After releasing Uncharted 2: Among Thieves in 2009, a game that won multiple awards and was named Game of the Year by multiple media outlets, Naughty Dog had a very tough job with the 3rd entry in the series. Among Thieves was a huge leap over the original Uncharted in so many ways and in alot of ways Drake’s Deception achieves just that. In doing so it delivers an extremely entertaining and enjoyable game that goes above and beyond its predecessor.

Drake’s Deception sees our titular hero in search of another legendary cache of wealth, this one being located in the lost city, called Iram of the Pillars or the Atlantis of the Sands, Sandlantis if you prefer. Nate is joined by his erstwhile companion, Sully and Chloe Frazier makes an appearance along with Elena Fisher. The dialogue between the main characters, one of the series’ calling cards, is sharp as ever and a nice break from the action. Additions to the cast include Charlie Cutter, a friend of Drake and Sully’s. The best addition is undoubtedly the game’s villain, Marlowe. The first female villain in the series, she is a departure from previous antagonists in that she is not aggressive, but is more cerebral. She tries to get inside Nate’s head and is constantly questioning his motives.

The Uncharted franchise has seen some vast and unique locations, but even more are packed into Drake’s Deception. The game starts in London and goes to France, Syria and Yemen and there’s even a flashback segment to a Young Drake in Colombia. This is a drastic departure from previous games where the first few chapters would be in a handful of  places before shifting to the main setting. Variety of locations does not have an effect on the graphics which is still far above most games on the market. The settings are beautifully rendered and incredibly detailed with everything from the way the light of torches changes to the way the sand flows as Drake trudges through it. A special note must be made of the way the ocean is handled on the cruise ship segment. It’s not just the same wave over and over again, but a realistic simulation with different wave heights and how they hit. The one thing that really stuck out to me was whenever Drake gets close to a wall, instead of just walking along it, he actually puts out his hand to touch the wall. It’s a very small thing, but indicative of the whole game.

The gameplay from the previous game is intact with a few modifications that enrich the overall experience. The cover based shooting is there but a change to enemy AI makes it more interesting. Staying behind cover an entire fight is not an option anymore, as enemies will try to flank you. You’ll be taking out guys and suddenly being shot at from behind and have to frantically find out where those shots are coming from. You could take enemies out with a myriad of weaponry or use the new hand-to-hand mechanics. It’s not just mashing a button, but pressing that button while looking for chances to dodge and counter enemy strikes. It’s satisfying in that instead of taking out the last few guys in a battle with your weapons, you’ll be rushing up and using Drake’s fists.

One of the main things that made Among Thieves so enjoyable was the big and sometimes absurd set pieces. Drake’s Deception has set pieces in abundance, almost making the other parts of the game just filler. You control Drake as he and Sully try to escape a burning French chateau and the crumbling ancient city. If you thought the bridge segment at the end of the last game was awesome, then just wait to a similar one at the end of Drake’s Deception. Another big spot is Drake trying to escape a sinking cruise ship that’s been turned on its side. As the player, you’ll be in a hallway trying to figure out which way is up and…HOLY CRAP THAT GIANT WAVE IS COMING AT ME!

Needless to say, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is an immensely enjoyable game that is filled with frantic gunplay as well as very large set pieces that would make you sit back and watch if you weren’t trying to escape impending doom. Every thing that made Among Thieves great is back and in some cases has been ratcheted up a few levels. In a month where there are alot of huge game being released, Drake’s Deception will stand out among them and is one that is definitely worth getting.