In terms of the game itself, there are no real surprises here for fans of the franchise: Naughty Dog has stuck to its successful formula of sharp wit, lush graphics and tons of action for this latest installment.
Your adventures as Nathan Drake take you across continents via crashing planes, abandoned trains and automobiles on fire, not to mention quite a few boats that quickly devolve into driftwood. The game play builds off the base of the first two “Uncharted” titles, with a few more melee options. Drake can, again, have two weapons at a time (give or take a couple of grenades) making finding ammo a key part of any battle strategy. Shooting is cover-based, and Drake makes it clear that he can shoot from behind, on top of, underneath and hanging from most of the surfaces in the game. The puzzles are not terribly difficult — more brain ticklers than brain teasers — but add quite a bit to the atmosphere of the game.
Where the game shines, however, is in the story. It really is like playing a movie. This game focuses heavily on the relationship between Drake and his father-figure partner, Victor “Sully” Sullivan, as they race against old enemies from their past.
Every visual and audio element serves that story. The graphics, which not only make you marvel at the interplay of light and shadow but also manage to fill in character histories with just a cheeky grin or well-timed wince, are superb. So is the acting, helmed by Nolan North, who must be the hardest-working man in voice talent.
In terms of replay value, “Uncharted 3” also offers a multiplayer mode that’s already been out in beta and adds bonuses to allow users to customize their game play. Although the multiplayer doesn’t have the depth of, say, the “Gears of War” series, the multiplayer modes make the game worth holding onto after you’ve run through the story.
“Uncharted 3” does have its flaws. As Eurogamer’s Simon Parkin points out in his much-discussed review of the game, Naughty Dog developers are so dedicated to their story that if you try to take a side path, you’ll be guided — sometimes gently, sometimes fatally — back to the task at hand. There was a cut scene or two when I felt as if I were watching a movie — and not in a good way, yelling helplessly at Drake to please, please, reconsider his actions. Ironically, it’s not really a game for people who like to explore, which will set it in contrast to Bethesda’s upcoming sandbox-on-steroids, “Skyrim.”
But “Uncharted 3” isn’t trying to be “Skyrim” or “Gears of War” or any of its market competitors, really. It is what it is, and it does that well. At its heart, “Uncharted 3” is a wild ride driven by an engaging story, and one that’s undeniably fun to play.