Nathan Drake has a lot to live up to.
The star of Sony's Uncharted series has fought his way through Himalayan temples, trailed Marco Polo through the wildernesses of Persia, wooed more than his share of eligible female adventurers, and floored critics with Uncharted 2, a game that still ranks as one of the highest scoring games on the PS3. Just how do you top a performance like that?
You do it again.
Drake's story continues in this week's Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, which again brings the ethos of the big-budget action movie to the video game world -- and, according to critics, is doing it just about as well as it's ever been done. Currently rating a 93 on Metacritic (with 15 perfect scores, no less), it's a legit Game of the Year contender.
Calling its developer, Sony-owned Naughty Dog, "masters of their craft, 1UP tips Drake's latest as one of the year's best, ranking it alongside third-in-trilogy movie smashes like Toy Story 3 and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
"Uncharted 3 doesn't reinvent the wheel," says writer Jose Otero, "but manages to present its own set of unique moments and gameplay. The player-driven action sequences are memorable. The subtle layers of dialogue and character interactions are impressive. And ultimately, the eight-hour campaign experience provided plenty of harrowing escapes and charm. And after all that you've still got a competent multiplayer experience packed in, too."
Uncharted 3 (Sony)IGN agrees, doling out a relatively rare 10/10 as author Greg Miller calls it "the reason I play video games."
"From start to finish, single player to multiplayer, this game sings. The characters, the graphics, the sound, the story — they're all top notch," he adds.
Probably the closest most reviewers get to criticizing Uncharted 3 is to point out that it's not widely different from its predecessor. GamesRadar sets this nicely in context, and while reviewer Mikel Reparaz gives 3 a glowing recommendation, he clearly doesn't feel it's the best of the series.
"Uncharted 3... feels suspiciously like more of the same," he writes, "with big spectacles delivered because they're expected (in 3D this time!), rather than because the developers had a really cool idea that they wanted to realize in a visually arresting way." His conclusion -- Uncharted 3 gets the nod for technical prowess and multiplayer, but 2's campaign was more ambitious and involving -- is mirrored by several other critics.
But we'll give the last word to the UK's Official Playstation Magazine and writer Joel Gregory, who lavished the game with praise in his 10/10 review.
"For the second time in succession, [Naughty Dog] has created a game that can claim to not only be the best on PS3, but also one of the best in gaming history. It's a visual, technical and narrative tour de force that takes the sky-high expectations of an entire community and blows them out the back of a jumbo jet, replacing them with more show-stopping moments than you could hope to find in a dozen other games combined."
Gulp. There you have it, Playstation 3 owners: if you buy one game this week, it better be Uncharted. That ought to keep you busy...at least until Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 comes out next week.