Making dreams a reality.
“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.”
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom – T.E Lawrence.
A powerful and truly inspirational quote I’m sure you’ll agree. Perhaps one that is relative to the success of Uncharted’s developer, Naughty Dog. For Naughty Dog dare to dream with their eyes open. With each fantastic, ground breaking addition to the Uncharted franchise they strive to make the impossible, possible. Their fierce dedication, endless imagination and unwavering ambition ensure that each game that they produce edges ever closer to the definition of a masterpiece. The devotion, love and attention that is poured into Uncharted is infectious and at times, overwhelming. It’s one of the few franchises that I’ve played where there’s a genuine feeling that for Naughty Dog, the success of Uncharted isn’t based on sales, it’s based on crafting an unforgettable, heart-stopping, thrill ride; an interactive love letter for their fans. But there’s more to it than that.
Refreshingly, Naughty Dog doesn’t brag about every feature of their game, they don’t criticise or boast in the face of the competition. They attempt to strictly better themselves, re-writing the rule book if necessary. Selflessly, they aim to appease every fan, whether it’s the multiplayer enthusiast, single-player adventurer, graphic lovers or fans who demand a memorable storyline. The remarkable fact is that they manage to accomplish each element of this unenviable burden; setting the standard in nearly every department. With open eyes, to make it possible. This they did.
Move Over Hollywood
Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of people who are still blissfully unaware as to what modern games are capable of. The debate as to whether these collections of polygons and pixels ought to be defined as art continues to rumble on, however, undeniably, Uncharted 3 is more than just a video game. Uncharted 3 is a title worthy of the moniker – ‘interactive cinema’. Countless mesmerising moments of breath-taking action, an unpredictable emotional roller coaster of a story and stunning graphics all combine to provide one of the most fantastic gaming experiences available; ever.
Nolan North is once again fantastic as Nathan Drake.
Even though Uncharted 3 pens a brilliant script, it’s the unmatchable voice acting that brings the characters to life. Nolan North is once again fantastic as Nathan Drake, complimented by a cast of equally talented actors. Uncharted’s voice acting is unsurpassed in any title to date; the witty one liners and quirks of Nate’s out-loud expressions, to the amusing, believable banter between the cast, Uncharted 3 exudes a natural, human feel. The fact that the facial animations in Uncharted 3 are the best in the series to date, combined with the fluid animation and strong voice acting, leads to a genuine emotional attachment being formed with the characters. I care deeply about Nate, Sulley, Elena, Chloe and even the new character Cutter; a clear testament to the wonderful acting. I share in their laughter, their excitement and importantly, their pain. Who would have ever thought that this could be possible from a video game?
Without giving too much away, the story reunites us with the charismatic Nathan Drake and his best friend Victor Sullivan. Once again, the pair of loveable rouges have discovered another potentially lucrative treasure haul. Nate sets out to find the Lost Pillars of Iram, embarking on another perilous quest to answer history’s unfulfilled mysteries, in particular, finally solving the clues left behind by Sir Francis Drake. However, as with any prize, there is always more than one eager competitor.
There are twists and turns round every corner, thanks to an array of simply awe inspiring moments (seeing is believing) and the reliance on a successful formula of potential betrayals, deception and mythological fantasy. I would go into more detail, but I couldn’t live with myself if I spoilt even one moment of this glorious story. Trust me when I say that the situations you’ll find yourself in (all of which are interactive) will leave you completely amazed. How they occur, how they are navigated and represented is clearly the work of some sort of voodoo magic. Uncharted 3 is one of the only games I have played where you end up staring blankly at the screen, firmly under the impression you’re watching a cut-scene; then suddenly, you realise that you can actually move around. It’s a gob-smacking technical achievement.
During Nate’s adventure, the hunt for booty takes him to a host of memorable locations such as France, London, the Rub’ a Khali desert and the Arabain Peninsula. Each locale provides a delicious feast of visual splendour. From the lush, colourful vegetation of the French mountains, to the vibrant, sand swept streets of the bustling Arabian towns, Uncharted’s varied environments are recreated with astonishing detail. From the daylight filtering in through an open canopy, to the realistic and outstanding representation of fire, water and sand; every effect, every object is convincingly recreated. Naturally, the various undiscovered tombs and caverns that Nate has to explore are fabulously realised; their ancient grandeur and scale is a masterpiece of art, design and imagination.
The core gameplay in Uncharted 3 is exactly what you’ve come to expect from Nate and the gang. A focus on exploration, climbing and frantic gun play is found, though welcomed refinements have been made. Weapons are more accurately represented, with meatier gun sounds and recoil. With the correct timing, enemy grenades can now be thrown back to the sender, a nice odds evener when enemies decide to get a bit grenade happy. The shooting mechanics are as satisfying and tight as ever, with the interesting variety of weapons enough to keep combat enjoyable.
