By Michael Sorba
HOLLYWOOD — Newly-unveiled gameplay footage shows Playstation 3 owners may have much to look forward to as they await the Nov. 1, 2011 release of “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.”
The folks at Naughty Dog, the Santa Monica-based video game developer responsible for the “Uncharted” franchise, say they’re looking to top the game’s predecessor, 2009′s “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves,” by packing in even more graphical polish, cinematic presentation and white-knuckle thrills.
That could be a tall order, given Uncharted 2′s success. The game sold more than 4 million copies and various media outlets honored the game with a slew of “Game of the Year” awards. Critics and fans hailed the game for for setting a new standard in graphical detail.
But there is even more juice to squeeze from the PS3′s powerful cell processor, Naughty Dog brass say.
“We work really hard to push the power of the PS3 and innovate new technology with all of our games,” “Drake’s Deception” creative director Amy Hennig said.
Naughty Dog screened the first gameplay footage and spilled the first story and gameplay mechanic details on Dec. 12 at Cinespace in Hollywood. Reporters agreed to keep the news under embargo until Dec. 17.
The single player campaign’s storyline will revolve around franchise protagonist Nathan Drake’s search for a mythical lost city in the Arabian Peninsula’s Rub’al-Khali Desert dubbed, “The Atlantis of the Desert,” Hennig said.
Rub’al-Khali will serve as the key setting and the team is up the challenge of rendering a sandy environment and leveraging its dynamics in gameplay.
“We wanted to tackle the desert and that means sand in all of its forms,” Hennig said.
Along with an inhospitable desert, gamers will visit several new locals across the globe, Henning said.
Naughty Dog also boasted plans to improve upon what many gamers considered to be Uncharted 2′s a very solid multiplayer mode.
“We really want to take on the industry and be considered one of the best on-line games,” Game Director Justin Richmond said. “We really are going to blow it out with way more features.”
Developers also promised to expand the game’s hand-to-hand and melee combat experiences, allowing Drake to brawl with multiple enemies and bash them with beer bottles and other objects found in Uncharted 3′s environment, Richmond said.
Another planned feature is the use “Contextual animations” to convey characters’ physical and emotional states, he said.
For example, Drake will show visible signs of fatigue or stress during combat or when fleeing danger.
The stealth mechanic from Uncharted 2 will be expanded to allow Drake to drop down on enemies who aren’t aware he’s above, Richmond said.
Climbing will also be tweaked. In the first two titles, Drake was already capable of scaling obstacles that would send any real human plummeting to a grisly death. In Uncharted 3, Drake will be equipped with even more ridiculous climbing skills.
Naughty Dog showed between 15 and 20 minutes of gameplay, which showed Drake and sidekick Victor “Sully” Sullivan trying to escape a dilapidated chateau in a remote and overgrown French forest.
An insane level of detail was immediately evident as soon as Naughty Dog pushed play:
Lush, green vegetation grew throughout the structure, popping in from holes in the walls and ceiling. The building’s textures provided a vivid sense of the old building’s crumbling and dangerous state while Drake and Sully employed the franchise’s staple climbing mechanics to traverse wide gaps between collapsed sections of floor and stairway.
Drake and Sully encountered the first set of bad guys and dispatched them after a short gun battle. But other enemies continued to threaten the heroes, like the baddie who poured gasoline and set the environment ablaze, a deed that led to more gunfighting, hand-to-hand combat as Drake and Sully tried to flee the burning chateau.
The demo ended with a cliffhanger. Drake and Sully seemed to have found a wall-mounted ladder leading to freedom, but the ladder broke with the duo hanging on the the last rung.
The characters’ fate is left in doubt, but the footage clearly demonstrated Naughty Dog’s dedication to putting as much detail as possible into Uncharted 3′s environments. The chateau scene alone provided a look at blazing fires and disentegrating structures designed to add to the storytellers’ efforts to craft tense, thrilling action.
And Naughty Dog still has more than 10 months left to polish more product.