Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Review
The first differences you’ll notice are in the fight mechanics, which have been vastly improved. Fight animations in particular are considerably more varied. While Nate has always delivered a mean brawler punch, a kick to the balls or an elbow to the face, you get the impression that after the events of Among Thieves he’s taken some rather intense classes in mixed martial arts. Now he can grab loose objects (like hammers and beer bottles) and smash them over his enemies’ heads, throw people out windows and ram them face-first into walls and tables.
Better, Nate can now efficiently fight multiple opponents, thanks to the inclusion of Batman: Arkham Asylum-style counter moves. Standard attacks are still activated with the square button and you grapple with the circle, but hitting triangle activates counter moves that can be used at any point during melee combat. Which means you can begin a fight by putting your opponent off balance with a push rather than running up and punching them. The countermoves are also crucial in the game’s (thankfully rare) quick time moments, which mostly happen during certain mini boss fights (more on that below).
Drake’s Deception’s finishing moves are also excellent. Nate can leap down on enemies from a ledge, jump stairs to deliver a flying kick that knocks them out or, best of all, sneak up from behind and deliver a silent take down that is typically hilarious. In fact, improvements to silent take down moves actually make the limited stealth aspects of Drake’s Deception some of the game’s best moments, and a reprieve from the series’ more linear aspects. Players can now choose to methodically work their way through a level taking enemies down one-by-one, or simply start a balls-out firefight from the onset. These changes turn melee combat – in previous games a somewhat tedious interruption of platforming and shooting – into some of the most fun you’ll have playing.
Shooting remains largely the same. If anything, it could have used a few of the improvements Naughty Dog put into melee combat. The cover system works very well as it did in previous games, and the weapons remain as accurate and interestingly realistic as players have become accustomed to. The problem is that enemies’ difficulty is expressed mainly through relative indestructibility. This is true both in your progression through the game, and the difficulty level you can select for your game. No matter what difficulty level you choose or the stage you’re in, your enemies will commit to the same bone-headed swarming attacks or mad-dogging bullying that they always do. You’ll just have to unload more bullets to kill them. It would be nice if enemies were challenging because the AI has a chance of outthinking you, instead of simply being impervious to headshots.
There’s also an issue with commands being somewhat inaccurate. For example, you’ll occasionally have to try jumping to the same ledge again and again because the controller thinks you want to go in a different direction. More annoying is that the triangle button controls not only counter attacks, but picking up ammo, grabbing a replacement weapon, and tossing a grenade back at the enemy who threw it at you. This means you might intend to stop an enemy from punching your teeth out but end up replacing your extremely useful Dragon Sniper with a pointlessly powerful sawed off shotgun instead. Or worse, you might mean to grab that stray grenade only to acquire more rounds for your pistol and get killed feeling like a chump who can’t run away from an explosion.
Fortunately, these are mostly minor problems. And they’re easily forgotten The best changes involve the treatment of levels. Horseback riding has already been confirmed, and yes, the sequences when you’re leaping from horseback to truck and back again, or fighting your enemies while hanging off the side of your mount, are awesome. Better still is a level consisting of Nathan’s panic after being drugged that is extremely reminiscent of Psychonauts. That paranoia and confusion is later revisited in a brilliant 10 minute sequence when you essentially spend 3 days of in-game time being lost in a desert, subject to dire thirst and severe hallucinations.
The fact is, again and again Uncharted 3 is distinguished by incredible digressions and subversions of your expectations. Mostly.