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GDC Preview: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Posted on Tuesday, March 8 @ 13:15:08 Eastern by

Born on the PS3, the Uncharted franchise has grown to become a staple PlayStation series. After much critical praise with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune back in 2007, Naughty Dog rushed to produce a sequel, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which received a number of awards and Game of the Year nods. That success has spawned a full-blown entertainment franchise: graphic novels, a feature film and a third installment in the series planned for release this November.

Improving upon what was a near perfect game in Uncharted 2, is not going to be a simple task. But if anyone is up to the job, it’s Naughty Dog. And at Game Developers Conference 2011, they proudly showed off their latest progress with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

On top of being shown the latest build of the game, we were also introduced to the game’s main antagonist through that game’s very first cutscene. Drake has dodged the bullets of Atoq Navarro and taken a beating from Zoran Lazeravic, but he’s not ready for the cunning Katherine Marlowe. She isn’t like the other villains, she’s far too sophisticated to do the dirty work herself. She has a team of well-trained special forces mercenaries following Drake's every move, just waiting to take him out. Katherine is after the ring Drake wears around his neck, which just so happens to belong to his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. To get it, Katherine will take a more psychological and intellectual approach to attacking Drake, possibly even attacking his friends.

The cutscene itself was just what you’d expect from Uncharted: Hollywood production value, realistic animations and voice acting, and a deep, compelling story told through the in-game engine.

As the cutscene faded out, it was time to check out a feature new to Uncharted 3: stereoscopic 3D. Uncharted is all about the cinema-style gameplay and action, and right now, cinemas around the world are filled with 3D flicks. 3D hasn’t particularly translated well to video games thus far, but Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception will change that. We’re not talking in your face 3D with bullets flying out of the screen. Uncharted 3 takes a much more subtle approach to 3D, instead opting to add depth.

The game’s environments are a great fit for 3D. Vines hanging down from the ceiling above help bring the area alive. As the floor above began to collapse, 3D made it seem that much more dangerous and dramatic. Naughty Dog mentioned that is can even help in gameplay, allowing for more accurate aiming.

During the demonstration, Sony only had so many 3D glasses to go around (at $150 a pop, I can’t really blame them for not having more than 25 of them), so the journalist in attendance had to pass them along after their demo. This turned out to be quite interesting, as I was forced to watch the first demonstration, which was in 3D, without the glasses. I immediately noticed that unlike most games in 3D I’ve seen, I was able to watch the action on screen without being distracted. Normally there’s a blur factor, an outline of the different planes of the image being displayed to each eye. But the characters on-screen, Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan, were in complete 2D -- only the backgrounds and environment were in 3D. This is good to note, as you can play the game in 3D and not feel bad that your buddies can’t watch the action without a pair of glasses of their own (like Sony, you probably can’t afford too many pairs of glasses yourself. If you can, can I borrow some money?).

The demo was a different area in the level that’s been shown previously in trailers. Drake and Sully are trapped by Katherine’s goons, who set fire to the building to smoke them out. The dry wood catches fire quickly, and things begin to fall apart, literally. The fire, which is some of the most realistic looking fire seen in a game to date, becomes a driving factor of progress. As platforms collapse, it makes for a new area for Drake to climb, or in another example, the fire will actually burn down a wall, giving our heroes a way to the staircase. At the bottom of the staircase, though, some enemies await.

While Uncharted is a third-person shooter, our gracious Naughty Dog donning the demo controller, decided to forego the gunplay in order to show us some of the new close quarters combat. Sorry, Solid Snake, Drake’s CQC packed more of a punch. Melees are more punishing than ever and you can attack more than one enemy at a time. You’ll need to too, as enemies will double-team you. In the demo, an enemy grabbed Drake from behind while another moved in to do some damage. Drake, lifts his legs up to drop kick the oncoming enemy, then bends forward to toss the other over his shoulder. We also saw Drake disarm enemies and take control of their weapon -- a very cool way to gain ammo or access to new weapons.

As the demo came to a close, the room cheered. I wanted to boo. But only because I wanted more and more time with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Like me, you’re going to have a long, arduous wait until this November before you’ll finally get your hands on the game. It’s too early to tell, but if the improvements we’ve seen are any indication, we may have another Game of the Year contender on our hands. At the very least, Uncharted 3 will be the banner title for 3D games for this generation.

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