All good things come in threes: wishes, kings, back-up singers and Naughty Dog video games*.
On the PlayStation 2, it was the Jak and Daxter series, which started as a Mario clone in its first game, evolved into a dystopian Grand Theft Auto clone in its second, and then settled somewhere awesome in the middle in its third. The PlayStation 3 brought with it Uncharted, and while the series didn’t evolve as drastically between its first two incarnations, the near-perfection of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves had us dying to play a third, even just for more of the same.
For the most part, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is more of the same. Naughty Dog haven’t evolved their Uncharted series so much as they have perfected it. Uncharted 3 is the culmination of their efforts to make a Hollywood blockbuster that you can play, and it is marvellous.
Games that tried too hard to be movies are responsible for some of my least-favourite gaming experiences this generation. Metal Gear Solid 4: Sons of Liberty was a film that occasionally let me play and Final Fantasy XIII was so restricted by the course of its narrative that I spent forty hours walking down corridors between cut-scenes. They never quite got the balance between game and movie right. They didn’t even come close.
But in Uncharted 3, the desire to emulate the look, feel and narrative thrust of a high-octane Hollywood blockbuster never comes at the expense of the gaming experience. The narrative is constantly unfolding around you. While you play. Did you hear that, Kojima, Squeenix? While. You. Play.
You control Indiana Jones wannabe/Lara Croft without boobs, Nathan Drake as he and long-time mentor Victor Sullivan search for the fabled “Atlantis of the Sands”. Peppered in between, there’s scaling buildings, hanging from ledges, jumping across rooftops, getting shot at, narrowly escaping explosions, plane crashes… this is a game that pulls no punches.
Don’t feel like you need to have played the first two to get into this. While fans of the series will definitely get the most out of it, the narrative doesn’t discriminate against first-time Uncharted players (but seriously, if you own a PlayStation 3 and you haven’t Uncharteded, what have you been doing these past few years?) (yes, I just made Uncharted a verb).
While we have our nitpicks, the archaic gunplay mechanics didn’t quite get the overhaul they needed, which means it still takes four headshots to kill someone, Uncharted 3 is so damn brilliant that whenever you encounter what would be a deal-breaker in any other game, you find yourself just shrugging it off. It helps that it’s stunningly beautiful, easily a contender for the best-looking game ever.
Naughty Dog have stuffed enough worthwhile multiplayer components into Uncharted 3 to keep you playingwell after clocking the stellar single-player campaign. You can cooperate with friends in the objective-based Arena mode and the rewarding mini-campaign, or you can, well, kill them in the competitive modes.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a game that was built to last, and well worth a look this holiday season.
*If you know which book that references, we should probably become best friends.
Editor’s note: Since this review, Naughty Dog has confirmed a patch that addresses concerns over gunplay mechanics will soon be released. “I posted on the Neogaf forum where people were going through it [shooting complaints] in a very eloquent fashion, really explaining their gripes very clearly, and I said ‘Well, is anyone local that can come in and explain it to us?'” confirmed community manager Arne Meyer (via Giant Bomb.) We’ll let you know when the patch becomes available.