UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception is a fun follow-up to UNCHARTED 2: Among Thieves. Gamers who enjoy cinematic action narratives and UNCHARTED fans will probably enjoy it. The plot in UNCHARTED 3 is not as intriguing as the previous two installments, the action is mostly familiar, but it still delivers solidly awesome game play and an entertaining cinema-like game experience.
UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception builds upon UNCHARTED 2: Among Thieves in that the new installment also puts Nathan Drake and his cohorts in different locales around the globe as they once again seek a long lost treasure. In this broad sense, there isn’t much new in UNCHARTED 3. There is a flashback level which takes the player to Drake’s past, however. I’m neutral about this aspect of the game, though I kind of miss the charm of UNCHARTED: Drake’s Fortune, which took place on one island in the span of one day.
The art and graphics are, once again, nothing short of amazing. As always, Naughty Dog pushes the PS3 to its graphic limits. One of my favourite bits of the environment art is early on in the game, where at one point you get to see London’s amazingly beautiful urban skyline at night. London is one of my most favourite places in the world to visit. The view was so gorgeous that I could have stood Drake there for a long while without getting bored. There’s a part of the game when you’re trying to escape a burning building; the fire effects are impressive, too.
UNCHARTED 3 adds a few new game play mechanics, such as stages set in and around water, the ability to climb and hang whilst shooting, and game play effects in altered states. Swimming was pretty fun and added another fun way to play the game. Having the camera shift to close third person view in the climb-and-gun sections added more drama to this mechanic. I won’t go too much into the aforementioned altered states, but I will say that the mechanics used were fun enough and added to the immersion.
As far as UNCHARTED 3‘s standard mechanics are concerned (whether in campaign mode or multi-player), they’re as enjoyable as is usual for the series. I felt that some of the rifles were slightly less accurate than UNCHARTED 2, but I adjusted to that without problems.
The online multi-player mode has a ton of new features, such as clan symbols and the ability to create a custom avatar. Sadly, you are limited to customising bald male characters of three skin tones (white, black, tanned white person). I’m actually annoyed that players can only create male custom avatars. Sure, like always, you can play as any of the prominent female characters, but one of the marketing features of UNCHARTED 3‘s multi-player mode was the fact that you could create a custom avatar. To restrict it to only male custom skins is more than a little annoying, and a glaring oversight in my opinion. They made female character models for all of the urban scenes in campaign mode, so it’s not as if the templates don’t exist at an extremely basic level. Elena, Chloe, and Marlowe have combat animations for multi-player, so it’s not as if female animation rigs don’t exist either.
Once again male is a default, basic provision and female is an afterthought, a nice-to-have. It’s truly disappointing. I’d rather they had not offered any custom avatars at all, rather than only provide male avatars and give the perception that female characters and avatars are an afterthought.
As always, Greg Edmonson delivers a cracking score with great music throughout. The soundtrack is available for purchase, so if you enjoy Edmonson’s work, consider buying it.
I’m going to talk about the plot and there are spoilers, so turn back if you care about that sort of thing. You probably won’t understand much of what I’m discussing next unless you have finished the game.
Thoughts About the Characters and Narrative
UNCHARTED 3 is much more focused on Nathan Drake as a character than the previous two games. Sully also gets more character development in this game as well, at least in terms of filling out his back story. We get to see how Drake and Sully met, too. Whereas Drake’s Fortune introduced us to Nathan Drake and his obsession with Sir Francis Drake, and Among Thieves showed us Nate’s internal struggle with two different parts of his personality (embodied in Elena Fisher and Chloe Frazer), Drake’s Deception brings us back to Nate’s origins, his motivations, and the most important relationships in his life.
It’s subtly revealed in Drake’s Deception that Nate and Elena got married after the events in Among Thieves. In between Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception, they subsequently separated and they are now estranged. Elena left Nate because she didn’t want to play second fiddle to his obsession with Sir Francis Drake’s travels and treasure. The imagery of rings symbolises these various tensions. Sir Francis Drake’s ring, which Nate wears around his neck, which Nate had actually abandoned in Drake’s Fortune, and which Elena retrieved for him, symbolises Nate’s drive to figure out exactly what Francis Drake’s big secret was. Elena still wears her wedding ring, ostensibly to drive off would-be suitors in Yemen, though Nate no longer wears his own wedding ring. I found this aspect of the narrative to be really interesting, but quite disappointingly, it did not get much air time in the game.
The other relationship that UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception explores is the relationship between Sully and Nate. Throughout all three games, Sully and Drake have always been good buddies, but in the third installment, we see more of the father-son relationship that has been mostly implied in the previous two games. I didn’t feel that this aspect of the narrative was particularly interesting, and wish there had been less of it.
I found the main villain, Marlowe, to be pretty interesting, and I really wish there had been more of her in the game and I wish they had developed her character more. She comes across as pretty one-dimenisonal and I don’t feel that I got a good idea of her true motivations as a person. Consequently, I found it difficult to get invested in the plot.
Marlowe’s sidekick, Talbot, was completely uninteresting. I wanted to know more about why he was so loyal to Marlowe and her organisation. Talbot’s character design was utterly boring–standard white male with brown hair–and from far away, he could be mistaken for a less important NPC or even for Nathan Drake.
There wasn’t nearly enough Chloe Frazer. I wanted more of her. Big Chloe fan here. As it was, she didn’t have too big of a role, which disappointed me.
I also wanted more Elena in the game, and not necessarily in terms of her relationship with Drake, which probably wouldn’t happen if she had played a larger role.
Cutter was a generic, uninteresting, white bald guy who served as a plot device and comic relief when Drake wasn’t being the comic relief. He played a larger role than Cameraman Jeff in UNCHARTED 2: Among Thieves. Like Talbot, Cutter’s character design was so generic and boring that he could easily be mistaken for the dozens of no-name white, bald male NPCs who were wandering around. I wondered what the point of him was.
There is one token significant person of colour towards the end of the game, but Salim is essentially also used as a plot device so Drake can get to the hidden city in the middle of the Rub’ al Khali desert.
The nameless hordes of NPCs who you kill are white or people of colour, depending on the setting. For example, in London, they are mostly white (which is really weird, because London is one of the most diverse cities in the world). When you fight pirates, there are all sorts of skin colours represented. In Yemen, Syria, or Columbia, the baddies have the skin colour and features of the local population of that region. I continue to find it frustrating that none of the NPCs that you fight are women.
I found Nathan Drake’s character development also to be less than interesting. I feel like he hasn’t grown much from game to game. Whilst he comes to a decision about the importance of his interpersonal relationships by the end of the game, I wasn’t that invested or engaged with his character, save for my interest in his relationship with Elena and how that developed. Drake’s an all right, kind-of-an-asshole sort of guy, but that’s about all. I wish there was more depth there.
Overall, I found the narrative in UNCHARTED 3 to be less engaging than in UNCHARTED 2 on all levels–from the overarching treasure hunt plot, to Nate’s character development, to the way his relationship with other characters was handled. I didn’t dislike the story, it just wasn’t as interesting as the previous game. I feel a big part of this is due to the fact that Elena and Chloe are given less prominence.
My critiques notwithstanding, I enjoyed UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception, and I remain a huge fan of the series.