For ages 16+
Naughty Dog, the ambitious Californian game-makers, have announced a film adaptation of their Uncharted series, which comes as no surprise. It’s tough not to think of Nathan “Nate” Drake, the raffish, intemperate and freewheeling hero of the series, as the Indiana Jones of the gaming world, and to applaud Uncharted as one of the most breathtaking, cinematic experiences to be squeezed into the confines of a video game. In Drake’s Fortune, the first outing, we sallied forth into the depths of the Amazon in quest of El Dorado bullion – rebuffing pirates and torpedoing U-boats along the way. Next, in Among Thieves, we set out in pursuit of the Chintamani stone – committing cat-burglary in Istanbul, desecrating graves in Borneo, and razing Kathmandu with RPGs – to eventually unearth the secrets of Shangri-La.
Now, with Drake’s Deception, the Jones parallel accounts for predictable, but exhilarating territory, of unthinkable treasure, traces of doomed empires, cryptic puzzles and Drake’s propensity to uncover fabled cities (and inevitably reduce them all to ruins). Where Uncharted 2 took after Marco Polo’s ill-fated voyaging (“Great things from small beginnings”), this third new release returns to Drake’s boyish street-scrounging days, and a plot strand established in Drake’s Fortune – of his claims of a historied lineage, rooted in the legend of the conquistador-quashing sixteenth-century crusades of Sir Francis Drake.
The game opens in flash back to a young Drake’s first run-in with older felon, Victor “Sully” Sullivan – both of them eyeing a ring of Sir Francis, in a charming, sunlit Colombian museum – thereby, establishing their long-run partnership, and also adding a touch of the fatherly to Sully’s subsequent mentoring of Drake. The tale kicks in as they unravel a secret mission that Sir Francis was despatched on by the Queen Elizabeth I; and a notebook of TE Lawrence’s directs them to the sand-swallowed city of Ubar, in the desert of the Rub ’al Khali.
Thereon, you’re hurled into breakneck sequences through swarms of killer spiders, and an abundance of walls to scale (there’s no end to the things that you, as Drake, need to scramble over – from nearly unhinged chandeliers in decrepit manors to glass-work ceilings of upturned ships). Drake’s Deception does fabulously well to bring in its share of novel sequences – navigating the cabins of a marooned ship (inexplicably, taking on gunmen too, as you remain largely underwater), boarding a cargo flight via the landing gear (in reversal of Schwarzenegger’s Commando feat), and then jumping off it without a chute, and a horseback escapade racing down armoured trucks (that beggars further Jones analogies) – as you go from French country houses, to the citadels of Syria, over parched desert sprawls and mirages, on to the shores of Yemen, for some unstoppable gaming, perhaps rivalled only by its predecessor in the series. (In end-to-end sessions, Uncharted 3 clocked about 11 hours in an initial “normal” tryout, and less than 10 hours in follow-up, in “crushing” mode, with the cut-scenes skipped out.)
The twists appear with a vixenish Katherine Marlowe, plotting to arrogate the bounty, a merestone fountain laced with hallucinogens, and a fib about a djinn consigned to a vase by King Solomon. If this is in some way likened to a Last Crusade, there’s room yet for a reprisal of Drake, though we’re sceptical of the prospective film. Where Jones had us playing truant from homework, emulating his manner with a borrowed hat, and a garden hose for a whip, it’s being Drake – to arse about, chide foes and dally with women like you were actually him – that has defined the Uncharted success. Even Spielberg will be hard put to translate that level of involvement on celluloid.
Also look for the PS3 special edition (includes Drake’s illustrated diary), R2,999.
By Jaideep Sen on December 09 2011 2.30pm