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First look at Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception in LA

Friday, 17th December 2010 11:24 GMT By Justin Kranzl

uncharted3

Hollywood is a logical place for Sony Computer Entertainment and developer Naughty Dog to throw an event to unveil Uncharted 3 to games press. The series has evolved into one of gaming’s best examples of the interactive medium taking on film at their own game. In fact with Indiana Jones’ last cinematic experience verging on self-satire, there’s merit in the argument that Uncharted protagonist Nathan Drake is a figure more sympathetic to modern times; the everyman adventurer.

The goal with Uncharted is to capture the feel of the classic action adventure movies but front them with a contemporary hero, states Amy Hennig, creative director. The 17 year-old games industry veteran has won recognition not just from games press but also awards from the Writers Guild of America for Uncharted 2’s storyline, and it’s clear from Uncharted 3’s presentation that the ND team is committed to continuing down the same path that saw Uncharted 2 move over 4 million copies to date and a slew of “best of” gongs.

Uncharted 3’s double “D”

The “Drakes Deception” subtitle, we’re told, has multiple layers of meaning. Apart from the obvious reference to the protagonist, it also refers to Sir Francis Drake – sea captain and buccaneer. This time around, Nathan and sidekick Sully start off in Europe retracing movements of the historic figure and find themselves on the trail of another – TE Lawrence, the studious archaeologist who was to later become known as Lawrence of Arabia.

Lawrence, we’re told, was obsessed with finding the “Atlantis of the Sands”, a legendary lost city in the Rub’ al Khali desert. When Drake joins the hunt, it’s revealed he’s up against a secret order, lead by a tyrant who manipulates through fear. The nature of the nemesis’s powers wasn’t explained by Naughty Dog save for noting Drake would be forced to confront his greatest fear, presumably not snakes.

With the backdrop in play, the actual gameplay demonstration begins in a large, dilapidated chateau in France. We’re told for narrative purposes that Drake and Sully believe themselves to be one step ahead of their pursuers, however in true Uncharted fashion (“Where bad goes to worse”, in Naughty Dog’s words), they’re wrong. It doesn’t take long for Drake and Sully figure out they’re not alone. Henchmen of the unnamed foe are trying to set fire to the building, lugging barrels of oil and conversing with each other in the oafish manner of cannon fodder since the dawn of entertainment. Trapped on the upper levels of the building with the enemy below, Drake does some acrobatic shimmying and leaping as rotting beams give way under his hands. Before long, gunplay enters the equation, as Drake and Sully race to exit the building before the fire at ground level takes hold.

No such luck of course. In keeping with “bad goes to worse” the remnants of the enemy force exit the building and taunt Drake as they close the doors behind them. What occurs next is a superb example of how revisitation in level design (retracing the same territory) should be done. As the conflagration builds into a fiery pit, Drake and Sully clamber and jump from foothold to handhold in a race to remain rare and not well done. Structurally, the architecture remains the same, however navigation is completely rerouted courtesy of the disintegrating, burning interior. It’s fitting the demo closes out with Drake left hanging over the inferno.

The dialogue we heard was also noteworthy, and for better or worse, clearly executed with an eye towards mainstream cinema. More often than not just when you would expect the sidekick to chip in with a warning or wisecrack the game obliges. There’s little extraneous or forced chitchat, and about the only verbal red flag we heard was Drake uttering “crap!” when faced with serious peril, which seems mild for a man facing the threat of immolation. That subjective note aside, it’s clear Naughty Dog are not taking past storytelling kudos for granted.

The mechanics

While we’re yet to see the desert stages in action, what we have seen of Uncharted 3 is vintage Uncharted – verdant greenery surrounding the chateau’s edifice of stone and wood. The sun streams through gaps in the ruined building, allowing shafts of light to illuminate the interior as well as the players. Once the chateau’s fire starts to grow, motes of flame swirl around crazily, flames leap, and the whole thing comes off more like a gorgeous tech demo than gameplay.

All this beauty is secondary to Naughty Dog’s main tech focus, which has been on bringing a realistic desert to life in Uncharted 3. Promised on the engineering side of the equation is modelling of sand displacement, dunes, mirages and heat haze. We did get a glimpse of a heat haze effect – the rippling distortion of superheated air above the flames in the blazing chateau – and it definitely looked a cut above the wobbly texture warbles gamers may have become accustomed to in other games. It looked like the real deal.

