Sitting down in the Uncharted Theater on the E3 show floor, it was immediately apparent that developer Naughty Dog and publisher Sony have a lot invested in their premiere franchise's third outing. The theater itself was dressed like the inside of a cargo plane, hinting at the demo we were about to see.
Before the live demo, we were introduced to the game and shown the new E3 trailer in 3D (see it just above here in 2D; sorry, we don't have that kind of magic). A couple of things were readily apparent from the start: first, Naughty Dog is not treating 3D as a gimmick. They don't have an outsourced company tacking it on, it's an actual design choice. If you choose to play this game in 3D, you'll see visual highlights and cues that simply aren't there in 2D; the environments look more expansive and the action may actually be more immersive. It's impressive, and it again shows the potential of 3D in games, even moreso than in film. The trailer also just exuded excitement, and showed off new looks for a few characters. In a brief conversation with a Naughty Dog representative after the presentation, when I noticed that just from her look and handful of lines in the trailer, it looked like Chloe had grown up a bit, he complimented what we picked up from the trailer. And yes, that's a ring on Elena's finger, but we'll have more on that in our interviews with the Naughty Dog team later.
Moving into the live demo, the cinematic display of action was the key takeaway in every sequence. The story started with Nathan Drake and Elena sneaking onto an airport compound; except once Drake gets over the fence, he tells Elena to take a truck and leave, rather than helping her over. He starts to sneak his way into the compound when he's spotted. Now on the run for his life (and still trying to get in and stop a plane from taking off), we see some of the modified action. Drake's climbing is much more fluid, and he's a little bit more of an action star in this third incarnation. In one fluid motion, for example, Drake ran from one box top, leaping to the next, where a thug awaited him. Rather than having to land and get into a brawl, Drake did a new diving sprawl move, taking the henchman out and continuing his run unabated.
Once Drake made his way to the runway, the cargo plane was already taking off. He ran after it to no avail; that is, until Elena pulled up alongside him in the Jeep. After a couple of joke remarks about this all feeling familiar, he climbed out of the Jeep and onto a wheel, being pulled up into the wheel bed as the plane took off. Sneaking through the underbelly of the cargo plane, all seemed to be going well, until a mammoth of a man spotted Drake and pulled him up and out into the open. Here's where the real action started, with a close quarters battle unlike anything we've seen in the previous games. With the thug actually holding Drake against the wall, the player controls Drake as he tries to punch the man and struggle free. The thug, meanwhile, opens the cargo bay door and the fight goes to the precarious balancing act there. Now both fighters are in an all-out brawl while simultaneously trying to stay on the airborne plane. The developers stressed that this is all happening unscripted, in real time, and it didn't use timed button presses for the fight sequence at all. When the big guy was finally knocked down for an extended amount of time, Drake ran to the cargo straps and tore them open, letting the cargo start to fly. A box careened down the bay and slammed into the thug, taking care of him once and for all, but it also started an avalanche of boxes. Now, again in real time, Drake is dodging boxes as they slide out of the plane, until one finally catches him. He starts to slide out until he finally grabbed onto a cargo net. As a huge box flies toward Drake (and the screen)… blackout.
The action is fast and furious, and all in real time; that's the big deal here. The Naughty Dog folks also let us in on a big secret about the level; the plane is a real, moving object, moving through a real sky space, complete with variable wind currents and moisture. That may not sound like much to a layman, but it's a technical marvel that shows how much they're pushing the PlayStation 3 (again, more on that in a coming interview). From this demo, we were absolutely left wanting more, and if the sequel to Newsarama's 2009 game of the year wasn't already toward the top of our "most anticipated" list, this certainly did the job.
Uncharted 3 hits shelves November 1, 2011 exclusively on the PlayStation 3. Stay tuned later today for our hands-on with two different multiplayer modes, as well as hands-on with the new Uncharted adventure coming to the PlayStation Vita portable console!Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!