Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Naughty Dog’s final Uncharted game on the PS3, released in 2011 to critical fanfare. Contrary to this belief, some fans disliked this third game, and they believed that it could not compete with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. This game has attained a generally more negative reputation than its predecessor in recent years, but it is still a fine game, in my point of view.
The game opens with Nate (portrayed by Nolan North for the third time) and Sully (Richard McGonagle) offering a shady man known as Talbot (Robin Atkin Downes) the ring of Sir Francis Drake, which Talbot exchanges a suitcase of counterfeit money for. The two call him out on shortchanging them, and a bar brawl ensues. They fight their way out when one of Talbot’s compatriots, Katherine Marlowe (Rosalind Ayres), has the two shot dead in an alley by one of her thugs in a fatal miscommunication. It is revealed that the shooter, Charlie Cutter (Graham McTavish), was working with the two and was done to reveal Marlowe and Talbot’s hideout. The three, while being aided by Chloe (Claudia Black), sneak into the hideout of Marlowe’s to discover that what the two antagonists are after is the lost city of Ubar.
The plotline feels like a step back from the second game, mainly because Talbot or Marlowe cannot evoke the same fear that Lezarević was able to pull off: you barely see Talbot, and Marlowe is completely non-threatening. Lezarević spoke with his actions, while these two just speak. The character interactions this time also felt much less memorable; Cutter doesn’t really cut it in terms of having a tangible arc. Most of the characters basically end where they started.
The aesthetics of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception are a not very noticable improvement over Uncharted 2: Among Thieves; it is still a step up, but it is not like the monumental leap the second title took from Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. The character models here look even better with much less stilted movement (Nate’s awkward jump from the plummeting train to the cliff edge in the second game was a particularly weightless looking example), and the sun-baked environments are still as breathtaking as before, but Uncharted 2 already looked so good that Uncharted 3 only had to refine it. There’s a reason that the game was the least touched visually in The Nathan Drake Collection.
The audio is similarly an improvement on the second game. The musical score keeps up both the tension and the pacing in action segments, but the bombastic nature of the music knows when to subside to let the player catch their breath. The other parts of the sound design are standard fare for Drake’s adventures; he grunts whenever jumping from one ledge to another, the punches landed on enemies are satisfying, and the guns sound as powerful as they have before.
As for the gameplay, it is the same gameplay loop as the previous entries in the series, where ducking in and out of cover to shoot those with their heads visible is the name of the game. It is as satisfying to pop up and score a headshot as it ever was. More guns have also been placed into the game, and they all somehow feel unique, even if they do fall into four weapon types. The grenade spam caused by the enemies of the previous games has been resolved with an option to throw back their grenades; however, my only issue with the combat mechanically is that I did not know this was in the game. The lack of a button prompt or brief tutorial was annoying , although it was still fine to beat the game without it. Even though issues with the shooting may have been present in the PS3 version, Bluepoint did a thorough job in fixing complaints for the PS4 version, and the shooting has been reverted to the Uncharted 2 variation.
Setpieces are back in Uncharted 3, and they are on the largest scale yet. The descent from the towering plane into the derelict desert is another great moment, but it does not quite reach the lofty heights of the prequel. They drag their feet in this game to attempt to wring more time out of the game’s bigger moments, and there are multiple points in this game where not much happens in the plot while the trek to the next story beat is quite lengthy. By comparison, Uncharted 2 felt like it had near perfect pacing, balancing setpieces and plot point reveals almost flawlessly.
My thoughts about this final chapter in the PS3 trilogy are a lot like my thoughts on the setpieces of the game. It is still a game that is worth playing as a cinematic experience, but some portions of the game feel like they continue for quite a long amount of time. Still, the bread and butter of the game, the shooting, is still immensely satisfying to behold, and even if it may not be the best game of the initial three games, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is still a great game that is absolutely worth playing.
Note: I played Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception through Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, which plays this game, as well as the previous two instalments, in 1080p at 60 frames per second. This third game has shooting issues on the PS3 verison, so I would recommend playing the PS4 remaster.