Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
If somewhere in the cross-pollinated netherworld of action-adventure games and movies, Indiana Jones and Lara Croft met, married and had a son … he surely would grow up to be Uncharted's Nathan Drake. In fact, all it would take are a few family vacations with his folks and a couple of desert horseback riding lessons from his uncle Lawrence (of Arabia), and he'd be fully prepared for the exploits of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.
It all starts in a shadowy lee of London. Instead of opening in the midst of a disaster, as is typical of past adventures in the Uncharted series, this new title opens with Nathan walking into an English pub to sell an ancient artifact, and ending up in a rough-and-tumble bar brawl. But this isn't just a hero looking for brew and a battering. In true Indiana Jones style it's all a ploy to draw out important individuals who bear vital information.
Nathan's lifelong quest to track down secrets once hidden by Sir Francis Drake is coming to a head. And if his suspicions are correct, the clues may lead him to the "Atlantis of the Sands," a legendary city of immeasurable wealth buried somewhere in the heart of the vast Rub' al Khali desert. Getting there will mean unearthing a lost notebook once belonging to T.E. Lawrence, raiding Crusader crypts in a Syrian citadel, braving the tormenting Arabian sandstorms, spelunking a vast underground tomb and thwarting an evil order that dates back four centuries.
Watch Your Movie (With a Controller)
If that sounds like a twisting adventure storyline readymade for the cineplex, it's for good reason. "A bunch of us at [gamemaker] Naughty Dog have made a study of storytelling, in particular storytelling in film," said Uncharted 3 designer Richard Lemarchand. "It's important, when you're telling a fantastical story, to ground it. Enough of the story has to be comprised of recognizable nuts-and-bolts reality so that the audience has something to grab onto during the tale." And, indeed, if you research the details of this gaming adventure you'll find that all the curiosity-piquing elements were snatched right out of the history books.
Add in dramatic camera-like perspectives, incredibly lifelike graphics and an extremely intuitive mechanic, and you've got a game that literally feels as if you're playing a movie. I haven't played very many games that convey more fluid, hold-your-breath realism than this one does when its hero is running from pursuers and leaping from one precipice to the next, scrambling up out of the bowels of a sinking ship, or hanging on for dear life by a strand of netting that's dangling from a spiraling cargo plane.
USA Today called it "arguably the year's best game." The New York Times used the word "spectacular," followed by, "The finest, most exciting action-adventure movie in years." And review site ign.com said, "From the moment the music swells on the title screen to the moment the credits roll, Uncharted 3 is a masterpiece."
Watch Your Step (When You Approach the T)
Drake's Deception follows the lead of the Tomb Raider games by adding quite a few massive set pieces and ancient riddles/puzzles to solve. There's also a whole lot of chuckling character interplay. As with other "masterpieces" of the theater house and game room, however, there are a few low-hanging ledges and other duck-worthy bits that should be noted: Nathan may be a good-guy hero whose favorite expletive in the heat of action is the low-grade "oh crap!" but that doesn't keep his mentor, Sully, or other characters in his orbit from spitting out the s-word, or peppering the path ahead with "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑" and "d‑‑n." God's name is misused. (And there are no language filters to keep these blurted-out bits at bay.)
Then, of course, there's all that climbing, sneaking, shooting, running and brawling, in both hand-to-hand and grab-a-gun forms. Well-choreographed fight scenes include an occasional choke hold or a crashing beer bottle to the noggin. Nathan plugs his bullet-blazing foes with ammo from revolvers, Magnums, shotguns, sniper rifles and RPGs. The only blood flow, though, is seen when a friend is shot, his shirt slowly blossoming with a red stain. There are a number of skeletons scattered around in the various ruins. And at one point a drug-induced haze causes Nathan to see his enemies sporting flaming, demon-like heads.