On the interface front, as could be expected, Naughty Dog has persisted with a clean and minimalistic style. It’s bare beyond a weapon icon and ammunition count that flashes up, a basic sight indicator when Drake is shooting (the game camera swings to over his shoulder when he does) and a button indicator when a quick time event (e.g spamming a button to perform an action) comes up. The design intent is clearly to bring the player closer to the action and less focused on glaring at health bars or waypoint indicators. Players are encouraged to gauge Drake’s well being by his posture and demeanour. In addition to what Naughty Dog describes as a very long ambient animation cycle, Drake will further hold himself differently at rest than in times of stress, hopefully making Uncharted 3 on game where the protagonist doesn’t sauntering casually through passages of potentially life-ending peril like they’re on a late night shopping mission at a supermarket.

Naughty Dog also is trying to tie Drake even closer to the game’s geometry. Drake will rest his hands against nearby surfaces if he stops for a breather, and his arsenal of moves in combat and negotiating the game world (Naughty Dog’s term: “traversing”) have also been expanded with more options for Drake to climb from A to B. Objects in the game world imbued with physics modelling (the example used: a chandelier) will now react in a realistic manner when Drake jumps onto them. Other objects lying within the game world will be able to be picked up in combat and used as weapons as well.

Drake will no longer get away with beating up on the bad guys once by one, a new brawl mechanic introduced means hand-to-hand combat can involved fighting multiple people. There’s also new stealth options, including an overhead takedown that wouldn’t look out of place in Batman: Arkham City. The application of these moves in multiplayer wasn’t discussed, save for a proise of a “massive multiplayer expansion” within Uncharted 3, which we read to mean as not a product, but rather an “expansion” of the role of multiplayer in this Uncharted.

Cut

It would have been good to see what the desert holds in store in Uncharted 3, but Naughty Dog and Sony are no doubt going to drip feed goodies to the public when they’re good and ready. About the only qualm we have with what we saw wasn’t the technical execution or even the storyline, which seems imaginative and fitting to ND’s classic adventure brief. It’s more reflective of the conflict game designers face as they try to tie players deeper to the characters in the game. On one hand Naughty Dog want to have the player empathise with Drake as a character who is essentially human, with the attendant frailties. On the other, Uncharted 3 will see players rack up an impressive kill count, often firing first. Uncharted 3’s likely strengths – uncanny valley-challenging presentation, terrific characterisation and a cracking yarn – are potentially undermined every time Drake pulls a firearm and kills a bad guy, often in cold blood.

We dug deeper into this topic and others with cinematic lead Taylor Kurosaki, the chap charged with bringing that storyline home to players. The interview will be here as soon as the media embargo is lifted on 9.00am December 28 (US PST).

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47 Comments

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  1. Tallon 4

    Can’t wait :) …. but still 11 months to go.
    Bummer :(

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Patrick Garratt

    Updated with direct-feed gameplay movie and screens.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. back_up

    teh awesome

    #3 4 years ago
  4. KAP

    This is going to be epic and i swear to god, i wont see any other gameplay footage now til release.. its going to be fresh for when i play it.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Johnny Cullen

    Looks shit.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Crysis

    @5, lol.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. Erthazus

    To be honest…

    Looks OK. I like it, but i’m not blowed away in the ass like i saw first trailer in the Modern district of Uncharted 2.

    But i like the thing that there is a bloom effect when you shoot out of the pistol. Thank god, because pistol in Uncharted 2 was the ultimate sniper rifle.

    and to be honest, i started to see less details then in Uncharted 2, because of the 3D, i’m just sure of it. I’m afraid it’s not going to be so detailed like the second game. With 3D you need a lot of resources and PS3 does not have some kind of magic to resist lower textures.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. spiderLAW

    @ Johnny
    Get some rest bro, clearly your mind is lossed. lol

    I know you know i know you know this shit looks great.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Moonwalker1982

    It’s looking very nice but IMO not a huge step up from U2, but thats ok cause U2 still looks awesome now. I hope the game won’t suffer from being in 3D now. I don’t give a damn about E3, but i doubt they’ll mess it up.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. Hunam

    I just want to know why his face looks like a gorillas face now. And why is his head huge?

