Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Hands-On Preview
By James Farrington (10.20.11)
During Sony’s 2011 Holiday Preview event I had the chance to play a hands-on demo of “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.” The demo showcased two levels: one level took place in a burning chateau and the other level took place onboard a plane in mid flight. The demo highlighted the game’s excellent level design and exceptional set-pieces. In fact, the two levels demoed felt like extended set-piece moments with dynamic environments and fun gunfights. If what I played is any indication then “Uncharted 3” looks primed to give fans the same polished gameplay and polished level design the “Uncharted” series is known for.
It looks like “Uncharted 3” is not really introducing any new gameplay into the series. Rather, the game features the same quality of action and platforming as previous titles in the series. Drake can still fire off any gun he can pick up, he can still climb walls and rubble with ease, and he still seems to have perfect timing to avoid death at the very last moment. Nevertheless, I did notice that the targeting and aiming felt a little stiff and jerky. Though I am not certain if the jerky aiming was due to the overall game design or just how the game was set-up for the demo. Thankfully, the hand-to-hand combat felt visceral and polished compared to the other games in the series. Basically if one enjoyed the gameplay in previous “Uncharted” games then he/she should feel right at home with “Uncharted 3.”
Fighting Through Fire and Wind
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of “Uncharted 3” that I experienced was the level design. The first level I played opens with Drake and Sully observing enemies pouring gasoline on the floor of a wooden building and lighting the wooden building on fire. Of course the fire spreads rapidly and transforms the building into an unstable mass of burning beams and collapsing staircases. There were some very impressive fire effects on display and the fire seemed to change the environment in dynamic and realistic ways. Paths changed randomly as floors and staircases collapsed making it feel as though Drake and Sully were in real peril in a space that could kill them just as easily as the bullets from enemies’ guns. Even though the collapsing staircases, crumbling floors, and burning walls were all scripted the quality of level design made each dynamic level change feel like it was unscripted, which made the level feel alive and vibrant.
The next level demoed begins with Drake and Elena trying to get onboard a plane, which culminates in chasing after the plane along a runway with Drake jumping from a jeep onto the front wheels of the plane and entering the plane as the landing gear is raised. Once onboard the plane the player can expect a brilliantly designed fight aboard, and outside, the plane itself. Perhaps the most memorable moment of this level is Drake dangling out the back of the cargo plane while gripping onto some sort of cargo netting that he has to climb up to get back onboard the plane. On top of the exciting cargo net set-piece the cover the plane offers in the form of cargo moves with the movement of the plane so that no cover remains stationary, which adds a surprising amount of tension to the ensuing gunfight on the plane.
Both of the levels demoed reveal the mastery the developers have in creating incredible action set-pieces in diverse environments. Even though action films have revisited again and again fights in burning buildings and fights on planes in mid-flight, getting to actually play those moments in a game is great fun. From what I played it looks like “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception” is not out to tread new ground but is more about taking what the “Uncharted” series is known for and pushing it to the limits. “Uncharted 3” seems ready to give players an engaging and hopefully fulfilling third chapter in the “Uncharted” series on the PS3. Still, final judgments on the game must be reserved for when the game is released. So hopefully the great level design, fantastic visuals, and fun gameplay I experienced are all indicative of what one can expect in the final game.
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is set for release on November 1st, 2011
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