Thursday, April 14, 2011

Megabits column: Uncharted 3

Megabits of Gaming contributes a monthly column in Charged Middle East – a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games magazine that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics.

Each month, Megabits takes a look at a new release in a gaming franchise and considers how its evolved over the years and what makes it great!

Here’s the latest of the articles from the April 2011 issue. For more about the magazine, check out its Facebook page after the jump.

Even before Lara Croft and her pistol-adorned thighs leapt onto the SEGA Saturn in 1996, gamers had been pretty partial to a bit of adventuring and treasure hunting. The Tomb Raider developers, Core Design, had already brought the pint-sized protagonist, Rick Dangerous, to our 8-bit screens back in 1989 to whet our appetite for archaeology and ancient civilizations.

Heavily influenced by the Hollywood blockbuster movies and subsequent games starring the fedora wearing, whip-wielding Indiana Jones, Lara and Rick are among the many to have helped pave the way for one of the most anticipated games of 2011. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is coming...

In a matter of months, fan favourite Nathan Drake (Nate to his friends) makes a welcome return to Sony’s PS3 for the third in the series of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted games. Details are scant at present but the press releases promise that pretty much every aspect of the previous games will be improved upon.

This time the arid landscape of the Rub’al Khali desert will be among the settings as Nate goes in search of a lost city Ubar, dubbed the ‘Atlantis of the Sands’. Once again, he’ll be accompanied by friend and mentor, Victor “Sully” Sullivan, as well as journalist – and love interest - Elena Fisher.

Unlike most sequels, I’ll wager that few of us will actually want much of an overhaul for the latest edition of the action adventure series; we have, afterall, grown to love the humour and plotlines, and marvelled at the graphics and sound – particularly the sublime voice acting of Nolan North. The old mantra, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it should certainly be applied in this case.

There has been mention, however, of an improved fighting system (with hand-to-hand combat, contextual melee attacks and the ability to take on multiple opponents) and that the online multiplayer component is set to be enhanced – both of which would be welcome improvements. What’s more, there are apparently “new innovations in sand, fire, smoke, and water dynamics and effects”.

The Uncharted series is as cinematic as they come and Nate is to the PS3 what Sonic was to the Megadrive and Mario to the NES - a mascot in all but name for Sony’s flagship machine. There is plenty of talk about the increasing emphasis on storytelling in video games nowadays – largely thanks to Quantic Dream’s 2010 murder mystery epic Heavy Rain – and Uncharted certainly provided a story fit for the big screen. No surprise then that the success of the series looks likely to spawn a movie version sometime soon.

The original 2007 game saw our hero – a descendant of 16th century privateer Sir Francis Drake – pursuing the lost treasure of El Dorado. His trademark wit and likeability made Nate an instant hit and it was inevitable that a follow up would hit the shelves. In October 2009 our intrepid adventurer returned for the sequel that saw him set off to the Himilayas in search of the fabled Cintamani Stone, a wish-granting jewel that plenty of unscrupulous souls understandably wanted to get their hands on. Just for good measure both co-operative and competitive game modes were included this time round.

Last September, the stats showed that Uncharted 2 had racked up around 4m sales with over 125m matches played online. Add all the rave reviews and Game Of The Year awards to the mix and there were plenty of reasons why Xbox 360 owners may have contemplated defecting to Sony’s machine to give treasure hunting a try.

The first in the series – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – accrued 88% from score aggregating website Metacritic – although this paled in comparison with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which achieved an impressive 96%. With Naughty Dog’s pedigree, these highs could surely be surpassed come November?