Dating back long before Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, there has always been a Hollywood fascination with exploring ancient ruins for pockets of magic, ingenious engineering, and exotic treasure. While a modern archeologist can get excited by faint hieroglyphics or a piece of parchment that has survived the ages, the Hollywood archeologist has to dodge dart throwing booby traps, outwit puzzle locked doors, and if he’s lucky, get the girl when his expedition is done. It’s only after watching “Life After People” on the History Channel that you realize just how short lived man’s creations can ever hope to be, and the Hollywood fantasy is quickly washed away.
Developed by Naughty Dog, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is the third in the Uncharted series, and is arguably Sony PlayStation’s flagship product to demonstrate stereoscopic 3D gaming. Today we awaken the Hollywood archeologist in all of us by finding out how good this adventure is, and how well it turned out in 3D form!
Note: All pictures were taken with a 3D camera through the glasses of the Sony Playstation 24" 3D display. This is not reflective of the monitor's actual image quality, and the game's visuals are far better than what is shown here. These pictures are just an approximation of the 3D experience - nothing more.
First, if you have never played an Uncharted game before, don’t worry - it stands on its own merits without needing familiarity with the first two editions. You are Nathan Drake, a professional adventurer who is as handy with his gun as he is with his fists. Your mentor and sidekick is Victor “Sully” Sullivan. Don’t let that grey hair fool you! Sully knows how to throw a punch, and he’s as acrobatic as Batman (without needing the gadgets!).
It’s unclear what year the game is supposed to take place in. At the beginning, it looks pretty modern, but once you start travelling the world, it seems like it’s 1938. I’d be interested to hear from our members as to what time period they think (or know) that the story is supposed to take place in.
Nathan’s current adventure revolves around his ancestor Sir Francis Drake (a real person, by the way). It turns out Sir Francis has a secret treasure that will require adventure all over the world to find. In this case, Nathan’s quest for the treasure began as a young boy, and was the catalyst for him to meet Sully and start his treasure hunting career!
It takes a long time before we learn what this treasure is or why it’s important, but you’re definitely not the only one who wants it! Your arch nemesis is Katherine Marlowe and her right hand thug Talbot. Each time you take a step closer to the treasure, Marlowe is hot on your heals with hired pirates, mercenaries, and well dressed henchman (and they are surprisingly well dressed given the nature of their dirty work in the grimiest of locations)!
I’ve played countless games, and Uncharted 3 is one of a handful that flows like a movie. Even though Drake’s Deception is a serious time commitment from beginning to end, it stays interesting right through, and I think it’s one of the most creative games in this genre. The bruise fisted archeologist concept is as old as video games themselves, but each chapter finds new ways to keep the game fresh, and they throw in a few curves for the experienced gamers out there too.
There are four core aspects to the gameplay. The first is all about getting around. As a third person shooter, you will be doing a lot of running, jumping, and wall scaling. It took awhile to get used to the controls, and I admit that my thumbs were red and swollen from the first chase sequence and getting the hang of things. While Uncharted 3 borrowed a lot from the Assassin’s Creed series, what makes it work are the surprises. Like a grenade going off and blasting you to an outside wall clinging for life, or having to scale from room to room in a topsy turvy cruise ship, or just escaping a ruin as you are being chased by poisonous spiders. It just works.
Next up is hand to hand combat. I’ve never been a big fan of games that require memorizing a dozen combinations because I can never remember them all! Uncharted 3 is pretty simple, and the game recommends which button to press depending on the situation you are in. They did a good job with the motion capture, and there are just enough bad guy types to keep it interesting (just enough). If you are good at hand to hand, it can actually get you through the levels faster than bullets and rockets.
Speaking of guns and rockets, they are all over the place. There isn’t a huge selection like other games, but with all the nasty henchmen falling left, right, and center…waste not, want not! There are pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and shot guns. The weapons get a bit better (or badder) as you progress, but don’t expect major upgrades by the end of the game.
In the spirit of Indiana Jones, there are several archeological puzzles to solve like stepping on blocks in the right order, opening valves, spinning water globes to the right position, and more. Recognizing that puzzles can easily become frustrating, the game will give you the opportunity to get solution hints if you have been trying long enough.
When you add these components together, you get a rich gaming experience in nearly every conceivable environment. Deserts, open sea, jungles, ancient ruins, and hallucinogenic trips are just some examples you have to look forward to.
One thing I really liked was the swearing and foul language was minimal. Sure, the four letter word for feces comes up once in awhile, but Uncharted 3 demonstrates that there is no need to throw in a million F-words to be relevant. Drake’s Deception is very much a story driven game with witty and well written dialogue, and it was refreshing to not have my family room littered with linguistic poo.
So how is the 3D you ask? Time to find out!
Stereoscopic 3D Support
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was designed from the ground up with stereoscopic 3D gaming in mind, and they accomplished a great deal with the game’s performance. S-3D gaming is regularly criticized as being too performance hungry to be effective, and Uncharted 3 is a strong example that proves this isn’t the case. When my 3D glasses’ battery died, I had to play in 2D for awhile, and the difference in the amount of eye candy between modes wasn’t very noticeable at all – and the environments were all very rich and detailed.
The game will run in 3D with any HDMI 1.4 compliant display, and you have a 3D strength setting to adjust according to your personal comfort level. I would have liked to see more flexibility with this as I had to max it out on my 50” 3D HDTV, but it should be enough for most.
The instances where the 3D was most effective was during scenes where your footing falls apart in high places, or you are grappling for your life on the back of a flying airplane or looking down at an empty chasm – this all works very well, and it adds to the thrill during the surprise moments. For the remainder of the game, it looks like Naughty Dog took their cues from Sony Pictures Imageworks, as the game was nearly 100% depth-only, and the experience was comparable to what you would get in a modern 3D Hollywood movie. It’s definitely a better game with the 3D than without, and it’s a good title for gamers trying the technology out for the first time.
Uncharted 3 looks and plays like a 3D Hollywood movie (not a conversion mind you!), and it exemplifies how video games are a respected art form. The script is sharp, the graphics are impressive, and it will hold your interest right to the end.
While Uncharted 3 was depth-only in 3D, I’m hoping Naughty Dog will get a bit more naughty and try more out of screen effects in their next release. Even though Drake’s Deception demonstrates that a game can look like a good 3D Hollywood movie, it would be fun to see a game developer throw out the 3D Hollywood rule book. Next time round, I’d really like to see them shake things up with more risky visuals that only video games can do. Good art was never about following the rules, and 3D gaming is no different.
On that note, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a recommended buy, AND you can win it in one of the Sony prize packs in MTBS’ Birthday Bonanza contest! Lucky you!