At a recent press event in Dublin, ClickOnline got the chance to clap our greedy eyes on some hands off gameplay of a hitherto unrevealed level of Sony and Naughty Dog’s upcoming blockbuster platformer Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. It all kicked off with a presentation from lead designer Richard Lemarchand who we later grabbed for a lengthy chat (Part 1 here
, Part 2 here
). Read on for our take on Drake’s latest adventure.
Uncharted may be one of the biggest franchises on PS3 today but it’s not the first major title for developer Naughty Dog
, who have been crafting polygonal joy for gamers since the 1980’s, with their early games appearing on the Mega Drive and 3DO. But it was the arrival of Crash Bandicoot in 1996 which saw the company really arrive on the scene, harnessing the power of the PS 1 to develop a character based, third person 3D platformer – the genre which would be their home for the next decade and a half. Several PS exclusive titles in the Crash series followed, making the companies acquisition by Sony Computer Entertainment a natural progression. Naughty Dog’s success continued with four Jak titles, until the next generation consoles beckoned.
It was around this time, in the mid 2000’s, that Richard Lemarchand joined the team, eager to get involved in a cinematic action title which was just starting production…
Seven years on, the Uncharted series is the stuff of console legends, earning critical accolades and commercial success practically unmatched in the pantheon of PS3 exclusive titles. And Lemarchand is here to show off the latest iteration, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.
Uncharted 3 follows the through line begun by the first game, as Drake remains on the trail of his famous ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. This time, he’s also crossing historical paths with famed explorer and archaeologist T.E. Lawrence (the Lawrence of Arabia bloke), specifically the latter’s fascination with the aptly named ‘Atlantis of the Sands’ – a city of vast wealth which was supposedly swallowed up by the desert. Rumoured to exist in the sprawling, 650,000 km expanses of the Rub' al Khali desert on the Arabian peninsula. The site has never been officially located, leaving it open to the mix of myth and history which has typified Nathan Drake’s missions to date.
Lemarchand says that while story is foremost on their minds when crafting the setting for an Uncharted title, the team is also keen to set themselves a technical challenge each time. For Drake’s Deception, they’ve settled on the realistic depictions of sand as particles including simulations of wind, interactions with characters and a dozen technical terms which all amount to some of the most breathtaking imagery we’ve ever seen in a game. But more on that later.
First, we’re treated to the game’s kick ass trailer, which highlights some elements of the plot but seems much more focussed on watching Drake kick things and get kicked by other things.
Then we’re whisked off to a familiar location for a look at the cargo plane demo which has been touring the interweb for quite some time. Here, we get a glimpse of a brute character – which we assumed was a boss on first viewing. According to Lemarchand, it’s actually a new addition to the regular forces you’ll face, making more strategic play vital if you’re to survive against the hulking foes. You’ll see some of the new melee attacks, including a ‘death from above’ move, making an appearance, as well as Drake’s trademark terror at the ridiculous situations he finds himself in. And by the way, when Elena is racing towards the undercarriage in that jeep, it’s the players camera movements that help her find her way. Slick, huh?!
Finally, it’s time for the new gameplay in the form of a live demo. It starts with Drake alone in a vast desert while we take some time to marvel at the visuals. The apparent draw distance is incredible and the interplay of sand particles with the wind and the shape of the dunes, all crisp enough to make our mouths feel dry, is awe-inspiring. In motion, it’s even better – our hero visibly sinks into the sand, displacing realistic amounts of sand and leaving tracks, while an (inevitable) fall leaves a deeper depression, and a distinctly dustier Drake.
Cresting a rise with difficulty, we glimpse a near mirage of a village town in the distance and make our way towards it. Up close, and with an on screen title telling us this is chapter 19 – The Settlement, it proves to be real but abandoned but Drake heads in anyway, in search of water, murmuring to himself in his usual fashion. Here, Lemarchand takes a second to show off the games new volumetric lighting system – the sunlight streaming through the cracked façade of a building seems to have weight, particles being realistically occluded and scattered by shadow. It’s a technical milestone for console gaming but, just like so many elements in Uncharted, it just one more detail that creates a cumulative experience of quality.
Thirst somewhat quenched, Drake finds himself in a courtyard and (predictably) in deep trouble as he chances upon a group of mercenaries sent by lead villain Katherine Marlowe. We’re treated to an action scene that feels much more aggressive than previous games. The enclosed space encourages hand to hand fighting and a powerful shotgun proves extremely effective. Uncharted 3 features a plethora of new, context sensitive, attacks including smashing an opponent’s head off a nearby wall, pulling the pin on a grenade attached to their shirt and – in a fantastic action-movie moment – tossing your gun to an enemy as a distraction before hitting him with a right cross. It’s fast, brutal and more fluid than ever – we can’t wait to get our hands on a controller.
This demo ends with an enemy shooting at a precarious platform, causing Drake to fall, once again but we’ve seen more than enough to whet our appetite. The only disappointment was the lack of significant platforming moments in these demos, showing off the scale of the levels and the new interactions between character and environment – catching dubbed ‘traversal of physical objects’. Still, this first local airing is undoubtedly impressive and together with the astounding graphics, genre leading story and unique characterisation of star Nathan Drake, there’s little chance that Drakes Deception will be anything less than a massive success when it arrives in November.
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is out exclusively on the PS3 on the 2nd of November 2011.