    Graphics don’t seem that great to be honest (compared to UC2, which looks insane), 3D will have an impact overall because you need to render twice, so you have to get 60fps rather than 30 meaning something has to be scaled back

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Erthazus

    Well yeah, after screenshots i’m sure for 100% that rendering did too much with the textures… It’s still too early to judge.

    but just look at the ground, walls…

    #11 4 years ago
  12. The Hindle

    Well its like ive said a few times now, this game has “Delayed to 2012″ all over it.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. osric90

    @Holy shit, so freakin’ much PRO-critics we have here! (Note my sarcasm). You’re doing now what we call “jugde the book by its cover”. Not even with a demo this game will represent 100% what it is, not in graphics, not in final gameplay much more less story. Remember TFU2 and its demo. Don’t be fool. As far as I see, this game will be mind-blowing and new fighting mechanics it’s all that I’ve been expecting.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. Erthazus

    @12 Depends on the E3 build really. Maybe they will blow us again, but for now it’s “alright”.

    They made Uncharted 2 for 1 year and 7 months. They still have 11 months for Unchartd 3.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. typeface

    There’s one thing to note in particular about these screenshots, seems like they’re all badly compressed. I mean you can tell there’s some artefacts here and there. They could’ve given better ones :/

    #15 4 years ago
  16. Patrick Garratt

    The original images are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/naughty_dog/

    #16 4 years ago
  17. typeface

    @16 to clarify I meant they as in Naughty Dog not you guys :). The images provided aren’t the best really considering they’ve given better quality images in the past. I’d checked multiple sites before I came across the source and that’s the reason for my comment.

    If you look at the fire in the original image itself you can see the artefacts. Nothing to do with you guys. whoever compressed them on Sony/ND’s side did a bad job.

    #17 4 years ago
  18. Hunam

    @13

    “Holy shit, so freakin’ much PRO-critics we have here! (Note my sarcasm). You’re doing now what we call “jugde the book by its cover”. ”

    “Don’t be fool. As far as I see, this game will be mind-blowing and new fighting mechanics it’s all that I’ve been expecting.”

    These two statements appear to be at odds with each other :S

    Seriously though, why does he now have a giant head. That’s the oddest thing about it.

    #18 4 years ago
  19. Erthazus

    @18 you mean giant head in the third picture? It’s just a camera work.

    #19 4 years ago
  20. KrazyKraut

    dudes..i thought u will be off for some weeks^^
    but the question is now why I am checking the site everyday even If I know that u guys are off (°_°)

    #20 4 years ago
  21. onlineatron

    @17

    It’s not giant, and it is to do with the camera’s perspective.

    You’ve got Drake at the front of the picture, with his right shoulder hanging down giving you a greater view of his head. Couple that with Sully looking smaller for being at the back of the picture and you have your optical illusion.

    #21 4 years ago
  22. Kuwabara

    get the fuck out of here xbox fan boys. Go masturbate, hump ur dogs , do something to keep u busy for another yr till gears 3 comes out.

    #22 4 years ago
  23. typeface

    @21 well it’s not good enough for wallpapers and artwork. Don’t get me wrong the game looks great and I’ll enjoy it as always (even more more likely, collector’s ed again (fortune hunter type please)).
    Just the compression wasn’t great for the screenshots. The videos look fine even with the compression due to motion but the screenshots are badly compressed. I mean come on one tiny zoom shouldn’t let you see the artefacts which it does.

    The game will run fine and look better and they have 11 months to make it even better, all I’m saying is they could’ve released better screenshots since we’re so long away from the next info release/E3 and the release :)

    #23 4 years ago
  24. Dannybuoy

    It’s looking pretty hot. Pun intended. We could all speculate and argue about this game till we’re blue in the face. But we all know one thing; Naughty Dog isn’t going to drop the batton here. It’s going to be amazing

    #24 4 years ago
  25. OrbitMonkey

    @4 I’ll join you in the abstinence, though its gonna be rough >_<

    #25 4 years ago
  26. Crysis

    Saints Row 3 was supposed to be officially unvieled @ Spike’s VGA, i’m upset that i still know nothing about it.

    #26 4 years ago
  27. Nonamegamer

    looks good never played the previous two but ggotta say it looks good.

    #27 4 years ago
  28. TraceableX

    Is VG247 dead or something? No new news?? :(

    #28 4 years ago
  29. onlineatron

    Look one post back Trace.

    #29 4 years ago
  30. osric90

    It’s sooooo boring without regular VG247 news. Splinter Cell Trilogy confirmed, Tomb Raider Trilogy confirmed… That Final Fantasy Collection for PSP… Ok… Let’s hope holidays are gone soon.

