Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception review

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So, here it is. The follow-up to the game you voted the best in PlayStation’s history. No pressure, then. But thankfully – and we say this breathing a massive sigh of relief – Naughty Dog handles pressure as well as their star man himself. For the second time in succession, the studio has created a game that can claim to not only be the best on PS3, but also one of the best in gaming history. It’s a visual, technical and narrative tour de force that takes the sky-high expectations of an entire community and blows them out the back of a jumbo jet, replacing them with more show-stopping moments than you could hope to find in a dozen other games combined.

It’s unlikely that anything will be able to exceed our hopes in the manner that Among Thieves did, overshadowing its predecessor in every single regard – this is more of an extension and expansion of the Uncharted 2 formula. But in isolation, this is undoubtedly the better game. It looks better, plays better, offers more memorable moments and boasts a confidence in its storytelling that is unique in the medium. Welcome to the new platinum standard.

It also, as we knew it would, has the most likeable cast in all of gaming. Drake is back to his wisecracking best (and sets a new record for the most “Oh crap!”s in a videogame), and all of the returning favourites are in place. But there’s an increased maturity about their interactions this time around; although the tone is still very much ‘death-defying one-liners’, things also seem graver and far more tense.

Nate and mentor Sully are once more following in the footsteps of Francis Drake, and the mysterious clues being solved here are intended to lead them to a lost city in the desert – one of unimaginable wealth known as the Atlantis Of The Sands. Yep, always with the unimaginable wealth. But clearly things were never going to be as simple as buying some sandals, building a sand castle and stumbling across a city filled with immeasurable treasure – and so it’s another truly globe-hopping adventure. From the back-alleys of London and the streets of a Colombian city, to a sinking liner on the high seas, the environments are varied, lovingly designed and amazing to look at one and all.

Speaking of ‘to look at’, it goes without saying that this is a gorgeous game. But just how gorgeous is hard to convey. There were moments, right up until the conclusion, where I simply couldn’t believe how good the game looks. Plus more than a few occasions – again, even after hours of gameplay – where I just stopped dead to take in what I was seeing. Naughty Dog may not be using Depth Analysis’ mega-tech, but the faces actually look better than LA Noire’s – and in 3D you’ll want to reach out and stroke Drake’s lovely mug.

That said, although the 3D effect is solid, it’s not the tri-dimensional revolution we’d hoped for – you’re definitely better off sticking to plain old flat-vision. Then there’s the detail. The little tufts of hair on Drake’s neck, the slight crinkle in Sully’s brow or the way that you put your hand out to push off a wall as you walk close to it.