Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: Naughty Dog
Review Date: 3/18/23
Once again, Nathan Drake saves the world from catastrophe, while destroying a lost city of extraordinary historical and archeological value in the process. Drawing inspiration from T.E. Lawrence's life, Nate and Sully find a map of Sir Francis Drake's secret voyage to Arabia under orders from Queen Elizabeth. Tracking down clues in France and Syria with Chloe Frazer and Charlie Cutter, they discover the location of the lost city of Ubar, which they have to reach before the nasty bad guys do.
The game looks absolutely stunning and is a first rate production all around. The voice acting and motion capture are superb, and the story is consistently fascinating. The music and sound effects are top notch and add to the emotional engagement and immersion of the game. The performance is great, with silky smooth movement and non-existent loading times. The writing is excellent, although the constant foreshadowing of Sully's death makes things increasingly tense as the game wears on. He plays a considerably larger role this time around and is much more endearing, which makes you seriously worry about his well-being. Elena Fisher also returns for a couple of chapters, and while she wears a wedding ring, it's clear that Nate is just as much of a toxic asshole as he's always been. Things were looking up for them as a couple at the end of "Uncharted 2," but Nate's obsession with Francis Drake and his addiction to adventure obviously drove them apart. However, by the end of the game, they once again seem to be on the mend, and this would have been an excellent way to wrap up the series. Except that there's a fourth game, which I still have to check out.
While the improved gameplay is even more polished than its predecessors, the mechanics and story structure are exactly the same. The series is starting to show fatigue at this point, and the newness has worn off. Even on the easy setting, the game can be punishingly difficult, but at least there's nothing as infuriating as the jet ski levels in "Drake's Fortune." I still ended up dying 88 times, and there were several moments where I considered giving up altogether. There's more emphasis put on melee combat, and some of the more heavily armored enemies soak up so many bullets that you have no choice but to beat them into submission. Most of the puzzles are simple and straight forward, but one was so difficult and convoluted that the game eventually just gave me the solution. While I definitely appreciated that, it also left a bitter taste of humiliation. Similar to the previous entries, the partner AI is extremely good, and I was always impressed and grateful when Sully or Elena would pick off a distant sniper for me. You can't let them do all of the work, but they definitely come in handy. Also similar to the first two games, there's a supernatural element that increases the difficulty, except that it turns out not to be supernatural at all. In a way, "Drake's Deception" may be the most grounded of the series to date, although it raises a lot of unanswered questions. It's also considerably shorter than "Uncharted 2" and I was able to finish it in about twelve hours. Still, in the big picture, these are all exceedingly minor quibbles that don't affect the gameplay or the emotional impact in the slightest. It's a fantastic gaming experience in all regards, and the remastered "Nathan Drake Collection" is a must-have for all PS4 owners.