Gamersexpectations for the sequel to 2009 multiple Game of the Year award-winner Uncharted 2 are understandably sky-high, so it pleasing to report that the latest entry in PS3 flagship action adventure series often manages to stack up to and - on occasion - exceed the genre leading quality bar set by its predecessor.
The third outing in the Indiana Jones inspired treasure hunting franchise puts our hero Nathan Drake back on the trail of his famous ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. He sets off on a globe-trotting mission to locate an ancient lost city, Iram of the Pillars, taking him on a journey to London, Syria, France, Colombia, Yemen and finally Rubl Khali, one of the largest sand deserts in the world.
Fortune and glory
Also along for the ride are the returning supporting cast of Drake mentor, Sully, and leading ladies Chloe and Elena. As expected from developer Naughty Dog, the game offers highly convincing looking and behaving characters, which are brought to life by an excellent script, great acting performances and Hollywood level motion capture work. It really is a joy to watch them interact and see their relationships develop as cinematic cut scenes are seamlessly weaved with gameplay.
But Drake and his friends aren the only ones looking for Iram, or Atlantis of the Sands, the popular name given to the legendary city in southern Arabia believed to have been destroyed by a natural disaster or an act of god. To have any hope of achieving their goal, theyl have to stay one step ahead of a secret society that been searching for it since the days of Queen Elizabeth I.
While the graphical leap between 2007 Uncharted: Drake Fortune and its follow-up isn replicated here, Uncharted 3 is arguably the finest looking console game to date. Having conquered the jungle, snow and ice in its predecessors, Uncharted 3 masters its chosen elements and environments too, most notably the dangers and roaring life of fire and water, and the harsh loneliness of desert plains.
There a real feeling of authenticity to the game varied locations, with grimy London backstreets, French countryside mansion ruins, a moonlit stone fortress in Syria, and architecturally-diverse buildings brilliantly depicted by the game artists. Throw in the seriestrademark epic set-pieces - including dramatic escapes from burning chateaus, capsizing cruise liners, and an aeroplane take off that sees Drake clinging from the bird rear - and Uncharted 3 takes cinematic action to a scale PS3 has not seen before.
Bare knuckle brawling
Like it predecessors, Uncharted 3 generally alternates between fairly simple environmental puzzle solving, climbing or jumping across structures, and engaging bad guys on this occasion shadowy, slightly clich British operatives using slick, Gears of War like third person cover-based shooting. Drake brings a few new tricks to the party in Uncharted 3, including the ability to shoot vertically while scaling environments, and the smarts to catch enemiesgrenades and throw them back within a certain timeframe
The hand-to-hand brawling system has been developed, with basic kicks and punches now complemented by counter-attacking moves and crowd-managing shoves that bring a little more strategy to combat. The addition of contextual takedowns, which enable you to do things like smash bottles across heads or use pool cues if youe fighting in a bar, are also a nice touch that help further immerse you in your given location at any time.
Aside from the stellar campaign, Uncharted 3 delivers some the best multiplayer action on PS3. This comes in the form of a range of competitive and team-based cover-centric gameplay modes including deathmatch and objective capture ones. The game also introduces Call of Duty style weapon upgrades and ability-enhancing boosts, plus an assortment of unlockable character models and clothing to spend your hard-earned in-game cash on.
In addition, there are five three-player co-op story missions, moving from the London Underground to Syria, which largely focus on shooting and completing simple objectives. Theye a nice distraction in their own right, but given the relative lack of climbing and puzzle solving, we probably have preferred it if the main campaign supported co-op play
As is the case with any game, there arguably some room for improvement. Uncharted 3 difficulty spikes a little steeply and unexpectedly on occasions towards the end of the game, ensuring some players will have to replay sections many times to succeed, and as previously stated, the game fails to deliver the same technical leap as Uncharted 2 did from the original.
But these are very minor niggles that fail to put a dampener on an otherwise thoroughly excellent game. Boasting a brilliant single player campaign alongside polished and expanded multiplayer modes, plus some of the finest video game graphics and storytelling to date, Uncharted 3 is an action title of the highest calibre.
+ Absolutely stunning visuals
+ Spectacular, cinematic set-pieces.
+ Tonnes of things to see and do.
- The clich British baddies.
- Some big difficulty spikes towards the end.
- Doesn feature the same technical leap as Uncharted 2.