There's a problem with reviewing games. No matter how hard we try to pretend that there's some kind of technical or critical practice involved, as we pore over and evaluate the graphics, the game mechanics, the production design and the gameplay, it really all comes down to one thing: the experience. How does this game make you feel? With some games, that's a tricky one. Why do you feel one way or another? Will other people necessarily feel the same way. With Uncharted 3 it's easy. Playing Uncharted 3 is like watching one of your favourite blockbuster movies, but having direct control of the action. By necessity it's a linear experience, but if so it's one of the most thrilling and emotionally engaging games we've ever played.
Now, some of you might not have played Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – in which case we’d urge you to rectify this error immediately, if only because it makes playing Uncharted 3 even richer and more wondrous than it already is. Basically, the games chart the life and times of one Nathan Drake – a treasure-hunting hero in the mould of Lara Croft and a certain Dr. Jones – as he searches for fortune and glory across South America, Europe, Asia and the Himalayas.
If you were being critical, you would probably say that the gameplay is effectively Tomb Raider meets Prince of Persia meets Gears of War, with a nice mix of platforming, puzzle-solving and cover-based gun battles, but this doesn’t really do it justice. The trick to Uncharted is that the mix is so perfect, and that the games are so cinematic. We don’t just mean this in the usual sense that it's packed with movie-like camera angles and motion-captured acting, but in the sense that the games value the things that used to make Hollywood movies great: a good story, interesting characters, engaging dialogue and big narrative hooks. And when the Uncharted games go for the spectacle, they go really, really big. Uncharted 2 in particular was full of moments where you thought “they’re not really going to do that, are they? They can't!” And then they did.
All this is true of Uncharted 3, which does a brilliant job of taking Drake, his mentor/father-figure Sully, and the other key Uncharted characters to new places and new dangers, while exploring a little deeper into what makes them tick. The action kicks off in London, before moving to French chateaux, middle-Eastern castles, secret crypts and pirate shipyards. It starts strong and pretty much never lets up.
The team at Naughty Dog has practically perfected its pacing. Where lesser games give you the same sixty seconds, over and over again with a few variations, Drake’s Deception moves effortlessly from high-tension platforming to fraught gun battle to brain-stretching puzzles to fisticuffs and chase sequences, each element never standing out as separate, but all part of one gloriously cohesive whole. Like the Call of Duty-style orchestrated shooter, it’s effectively a one-track thrill ride, but one that works on a much broader emotional level than Infinity Ward's run and gun shooters ever could.