 3 is a game that I can seriously say doesn't have anything legitimately wrong with it. I don't believe that a game can be truly perfect, but I honestly can't think of anything I had a problem with in Uncharted 3. It's polished, the graphics are amazing, it runs smoothly, the gameplay is fantastic...I really just can't think of any flaws here!
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is a unequivicolly amazing game. It's easily the best game in the series and probably the best game you could be playing on PS3. Just about every aspect of it is borderline perfect, and no other games offer quite the same experience that Uncharted 3 does. If you're a PS3 owner or planning on getting a PS3, then this game is an absolute must-have.