Uncharted 3 truly shines when your back’s (literally) against the wall, as countless enemies flood the area, tossing grenades, taking up sniping positions and rushing your position of safety. Surviving these frenetic encounters by flipping in and out of cover, utilising the right weapons and taking advantage of any environmental hazards; taking the fight from a vertical level if desired, is seriously fun. There’s numerous ways of disposing your foes, be it through stealth, an all guns blazing approach or a combination of the two.
The biggest overhaul to the gameplay is the new hand-to-hand combat. It’s always been an area which has been ok, yet never really that good. I’m happy to say that in Uncharted 3, Naughty Dog has finally nailed the hand-to-hand combat. A mixture of quick-time events and input commands welcomes a similar system as seen in Batman: Arkham City, though a greater emphasis is placed on cinematic aspects. An awesome feature is the ability to use Nate’s environment to his advantage. When close to an object, Nate can pick up an item and mess his opponent up. Slapping an enemy down to the ground with a large dead fish is as awesome as it is funny. Admittedly, sometimes the animations can look slightly out of sync, but it works extremely well, making hand-to-hand combat an actual pleasure, rather than just a requirement.
Tracing Our Ancestors
Exploration, tomb raiding (I went there!) and puzzle solving are all part and parcel of life as an adventurer. Uncharted 2 was probably a 70/30 split between combat and puzzle solving. I’m pleased to say that for Uncharted 3 it actually feels like a 50/50 perfect portion of each. On top of that, the puzzles are some of the best there’s been requiring careful thought and application. The satisfaction one obtains from reawakening a dusty, ancient relic is paramount.
For those who are stumped easily, tips and hints will muttered by accompanying characters and Drake’s journal is usually the first point of reference. Flicking through the pages of Drake’s hand drawn sketches is a lovely touch, especially as the journal is frequently updated throughout the story or when a puzzle has been completed. Nate’s personal anecdotes are also humorous.
There’s over 101 treasures to find scattered throughout the game. I managed to find 40 on my first playthrough, and yes, I’m an experience treasure hunter! The treasures are wonderfully rendered and can be studied more closely in the menus, surely receiving a thumbs up from the budding historians out there.
Adventure Time, Come On Grab Your Friends
The multiplayer aspect of Uncharted 2 was generally overlooked by the public, which was a shame as to be honest as it was thoroughly enjoyable. The verticality, fluidity, speed and skillful gameplay is a joy to behold; popping someone whilst hanging from a wall is the very definition of kick ass.
Graciously listening to their fans, Naughty Dog has built upon the strong foundations of the last game, adding customisation and perks such as kick backs and boosters. Experience points are earned by the way of Medals, similar to the system used in Uncharted 2. The money accrued can be used to purchase weapon add-ons, kick backs and boosters as well as new attire. The depth of customisation is easily on par with any blockbuster FPS, allowing you to personal your online avatar, flag, weapons, load-out; even allowing you to join a clans.
So what are boosters and kick backs? Boosters are essentially augments which improve areas such as respawn times, movement speed or long-range accuracy. Kick backs on the other hand are basically perks which become available after obtaining a number of in-game medals, allowing you to instantly spawn a rocket launcher for example (think kill-streak perks from Call of Duty). There’s a diverse selection to choose from, allowing you to craft a number of specific load-outs, depending on your mood or situation.
Another new addition is the power play mechanic which gives a losing team a chance to recover from a serious ass whooping; a clever thought as the amount of people in the modern online arena who rage quit when losing is frankly, scary. There’s 2 v 2 v 2 deathmatch which is another great addition to the wealth of modes in Uncharted‘s multiplayer suite, offering another different experience. Simply put, it’s Uncharted’s award-winning formula placed in a competitive environment, what’s not to like? Oh, and remember how I said Naughty Dog think of everything? Well, there’s also a co-op mode with offline, LAN and online modes available with the ability to sign in on two separate PSN profiles (Who else includes these options? See, everything).
History Is Made
Uncharted 3 is without a shadow of the doubt, one of the most memorable games I have ever had the pleasure to play. Of course there are some minor flaws, but they never detract you away from the overall experience. Throughout the gripping campaign, I was constantly wowed; infatuated by Uncharted’s beauty, character and brilliance. As the credits rolled I was left beaming like a small child, naturally wanting more, but extremely content at what I had played. The addictive multiplayer suite provides hours of competitive enjoyment, with a diverse array of modes including the co-op campaign. The story is worthy of any cinema screen, providing more action and twists than any film I can recall from recent memory. From the acting, to the human touches that bring the game to life, Uncharted 3 is an absolute blast. Like your favourite film or album, it’s something that you will want to experience again and again; it’s just that damn good. You have to play this game, as this my friends, is the very reason we love video games.