Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception hands-on preview and first look at the desert village

The Uncharted series is known for often feeling like a playable action movie, and in our recent time at Sony’s offices, we saw how Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception goes even further in melding gameplay with cinematic flair. We started with a hands-off demo of a never-before-seen area that’s tentatively called the desert village, which Nathan Drake stumbles into on the verge of death.

After wandering the 300 square mile desert for who knows how long, Drake crawls over a sand dune to see what appears to be an abandoned town below. Desperate to slake his thirst, he finds a well and jumps in, only to find a tiny puddle of non-potable liquid at the bottom. “Undrinkable,” he mutters, as he staggers away.

Katherine Marlow’s henchmen care not a smidgen for Drake’s plight, and thus ambush him with vicious gunfire as he deliriously ambles into the town square. Near death and without a firearm, Drake runs at the nearest enemy to attack him with his bare hands. Time slows ever so slightly as he punches the guy, sending his gun flying, which Drake then grabs in midair and equips on the spot. This new melee takedown/disarm combo looked so stylish and slick that it made us wish we were playing instead of merely watching, and we soon find out it’s not the only new move Drake has learned since Uncharted 2. He can also toss his weapon at a nearby enemy, and when the dimwitted oaf goes to catch it, our wily hero uses the opportunity to punch him in the gut. That’s the kind of smart scrappiness we find so endearing in Nathan Drake (and kind of reminds us of Nathan Fillion’s Mal in Firefly, too).

Not all enemies go down that easily though – one heavily-armored man stood out from the rest. We watched as our demoer sunk upwards of 30 bullets – too many to count – into this guy from fairly close range (maybe 15 feet away or so) before he went down, which seemed almost like mini-boss durability. We’re told that stronger enemies like this will be scattered throughout Uncharted 3 to add variety to the combat.

The desert village demo quickly came to an end in middle of the skirmish, so we moved on to play two levels hands-on for the first time – the burning chateau and the cargo plane, both previously seen at E3. We started with the chateau, where everything Drake steps on seems to collapse under his weight as he and Sully scramble to reach safety.

It’s not just the flames and unstable footing they have to worry about though, as apparently Marlow’s goons want Drake dead so badly they’re willing to brave a burning building to get in a few shots at him. We continue to carefully make our way through the chateau, taking out enemies along the way. At times it almost felt Gears of War-esque, as we jumped from cover to cover, popping up to shoot enemies in front of us. At one point, we encountered one of those ultra-tough adversaries we’d been warned about earlier, but this time we engaged him in melee battle, jamming on the square button to punch him as much as possible between quick-time events.

The cargo plane area was shorter, but definitely felt the most cinematic between the two levels. After Nathan Drake and Elena part ways, Drake makes his way quietly through a cargo area, taking out enemies along the way, before he makes a break for the titular gigantic cargo plane as it’s taking off down the runway. He can’t hope to outrun it, but luckily Elena suddenly drives up in her getaway vehicle and calls for her beau to hop in. We took control of Elena’s sweet ride and steered it toward the front landing gear, then leaped on just above the wheel and made our way through a vent into the plane.

Drake maintains his stowaway status for all of two seconds though, as he’s quickly spotted and nearly thrown out the back hatch by one of the flight crew. As we struggle to melee this jerk into submission, the plane’s huge cargo crates begin to slide toward us and fly out the back, and we can only dodge crates for so long before we’re hurled out as well, only to grab on to some netting just in time. Struggling to climb back into cargo hold, we fight through another man caught on the netting by pulling him away and dropping him into the sky.

Once back inside, it’s clear the plane is going down, and despite trying to find something to grab onto, Drake is pulled out through a gaping hole in the side of the aircraft and our demo comes to an end. This whole section – from getting flung out of the plane to crawling back up to getting jettisoned again – really exemplified the cinematic feel we’ve come to expect from the series. What’s remarkable is that we were in control of Nathan Drake the entire time, even though much of it felt totally like a cutscene (again, the series is known for this, but it’s still amazing to experience it in new areas for the first time). We can’t wait to see what other tricks Nathan Drake has to reveal as we get closer to Uncharted 3’s November release.

Oct 6, 2011

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