Uncharted 3 Single Player Hands-On Preview [Sony Holiday 2011]

I need to come clean about something. Not only am I a huge Uncharted fan, but it’s one of my favourite video game series of all-time. It’s yet to disappoint in any way, shape or form, with a noticeably shiny coat of polish covering each of its previous two entries.

Due to that aforementioned reason, you can surely understand that getting a chance to demo Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception at Sony’s Holiday 2011 Event in Toronto was right up my digital alley. Especially since they were showing off two stages from the single player campaign, which is admittedly my favourite part of almost every game on the market. I took my time and played through both for quite a while, aiming to write up a detailed preview article to explain my early thoughts. Put on your adventure hat and we’ll get into brass tax.


The first level on offer was chateau; the burning building you perhaps remember seeing in early Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception gameplay videos. Everything around our hero and his companion, Sully, is going up in smoke, meaning that a quick exit is the only smart move. That becomes their only aim, though some bad guys stand in their way. Not to mention a building which has been destroyed quite a bit, being in need of a push here or there in order to create walkways and paths to safety. Fire sometimes will burn through a wall to create one of these, with the world acting as a more dynamic influence on your journey than ever before.

How reactive the world was to its flaming destructor became a highlight for me as I ran, shot and climbed my way through the doomed chateau. Sully would always try to help find a way forward, though he’d need a lot of help himself, leading the player to climb his or her way across or upward, in order to create a path across for the middle-aged ally. This time around, the cameras used for climbing are a bit more visceral and there seemed to be more upward climbing (across a ceiling for example). Plus, one of those sequences where you must move across a path quickly because debris is raining down upon you, threatening a knock-off death.

If you’re like me, then you probably spent a lot of time punching out your foes in the last two Uncharted titles. It’s always fun to go on a 1950s adventure movie tangent, where a few punches can dismantle even the toughest enemy. In Uncharted 3, this is still very much a possibility, though the hand-to-hand mechanics have been altered a bit. Now, there’s a greater emphasis on action versus reaction, with Drake sometimes opening himself up to jabs which can be avoided and countered with timed button presses or quick time events. Some large grunts will engage you like this, becoming brief mini-bosses who can absorb quite a few jabs before they tumble backwards.

We all know how great the last two entries in this series looked, which is a continuing trend with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The chateau’s fire effects are quite impressive, creating some neat lighting effects inside of the environment, as well as on Drake himself. With everything around them crumbling, both of our heroes showed noticeable and life-like emotion, with quality visual and audio effect. Their distress was especially noticeable when Drake’s leg became stuck in a crumbling wooden staircase during their ascent, forcing Sully to return a helpful favour by getting him out as enemies descended from above. The player gets a quick shooting gallery sequence during that time, which was fun, albeit a bit too brief.

Cargo Plane:

Highlighted in quite a few early glimpses of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, the cargo plane and the small airport it’s housed in, seem to play a huge part in the game’s campaign. It chronicles Drake’s attempt to get onto an escaping plane as it flies down the runway at a moderate speed. This stage was available for demo as well, providing a somewhat different gaming experience with new mechanics which I quite enjoyed.

At the beginning of its action, the airport is a bit of a stealth mission. Our controlled hero must jump from rooftop to rooftop, eventually going in for the silenced takedown. Though, that is thwarted when enemies spot him and bring in the cavalry, which includes a spotlight, vehicle, mounted turret and extra forces. This changes things up, meaning that a secondary route must be found through the use of climbing, jumping and general platforming. All the while, gunfire rains out around you, creating some of the great tension which this series always delivers in great form.

When he eventually makes it to the runway, Drake is seemingly out of luck. His target is moving away down the runway, preparing for its ascent. However, our trusty friend and love interest, Elena, comes to the rescue. Like in the first game, she’s stolen a jeep, which Nate must catch up with and jump onto. Holding onto the vehicle’s roll cage, players can move from right to left in order to give Elena advice as to which side to move to, so that she’s right by the plane’s collapsing landing gear. Surprisingly enough, our hero jumps onto the wheel and its support, fearing nothing as he becomes a stowaway inside of the flying contraption.

Once he’s entered the plane, the game shifts into a vent-crawling mechanic, eventually returning back to its hand-to-hand and gun-filled roots. It’s all quite fun. The plane provides a quick form of travel from the tiny, drab airport, to a large desert environment. It’s there that a cinematic event occurs with Drake needing to act fast before potential doom. Though, I don’t want to give too much away here.

What I liked about this level was its ability to throw quite a few different things at the player. With the overall adventure being so dynamic and oft-changing, it’s good to see that the level designers have embraced this fact more than before. There’s so much on offer within this one section, which feels different from anything else we’ve seen thus far in the Uncharted series. It’s fast, exhilarating and nerve-wracking, providing sequences which are just as fun to watch as they are to play. Plus, there’s a nice transition from blueish tones to a large, yellow desert oasis.

Summary Of Thoughts:

After playing Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception for quite a bit of time, my thoughts on it being one of the best games of the year have become cemented. Based on the two stages available for demo, it’s going to be a very interesting, dynamic and action-packed experience with elements we’ve never seen before in the series. The addition of expanded hand-to-hand combat sequences changes things up a bit, as does the vertical climbing featured in its chateau stage. Not to mention the dynamic environments, which absolutely blew me away.

When November 1st comes upon us, you can be sure that I’ll be in front of my television, playing through Drake’s latest adventure. From start to finish, this time. Even before playing the two demos, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was one of my most-anticipated games of the year, and for good reason apparently. If you like this series as much as I do, then you surely won’t be disappointed. Naughty Dog seems to have done it once again.