Yesterday’s PlayStation Experience event most certainly ebbed and flowed. By that, I mean some of the things we saw and played were breathtaking and firmly cemented 2011 as PlayStation’s year, and some, like the extended playtime with DC Universe Online, seemed a little redundant – especially given the fact that we’ve already reviewed it.
One of the highlights, though, was meeting Naughty Dogs Arne Meyer (community) and Sam Thompson (producer) – two amicable chaps that were full of enthusiasm for Drake’s latest adventure despite the fact that a) they’d clearly been doing this all day by the time TheSixthAxis got to where they were stationed, and b) most people had already seen what they were about to show.
But whilst technically it was the same section of Uncharted 3 as we’ve seen before, seeing something up close and personal, first hand, being controlled by a Naughty Dog is quite different from some blurry off-screen YouTube footage. In short, the Chateau level looked even more stunning than I had previously thought.
But first, there was the background, and with 45 million games sold (raising 1.5 billion dollars at retail) Naughty Dog know what they’re doing. Arne talked about expanding the Uncharted universe through books and films (which raised a smile) but wouldn’t be pressed on other projects beyond acknowledging his happiness regarding the NGP Uncharted title.
Although we don’t see it in action, Uncharted 3’s technical challenge is clearly the issue of sand. We’re reminded of the previous two – the first game had to overcome water, and the second snow and ice – and a trailer after the presentation (in 3D, no less) went some way to showing that the team had cast their magic on the desert setting just as deftly as they had the frozen wastelands.
Drake’s Deception, as the third game will be subtitled, revolves around Sir Francis Drake’s exploration, promises a sinister long term rival and the return of a few key characters from the series, not least of all the seemingly constant presence of fan favourite Sully. We’re assuming at least one female will make a welcome cameo too.
In terms of new gameplay features, this PS3 exclusive will allow Drake to climb backwards, do more when balancing on beams and will feature many more ‘environmental touchpoints’ – smart little actions that really ground the character in the locations, such as running his hand on the wall when he’s near it. The animation, as you’d expect, is still world beating, the way Drake segues between his actions is sublime.
There’s new hand to hand combat, too, and the demo, once it starts, shows us how solid melee fighting really is this time around. It’s crunchy, hard hitting and powerful, and also lets you use the environment to great effect, with Drake slamming one unlucky enemy’s head right into a fence, which crumbles straight after. Really impressive.
In fact, the visuals throughout are improved again – if you thought Uncharted 2 looked great you’re in for another shock this time around: the motion blur is the best I’ve ever seen (and is incredibly filmic), the fire looks great and the smoke effects, including the burning building slowly filling with deadly smoke, demonstrated some great lighting effects.
You’ll have all seen the majority of the demo section, so it’s not worth repeating what happens, but as an action sequence, one that constantly gets more and more exciting as it progresses through the 15 minutes or so, easily rivals that of a Hollywood blockbuster – the difference being that you’re right in the middle of it all.
With a greater emphasis on the buddy relationship between Drake and Sully, the promise of some real adventure out in the desert and a whole raft of new features, Uncharted 3 looks like being the best of the bunch. I honestly can’t wait to see more, and I’ll be first in line when the game releases this November.