Monday, October 31, 2011

30 Minute Playtest: Uncharted 3

Sublime. That's how best to describe our time-limited playtest of arguably one of the most anticipated games of 2011. Nathan Drake is back - a little chubbier and older than before, but still sporting his trademark wit, acrobatic tendencies and puzzle-solving skills. It's testament to the brilliance of the game that we became so engrossed that we forgot all about our self-imposed 30 minute manacles, instead playing into the night.

Nevertheless, for the purposes of this article, the first half an hour was thoroughly memorable so it's no problem relaying our experiences here (mild spoilers ahead).

Importantly, shove the shiny disc into your PS3 and Uncharted 3 instantly feels comfortable - fans of the series will quickly realise that little appears to have changed from Among Thieves... and that comes as somewhat of a relief.

The graphics are typically crisp, with the screen awash with colour and detail. It looks absolutely awesome and draws you in. Naughty Dog combines this striking aesthetic with incidental music to create a thoroughly cinematic experience. Once again, they have perfectly captured that Hollywood feel; cut scenes explain the back story but merge well with the action sequences, the scripting is tight and the story is strong enough to draw comparisons with the plot of a whip-wielding Harrison Ford movie.

The first few levels that fell within this playtest combined fist fighting, gunplay, puzzle solving and lots and lots of climbing, shimmying and ledge leaping. It's all very Uncharted 2 - but you can't have too much of a good thing, can you? Even the QTE - the bugbear of many - is discreet and well worked.

The game starts with Nate and his trusty sidekick Sully propping up the bar in some London pub. What starts as a pleasant meeting with another purveyor of antiquities quickly turns into a brawl - giving players an insight into the hand to hand combat. There's very little time to pause for breath in the opening scenes and before long you'll be throwing people out of windows, slamming heads into toilet seats and getting shot at!

Besides the strong visuals, it strikes you from the start that the voice acting is once again perfectly cast - from Nate's usual banter to the cheeky cockney chappies who fill the bar.

The brief flashback level that followed was a particular favourite of ours, whisking us off to Cartagena, Colombia, where we fill the shoes of a young Nate. It explains his first meeting with Sully after a chance encounter while scoping out a museum. It's all very well done and within no time, you're running along the rooftops trying to escape some gun-toting hoods. It's fast, exciting and great fun. There are even nice little touches with the interactive backgrounds and environments, like when Nate clatters into a box of lemons; it's things like this that really suck you in. Similarly, the character animations are spot on - and you'll take great delight in watching as you dive from ledges or swing to nearby lamp posts.

To question whether Uncharted 3 was worth the wait is ludicrous. It's an awesome game and suffice to say, 30 minutes play time is barely enough to scratch the surface. Should you continue after the first half an hour? Don't be daft... you'd be a fool not to.