While plenty of video game fans are carefully monitoring the PR tug-of-war between Activision and EA over whose war-time FPS will reign supreme, Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3, respectively, this holiday season - plenty PS3 faithfuls have their eyes glued to the title that will release smack-dab in the middle of the fray, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.
We've seen one impressive gameplay video after another (most notably the burning chateau gameplay demo) and today, following the recent release of the Uncharted 3 Gamescom trailer, we're getting a full 6 minute look at gameplay from the airstrip level - as well as some insight in Drake's upcoming adventure from Naughty Dog community strategist Arne Meyer.
As we’ve previously warned, pre-release details can contain MILD SPOILERS for Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception as well as the prior Uncharted titles. If you are attempting to avoid spoilers altogether, please be advised to turn away now — you have been WARNED.
Meyer spoke with VG247 at Gamescom 2011 and touched on a number of Uncharted-related topics - starting with Naughty Dog's relationship with the PS Vita team at Sony Bend who are currently handling Uncharted: Golden Abyss development:
It's good to hear that Hennig and the rest of the team at Naughty Dog have been able to openly communicate with Sony Bend - considering how important the upcoming PS Vita title will be for Sony's new handheld as well as the effect it could have on the Uncharted universe. Certainly, right now, the Uncharted brand is riding high with plenty of support from Sony gamers. As an early Vita title, if the Golden Abyss fell flat, there's no doubt that it could tarnish Uncharted's console reputation a bit too - considering many of the people who rush out to buy a Vita will be Sony faithfuls.
It's especially interesting to hear Meyer mention that Naughty Dog is working closely with the filmmakers responsible for the Uncharted movie - considering the bizarre "family dynamic" story former director, David O. Russell, wanted to tell. That said, faithfulness to the source material was undoubtedly a point of contention in Russell's parting of ways - so maybe Naughty Dog has more influence than we might have previously assumed.
Meyer then goes on to talk about where Nathan stands with some of the fan-favorite characters players have encountered in the previous two games, as well as why the team focuses on particular characters - especially the ever-evolving mentor/father-figure relationship with Sully which is, once again, a focal point for Uncharted 3:
"Some of the interest came with the decisions in terms of the stories we wanted to tell [...] With Uncharted 2, when we’re taking a look at the overall story arc of where the universe has been, we hadn’t realised it was really interesting to explore Drake’s sort of darker side. He was down and out, he was a broken man, so to us, it was interesting to see where he would go from there [...] There had been some treasure with him and Sully, but he had lost the Idol [in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune]. So for us, it was interesting to see what the dynamics were for that. And then at the end of Uncharted 2, there was a bigger ensemble cast, so we were trying to figure out what sort of interesting stories there would be to tell.”
Of course, you're not an Uncharted fan unless you have a personal attachment to one of Drake's leading ladies - Chloe and Elena. Just because Drake is drawn to the Elena doesn't mean that fans won't be seeing his former-fling, Chloe, again:
"I’m not going to spoil the story, but everything was pretty understood at the end of [Uncharted] 2 that it was an amicable parting. They had been old flames before, they had a reunion, they had a particular understanding. They’re two very different creatures in terms of what they’re like, so I don’t think that they were on bad terms when we left the two."
But where does that leave Elena? Fortunately, Naughty Dog recently released video of the full Gamescom "Airstrip" demo that gives a strong indication as to where the pair is in their relationship - as well as details a number of new gameplay mechanics that we've previously reported on: improved hand-to-hand combat and one-hit kills as well as some cool contextual moments (that are, unsurprisingly, very reminiscent of scenes from Indiana Jones).
Check out the Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Airstrip Gameplay Demo from GamesCom 2011 below:
After viewing the demo it's clear that the events of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves had a lasting effect on the Drake and Elena but when VG247 asked if it wasn't just Elena that Drake was protecting (i.e. could Elena be pregnant?), Meyer seemed genuinely surprised. Though he didn't offer a formal denial either.
"Oh wow, I hadn’t read that one [...] They’re rumour and speculation, but I hadn’t read that before."
It's hard to imagine that, were Elena pregnant, she'd be leaping from buildings and getting caught-up in firefights as we see in the trailer. Hennig is a sharp writer - and, not only is a pregnant Elena going to stretch the bounds of believability going forward - i.e. why would Nathan constantly risk his life if he was responsible for an actual family? - it would be a bizarre jump in the story, considering there's plenty of time for something like that to play-out down the line. Especially since Naughty Dog will likely (read: definitely) revisit the series again:
“We definitely did not build out the Uncharted series as a trilogy. We’ve always said that as long as there are challenges for us, as long as there’s a story to tell, as long as our fans want more Uncharted, we’ll definitely consider doing it [...] At the end of every game, to be fair, we’re not entirely sure if we will make another Uncharted game. I will bet you it will be the same after this. Development is very exhausting and so you’d take a break and see what you’re going to do next.”
As for what players can expect from the actual gameplay, Meyer hinted that even though the Gamescom demo includes silenced pistols, the team isn't trying to outwardly create specific gameplay experiences - something they were previously criticized for after the bland "Stealth" sequence in Uncharted 2:
“I wouldn’t necessarily put a quantity on it. Stealth has always been introduced as an option to approaching a combat scenario, so it’s always an option here. We’ve given you more options — if you want to use stealth, you’re able to jump down and take out enemies from above [...] But that’s always your choice: there might be some parts where it’s going to be more advantageous to use a little bit more stealth, but there isn’t necessarily a quantity because we’ve tried to introduce as much player choice as possible.”
Meyer was equally enthusiastic about the improved (and more robust) Uncharted 3 multiplayer offering. While the verticality of the Uncharted series certainly added some cool dynamics to Uncharted 2 online play - there's no doubt that the experience failed to capture a broad appeal and define itself from the slew of other multiplayer experiences out there. Our hands-on time with the Uncharted 3 multiplayer at E3 was a blast - especially because of the interspersed action scenarios that mix-up gameplay and capture the cinematic/story-based Uncharted single player experience:
"Its almost been rebuilt from the ground up. I think we had a really good foundation of multiplayer. We knew everyone wanted customisation, deep character progression, more guns, more modes, and we’ve taken all that to heart, so we have a ton of new modes: both on the competitive and cooperative side [...] Co-op hunters, Hardcore mode, character customisations for your character’s skins. You change the head, wear the T-shirts and pants, you have modifications for your guns, so it’s like a massive overhaul.”
Whether or not the updates are enough to win-over players that were less than impressed with the team's prior multiplayer experience will be decided when Uncharted 3 launches this Holiday season. That said, there's no doubt that Naughty Dog has upped the ante in both the single player and online features - as well as, based on the gameplay we've seen so far, positioned the third installment in Drake's adventures to be one of the most cinematic experiences available in a video game to date.
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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception will be releasing exclusively for the PlayStation 3 on November 1, 2011.