Jimmy Fallon was a lucky man when he became the first person outside Naughty Dog to experience the game that we are all eager to get our hands on; Hannah Montana: The Return. I jest; of course I am referring to UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception. Many stayed up late to watch as he played along with Naughty Dog head honchos Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra. And now; let the dissecting begin.
The gameplay that was demonstrated was a section from a level set in a French Chateau, which just happened to be in the latter stages of being burned to the ground. Nathan is accompanied in this section by fan favourite Victor Sullivan, and I am happy to report that, at this stage at least, it appears that the two men are still buddies. The section (which only lasted for a couple of minutes) treated us to some basic platforming, some shooting, Nathan punching people in the head, and most excitingly some awesome looking cinematics.
The platforming element was by far the least significant, and probably doesn’t warrant much discussion here. It was a relatively basic affair, although I would like to say that I was impressed by the level design here. UNCHARTED 2: Among Thieves introduced us to a lot of verticality; it looks as if UNCHARTED 3 will build upon that and give us far more space in all directions. The inside of the chateau looks immense, and my impression was that it isn’t strictly linear. Exploration isn’t something I would particularly wish to do while my life is at stake, but the dimensions of this level hint at this being a possibility.
Of the combat elements I was personally most impressed by the melee moves. Nathan kills the first enemy in the demo by jumping from one level down onto the unsuspecting henchman below, reducing the unfortunate man to a pancake. The sadist in me knows she is going to enjoy doing this. Repeatedly. Nathan also seems to have gained a little finesse in his hand to hand skills; at least he seems to have learned more moves. Melee looks very appealing and quite graceful in its execution.
Of course Nathan still has guns at his disposal, but whether you will want to use them over the beautiful looking melee system is another matter. By the looks of his arsenal in the demo he will keep the 9mm pistol and his faithful AK-47, despite rumours that suggest that this would not be included in the game. I am not a gun expert (in fact all I know about guns I learned from UNCHARTED) but it does at least look very similar to the basic weapon from UNCHARTED 2: Among Thieves and also distinct from the gun that we see Nate pick up in the desert in the trailer. There does seem to be some work to be done on hit detection, however; it seemed that a couple of Evan Wells’ shots should have made contact but apparently didn’t.Still, it is far from a finished product and I expect issues like these will be addressed fully in the next eleven months.
Finally I would like to talk about the look of the game; that which we have seen. Unsurprisingly the graphics still look phenomenal, and animations are fluid as you would expect from a high calibre title. Nathan is still the man we know and love; a little older, perhaps, but still Nathan. His reactions to his environment are still realistic and in keeping with his character. We see him react to the fire (and there is a lot of that in this scene) and look utterly terrified as he falls over a stairwell and watches the floors below collapse to the ground. This, for me was the highlight of the demo; I am a sucker for those incredible set pieces that Naughty Dog pull off. One of my favourite moments in Among Thieves was the section in which Nate and Chloe leap out of the building that is being demolished by a helicopter. The collapsing, burning, French Chateau is at least on a par with this. The section we saw played out was indeed short, and yet it packed a lot in, without spoiling any of the plot.
I recommend you take a look, and if you see something that I have missed, or would like to refute one of my points; please leave us a comment and no doubt we can debate the finer details.