The Uncharted series has always been about a few things: beautiful graphics, crazy treasure hunting, and Nolan North saying the phrase “oh crap”. The third entry in the series–Drake’s Deception–keeps each of these, but still manages to be somehow less than its predecessors.
This iteration of Uncharted focuses primarily on Nathan Drake’s past. Up until now, his existence and history had largely gone unquestioned. He claimed to be a descendant of Sir Francis Drake and nothing in particular conflicted with that narrative–it was ahistorical, but that was an acceptable break from reality. Drake’s Deception seems focused on pulling the strands of his backstory and teasing out who Nathan really is.
The game opens by revealing that Nathan spent some portion of his youth as a thief and met his father figure Sully while stealing the ring that he had in previous games used to prove his identity from a Museum. This opening completely subverts his long-standing back story. It also opens the way to the main plot of the game: finding the treasure that this ring supposedly leads to.
Unfortunately, the way the plot is structured is somewhat difficult to believe. In essence, Nathan steals everything necessary for him to find some treasure, then sits on the information for 20+ years. Although Nathan is characterized in many ways, patient is rarely one of them. Furthermore, when the first game is added to consideration, it raises yet more questions about why he would have pursued an alternative lead (the plot of Drake’s Fortune) when he already had these other leads to follow.
The plot is also strange in a few other ways. Although every sequence of interactions makes some sense when considered from Nathan’s perspective, when the same interactions are considered from the antagonists perspective, things make far less sense. Motivations are unclear. Plans seem nonsensical or pointless. It almost feels like Nathan’s foes are just doing thing to screw with him rather than doing things to further their own interests. Taken together, this severely undermines the flow of the game.
From a gameplay standpoint, however, it is very difficult to fault the game. It keeps the very solid mechanics that were developed in the second game largely unchanged. This means that the cover-based shooting is solid and the platforming is tight.
I’ve said before that games can’t stand on gameplay alone. Drake’s Deception is an exemplar of that stance. If I only considered the gameplay, this game would get as good a score as its predecessor. However, the nagging issues with the plot just don’t sit well with me and become so bright and apparent with a second pass through the game that I can’t possibly recommend it.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception: 0