On November 1, Nathan Drake ventures into the hidden depths of the Earth to capture the most elusive treasure he's ever sought — the heart of game reviewers everywhere.
Some think they're just a myth. Personally I don't think such a thing even exists, but if they do, than Nathan Drake and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception are the ones that'd be able to find it. The third installment of Naughty Dog's award-winning trilogy was destined to win awards itself. Unfortunately being the third installment also means the next installment is Uncharted Kart Racing. Until then, soak up these completely legitimate review scores.
Wait, who's this Kevin Butler jackass and what's he doing throwing off the review scale?
Uncharted 3 is a game that has an unshakable sense of its own identity. The series has always had clear aims: an unapologetically mainstream Boy's Own romp whose primary interest is in creating unrivalled thrills through daring spectacle rather than daring design. But in this, the third outing, it has settled into the kind of assured swagger that comes from finding repeated successes in a specific creative mine.
Its greatest debts are to Saturday matinee cinema, Indiana Jones puzzles and pacing, Jewel of the Nile romances born in the kiln of perilous adventure; Han Solo quips. But at this point in the trilogy the designers have established a template of their own to follow.
...the real star, perhaps, is the stylised world that effortlessly cracks, crumbles, and explodes underneath Drake's feet, and it's here Naughty Dog has created a string of larger-than-life environments that are works of art married with extraordinary technical proficiency.
Take a moment about two thirds of the way through the game, as Drake bounds through a canyon underneath the glare of a piercing sun, spinning truck wheels kicking up sandy plumes as they grind through previously undisturbed terrain, the scene framed with a glorious panorama of jagged cliffs and the soft sheets of shadow hanging over. The aesthetic variety is also staggering: 90 minutes earlier, Drake is pushing his way through a rusty ship graveyard, rocking slowly from side to side in the middle of an emerald ocean, as foaming jets of water penetrate open cracks and shear open the hulls of abandoned metal.
As thrilling as the action segments prove, if you're looking for Uncharted 3 to keep a nonstop dosage of adrenaline flowing into your IV drip, you may grow fidgety at times. Several key sequences in the game, including an early flashback that finds Drake poking around a Colombian museum and trailing a slow-moving target, slacken the game's pace deliberately. Uncharted 3 builds resonance into these pauses for breath. A late-game meander across sprawling sand dunes takes its precious time resolving, which allows Drake's sense of dislocation to fully take root. Naughty Dog understands the power of dynamic contrast. These artfully sculpted doldrums add emotional depth and render the game's high-flying action moments that much more transcendent. You can't have a line of poetry without some unstressed syllables, after all, and there is indeed poetry in Uncharted 3. Actual poetry, in fact: one scene weaves a narrated stanza of TS Eliot's The Waste Land into your gameplay objective onscreen.
However, the gunplay – never this series' strong suit – still feels like it's taken a small step back. This is mostly due to the basic character movement. Naughty Dog has added some new animations to Drake's run, which I add an unnecessarily convoluted jumpy quality to running and gunning (this feeling was confirmed when I pulled out Uncharted 2 to test my opinion). Interestingly, this is not a problem in the multiplayer, where the toned-down animations allow you to move in and out of cover and shoot more accurately.
Also of note are a couple of levels that feel somewhat poorly designed and messy – particularly a battle that takes place in a graveyard of ruined ships. In this segment, you're beset on all sides by pirates and are forced to swim for your life. If the swimming were better, this might not be a problem, but I found it downright frustrating. Given how much Uncharted 3 offers the player, these are minor quibbles. If anything, Naughty Dog's expert craftsmanship makes these small flaws stick out more than they would in most games.
When the tale finishes, you can look forward to multiplayer. Uncharted 2 introduced competitive and cooperative modes for the series, and Uncharted 3 improves them to make something special. The standard menu returns (team deathmatch, capture the flag, etc.), but Naughty Dog adds bonuses known as Boosters and Kickbacks to round out the experience. These are upgradable bonuses that you equip to make the multiplayer experience more your own.
Boosters augment your entire session — one reduces respawn time, one lets you climb faster — whereas the in-match medals you earn count toward unlocking your Kickback, which can instantly spawn an RPG or double your cash earned for a short period of time. These spice up the gameplay; you can pepper them into one of your four saved loadouts and have a skill set for any situation. This stuff will keep me coming back. Even when I have a terrible match in Uncharted 3 multiplayer, I see the cash I've earned counting toward my next level and I see my Boosters earning experience and becoming more powerful.
Toss all this into the pot, and matches in Uncharted 3 multiplayer feel fresh every time.
The entire Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception experience comes together and delivers an unforgettable adventure rich with cinematic eye-candy, intense action sequences, and a multiplayer component that convincingly entertains. Many will compare it to the Game of the Year-winning Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, but it's better, by far. As a result of its predecessor's skyscraping success, the level of expectation may be too high for Naughty Dog to surpass Uncharted 2 the way it did Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. Simply put, that's just not gonna happen (not this console generation, anyway), but it doesn't really need to. Uncharted 3 is a masterpiece of a game in every way possible.
KB gives it an 11 out of 10.
I think that last guy might be a little biased.