Note: This review only covers the single player ‘story’ mode of Uncharted 3. Minor story spoilers follow.

“Admit it, you love all this as much as I do.”

Nathan Drake is back. The third installment in Naughty Dog and Sony’s Uncharted series is titled “Drake’s Deception” but its as much about finding the truth for the characters as anything else.

The opening scene isn’t quite the bizarre event that the train wreck in Uncharted 2 was, but it will get you back in the action quickly. Nate and his partner Victor Sullivan are in London, trading Sir Francis Drake’s ring for a briefcase full of cash when the whole deal goes bad. You’ll end up in a bar fight, which will allow you to control the series’ new overhauled fighting system. Now an elaborate mix of punches, counters, and throws with detailed animations to enjoy with each hit, this is a satisfying way to start up since I don’t think the gun play is Uncharted’s strong suit.

We’ll see a moment that would be considered suspenseful were it not so early in the game (Spoiler: Drake doesn’t die in the first 10 minutes), and then we’ll flashback. Uncharted 2’s flashback was really a mechanism to show you a point later in the story at the very beginning and then progress the game like normal. Uncharted 3 will roll Nate back 20 years when he was a boy, trying to lift Drake’s ring from a museum in Columbia. Its during this event that he meets Victor Sullivan and it really sets the stage for the duo’s relationship. Of course by the end of it everything has gone out of control and you’ll get to try another new feature of Uncharted: the chase. High speed, well choreographed running, jumping, and climbing that if executed correctly would be the greatest stunt run of any Hollywood professional’s career.

It is during the ‘present day’ and the ‘flashback’ scenes that you’ll meet Marlowe, the villain. She seems to carry Drake’s knowledge of antiquities and history but like any other Uncharted villain has a selfish purpose in mind and an army of well armed thugs to back her up.

Since this outing relies more heavily on the story of Nate’s supposed ancestor Sir Francis Drake, it is a more proper sequel to the original Uncharted which also had Drake’s discoveries as the ultimate goal of the game. Drake’s deception as it turns out was hiding something he found (or didn’t find) in the Arabian desert when he told the Queen of England he was in the Philippines. Globe trotting is the theme once again and you’ll travel to France, Syria, the middle of the ocean, and the middle of the desert before you’re done. New characters are all over, but you’ll also reunite with Chloe from Uncharted 2 and of course Drake’s on-again-off-again love interest Elena. She’s got a ring on her finger now, but don’t read too much into that.

Naughty Dog is heavily influenced by cinema and wanted to make their game as ridiculously over the top as any movie. Set pieces including escaping a burning building as it collapses, searching a cruise ship as it sinks, and jumping from a horse to a truck convoy to commit a daring rescue. These are all amazingly well presented and showcase huge advances in the PS3’s ability to handle multiple real time characters, objects, and effects.

But these come at a price. When you stow away on the plane and the resulting gun fight ends in a crash, there is little in the way of interaction other than pressing a button to make something happen the way it was intended. The gun fight can be handled probably a couple different ways, but any mistakes or even deviations in movements or jumps just cause a death and return to check point. There are many, many moments of Uncharted 3 that are completely on rails. The cinematic experience is almost too effective, leaving only puzzles and some fights up to your abilities. I realize Naughty Dog wants a thrill ride but perhaps next time they could consider multiple outcomes or points of approach to some of these big events.

But that is not to say that it is not enjoyable. It is probably just more enjoyable like a movie or TV series than a game. And while the game does stay on rails a bit, none of it is repetitive, and most moments are thrilling enough to warrant repeat plays. It does appear according to in game statistics that I, as Nathan Drake, have murdered over 800 people in my travel, and have remained a charming wise-cracker for the duration of those grim events.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a true achievement from Naughty Dog. Sure, they’ve innovated a little bit with combat and movement, but they’ve also taken their characters to new heights as well. Great writing, great visuals, and great performances all around. Nothing disappoints. If they gave us a little more control over those characters, it would be even better.