Nathan Drake returns for another top-rate adventure. After hearing his very distant relative, Francis Drake, must have taken a detour on the way back from one of his famous voyages we’re off to search for clues to see if he discovered the lost Arabian city of Ubar.
The story takes time to delve into Nate’s past, allowing us to explore how he met Sully, who now plays a larger role than the previous games. It never feels like padding and fans will enjoy the insight into the friendship. Don’t worry, Elena and Chloe are still around too.
Fears that the game would be mainly desert based are swept away early on. After an early London level (really, sewers again?) we find ourselves in a French forest which is where the jaw dropping starts. The detail and lighting in this jungle-like area of France is just incredible. It’s as close to reality as we’re going to get with this generation of consoles. Other impressive landscapes include a canyon that makes Red Dead look like it’s made from wet cardboard and a bustling Middle Eastern city. While some developers are moaning about this generation’s hardware running out of steam (hello DICE!), Naughty Dog are continuing to provide next-gen visuals today.
The action that you find yourself propelled through is never short of breath taking either. You’ll be jumping onto planes from a speeding jeep, escaping from a doomed storm-battered cruise liner, running through a burning chateau and more. Chase sequences with rooftop leaps are an exhilarating part of the game as are scenes where you run towards the camera to avoid the destruction behind you. Impressively, the camera never lets you down; it’s both useful and cinematic with no compromise on either side. Other games rarely have cutscenes this exciting, but here you’re actually playing through the action. It’s the best experience you could ask for.
The cinematic set pieces were always going to be hard-pushed to top Uncharted 2. But Naughty Dog are relentless with their barrage of high-octane heart-pumpers that will have Hollywood lusting with envy. If there’s one complaint it’s the crumbling platform/handhold is overused to such an extent it stops being surprising, especially knowing Drake will automatically grab onto the next area.
Naughty Dog aren’t afraid to slow the pace of the story at well-timed intermissions to allow the characters to breathe and show a little vulnerability. The developer’s method of having the voice actors physically act out their roles together adds human touches that other games, including LA Noire, are just years away from.
The scale of the shootouts has greatly increased with enemies now particularly adept at flanking you. The aiming is steadier than before, and you can now throw back enemy grenades, which is very useful as the AI loves to spam them at you more than ever. Headshots visually register, but don’t always kill for some reason and the armoured foes are just marching misery, as the number of shots they absorb is utterly ridiculous.
Getting into cover is clumsier than it should be thanks to rolling and cover sharing the same button. So expect many disastrous instances of rolling into the open and getting torn to bits. Playing the game on Crushing is not going to be fun at all.
Melee combat has benefited from additional counters enabling Drake to defend himself from multiple attackers. Scraps can go on for a long time though, so there’s plenty of time for other enemies to enter the scene and shoot at you from afar, making melee’s usefulness questionable.
Brawling-only scenes work better thanks to the nearby objects that Drake instinctively grabs to smash around an opponent’s face. Bottles, hammers and even fish are fair game. In addition to fish-slappery, you can now stylishly knock guns out of enemy hands and pluck them out of the air.
Stealth is still a frustrating part of the game, as some enemies randomly become aware of your presence. You can see how some areas are supposed to be sneakable arenas, but once the alarm sounds, you’re forced into a huge gunfight that feels unavoidable. And these bastards never miss; every bullet seems to find its mark, sending the screen black and white as you cower behind the wall hoping your health will just regenerate already.
There are significantly more puzzles than last time and the game is all the better for it too. Using notes from Drake’s journal, you look for clues on how to unlock the entrances to a variety of tombs, temples and secret rooms. They strike the balance just right in regards to difficulty and a sense of reward when you crack them.
Multiplayer has been improved with better perks and other combat modifiers. It’s fast-paced run and gun action compared to the cover shooter Campaign, and pulling other players off ledges is something that will never get old. Deathmatch types and Plunder (CTF) return, but the biggest draws are the new co-op matches.
Teams of players can choose to play survival matches against waves of enemies or they can include real-life players amongst the AI opponents. The story matches are the highlight, with specific scenes reworked from the campaigns of all the Uncharted games to allow co-op play. The cutscenes for this part of the game lack polish and have the odd glitch, but playing Uncharted as a cover-shooter with friends is crazy amounts of fun. Fingers crossed for some extra chapters soon.
The tougher AI makes the eight-hour Campaign more challenging than before, but it’s worth putting in the effort just for the smile the game puts on your face when it tears the world away from under your feet. Fantastic graphics, intense gameplay and a compelling cast makes for another terrific adventure from Nate and the gang. Co-op multiplayer is the surprise winner of the online side of the game, not that there aren’t hours of fun to be had from competitive play too.