    #30 4 years ago
  31. Patrick Garratt

    @30 – :(

    We’ll be back soon enough. We have to stop now, because it really is the only chance we get to take a break. Next year’s going to be awesome, though, so hang tight.

    #31 4 years ago
  32. G1GAHURTZ

    Yeah, I think next year could see an external Blu-ray drive for the 360, A new game from Bungie called ‘Chief Masters’ on the PS3 and the Wii HD.

    Oh, and I’m also looking forward to seeing Respawn Entertainment’s new game!

    Oh, the fun!

    #32 4 years ago
  33. polygem

    …looks dope indeed…but i will never get tired of saying that nathan drake is a retarded, boring, enrique eglesias, ricky martin lookalike with no style and no soul…the women of uncharted are even more boring. the bad guys are pretty cool though. the monsters sucked…a mixed bag it is – a great game with a hero i freakin hate and i don´t want to play as…still both uncharted were overrated imo they are both 8ish…and i really mean that. good but not outstanding story, nothing new but a lot of old and nothing i could really get excited about. i get involved but not excited – not the type of game i have to keep on playing just to find out what will happen next. i can guess it and i will be right. the few newish elements sucked (monsters). some great, some superboring charakters (especially the main charakters suck while some of the sidekicks are awesome). mediocore puzzles, good but repetitive shooting mechanics and enemies, awesome graphics and awesome climbing gameplay, but with some flawed parts (i remember a wall and a rope in UC 1 which drove me crazy – that shit was just broken)…i can really understand the love for the game but imo they could have made so much more out of it by taking some risks in storytelling, charakter development…it´s just not very creative.

    #33 4 years ago
  34. Kuwabara

    go screw ur momma polygem, u dumb shit head :)

    #34 4 years ago
  35. Crysis

    @34, grow up, people are allowed to have different opinions, i disagree with him but not entirely, the game does have a cliché feel about it, but it’s just an opinion.

    #35 4 years ago
  36. Epic Fool

    *doesn’t read*

    *anything*

    *(in this article I mean)*

    Nah but seriously, most western game developers couldn’t character design their way out of a wet paper bag…

    #36 4 years ago
  37. Epic Fool

    Still.

    #37 4 years ago
  38. polygem

    Yo kuwa. My mom is dead and i wont screw yours. Sorry. I didnt bash the game. I didnt hype the game. Im ok with that.

    #38 4 years ago
  39. Kuwabara

    sorry about ur mum :(, but ur still an idiot for ur views on drake. Uncharted 1 is one of my fav games of all time, i finished it at least 10 times, and i found the game to be perfect, except the jumping every now and then. To me it had the best done story of any game, and the chemistry between drake and elena was great. and drake was perfect! every line he did was spot on. In part 2 however it seemed a little over done sometimes, forced maybe, but he was perfect in part 1. Dnt bloody compare him to ricky martin or enrique, because he has charm and wit, because ur probably used to super heroes and master chief on ur xbox.

    #39 4 years ago
  40. Michael O’Connor

    Oh god, shut up Kuwabara.

    polygem, just ignore him. He’s not worth it.

    #40 4 years ago
  41. Kuwabara

    Shut up Michael, go play ur xbox.

    #41 4 years ago
  42. Crysis

    Kuwabara, how old are you? seriously, you act like a spoilt 12 year old.

    #42 4 years ago
  43. Michael O’Connor

    @41 Too busy enjoying the LittBigPlanet 2 demo and DC:Universe Online beta to turn on my 360 right now. <3

    #43 4 years ago
  44. ChrisPilote

    We need TEA to arrive and elevate the debate. :P

    #44 4 years ago
  45. onlineatron

    @43

    LBP2 is bloody brilliant isn’t it?

    My hopes weren’t so high (I didn’t enjoy the first as much as I thought I would), but after playing the demo I’m damne excited for the game!

    Me and my brothers played the ‘Rocket Funland’ level 20 times in a row and marvelled at the rolling hamster vehicles!

    #45 4 years ago
  46. Kuwabara

    crysis, shut up, and merry christrmas :)

    #46 4 years ago
  47. Monk

    Btw, 2 new videos for Uncharted 3 :

    Part 1 :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVDPbtZGR6c&feature=player_embedded

    Part 2 :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdWe-5E34PA

    #47 4 years ago