In Nathan Drake’s last adventure, Uncharted 2, his journey started off with a bang. Nate was dangling off a cliff in a train with a bullet wound in his gut, before flashing back to a thrilling museum heist that kicked off his adventure, and it only got crazier from there. Uncharted 2 opts for a slower build up, starting you off in the middle of a deal turned brawl, though the thrills here are no less impactful.


Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception follows Drake in another one of his crazy adventures, this time back to his roots in trying to find treasure linked to Sir Francis Drake (his supposed ancestor) as well as attempting to follow T.E Lawrence’s journey for the treasure. The pacing is a little more schizophrenic this time, with the beginning full of puzzles and exploration, before ramping up the action and doing away with puzzles almost entirely towards the halfway point. The story itself is well crafted, and shows off the angle between Drake and Sully’s relationship as partners, while also showing off more of Drake’s backstory and offering the best villain in the franchise yet.


The plot does have a few holes and follows the clichéd summer blockbuster formula Uncharted has taken from movies such as Indiana Jones, but it still manages to keep you interested even when similarities to previous titles start to show. One issue is the limited interaction with other characters, with series favorites like Chloe and Elena almost in cameo roles, with a well written new character barely getting any screen time. This works in the favor of putting Sully and Drake’s relationship to the front, but unfortunately it seems like they could have done more with the other characters. The biggest issue is probably the focus on the levels and set pieces over the story itself this time, which makes some levels seem almost completely out of place, levels that could have been removed and wouldn’t have changed the story one bit. A couple of particularly interesting plot threads are also opened only to be unceremoniously dropped, leaving more questions than answers to solve them.


The gameplay of course is still fantastic, enemy AI is serviceable (if less impressive then they were in Uncharted 2), and can at times be frustrating with the high amount of health some enemies offer. Gunplay works well, and combat often offers different options to take with stealth and various weapons being viable options in some cases, but later on in the game you are faced with straightforward gunfighting against frustrating enemies that kills the pacing and difficulty curve. It’s a shame too since the stealth has been improved and opened up, with some levels changing drastically depending on whether you go all stealth or not, and different take downs available (including a new jumping take down), but some levels simply allow you to start off stealthily and letting you go as far as you can before eventually getting caught.


While the shooting isn’t improved any, the puzzles, platforming and hand to hand combat have definitely had an overhaul. Puzzles are now less linear with some forcing you to think with only minimal journal assistance, while making use of your brains as much as your climbing abilities. Platforming is fun and often used in conjunction with the gunplay, which is definitely when both work best.


The biggest change is the brawling, which now allows you to take on several enemies at once while still allowing Drake to seem like a human being with simple street fighting capabilities. In previous games, Drake couldn’t combat more than one or two enemies at once in fisticuffs do to AI and combat limitations, but now enemies will work together to try and take you down, trying to grab you or pin you to a wall. You can use a variety of moves at your disposal to block, counter attack, or grab an enemy, and can move from enemy to enemy seamlessly, recalling the combat system in the recent Batman games. You can you can also use the environment in unique ways, such as by throwing one thug out a window or slamming a bottle on another, with even simple abilities like using a wall to beat up on an enemy and give you some leverage and changing up the combat scenarios. The only flaw with the brawling I’d say is that the animations look a bit jerky compared to the more natural platforming movements, and it does come off as a bit simple and makes it too easy to fight off several men at once.


The more memorable aspect of Uncharted 2 was its set pieces, and this time around I’d argue some of them are more memorable, even if they do go a bit over the top. One segment involving a crashing plane, ton another with a trek across the desert and another where you chase down and fight an antagonist are vastly different from anything we’ve seen in most games and are expertly crafted, and keep you guessing what will happen next which shows that Naughty Dog seems to have crafted the game around these set pieces. One sea level in particular that I mentioned doesn’t hold much relevance to the story, but it mixes combat, platforming and tension to give us a stellar (if implausible) water cooler moment. These set pieces have the habit of making Drake come off as superhuman, which is in stark contrast to the epic set pieces of Uncharted 2 that still made Drake come off as somewhat human, but in the moment they work well and are hard to forget.


The multiplayer and co-op make a return, and while not the main reason to buy this game, they do offer enough features to make a full game on their own. Character creation, the return of Uncharted 2’s theatre mode, and a great host of community features (such as a cheaper DLC pass or cool videos during match waiting) that keep it apart from other multiplayer titles and almost makes it seem like the multiplayer was the focus. Co-op is fantastic, offering various mode types including a goofy non-canon side campaign and several different survival type modes across different maps, as well as its own ranking system separate from competitive multiplayer and the ability to use your custom created multiplayer character. As a bonus you even have split screen functionality this time around across all the different modes, including competitive multiplayer, allowing you and a friend to go online on one television set.


The competitive multiplayer now allows you to either play as a notable Uncharted character, or create your own in a rather robust character creation system that makes you more willing to play just one more match, simply so you can finally afford or be a high enough rank to buy a nice pair of goggles or a cool new gun upgrade for your character. The gameplay itself is fantastic, with each map having some stellar twist (such as a subway level starting off with both teams fighting in trains, or a desert level with a mid-match sandstorm covering your view), and it’s very balanced and filled to the brim with content to unlock and use. My only issue here would be that the hit detection is either really spotty, or player health is too high since some battles can devolve into frustrating moments where both you and your enemy seem to empty a clip into each other only to have to reload, or moments where a single shotgun blast kills you are you’ve dumped 20 rounds into an enemy player.


Overall, it’s not as groundbreaking as Uncharted 2 was and makes a few small missteps, but it’s a stellar achievement and an amazing title any PS3 owner should be happy to have. Whether you are enjoying the tightly scripted single player, the riotous co-op, or the creatively built and content filled online mode, you’ll have a blast, and it’s a testament to the game’s quality that such a big deal could be made out of such small flaws that would be commonplace in any other title.