Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Gamescom 2011 Preview -- Drake's on a Plane, but Not for LongBy Sinan Kubba - Posted Aug 19, 2011
When last we saw a battered Nathan Drake at this year’s E3, he was once more clinging for dear life in a (once more) very perilous situation. Having stowed away on a cargo plane, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception's hunky titular hero had just dispatched with a beefy thug of a man by ejecting a motherload of cargo right into the poor sucker’s face, only to be thrown out of the back of the plane as all the cargo came tumbling out, with only a plucky grasp of some cargo netting saving him from the fatal drop below.
Here in Cologne, Naughty Dog’s community strategist Arne Meyer was on-hand to give me a sneak peek into how the rest of that sequence pans out, and how it exactly leads to that promotional image of Drake wandering away from a totally wrecked and ablaze cargo plane in the distance. With the rest of the plane’s crew now fully alerted to what’s been going on in the cargo hold minutes before, what with all the volatile cargo flying around the plane, now Drake doesn’t just have to deal with getting back onto the plane but with avoiding the gunfire raining down from above. As he climbs up the netting, a huge crate flies down, with a quick dodge across saving the explorer’s bacon. One of the gunners above is not so fortunate when he’s thrown overboard by another crate, not that Drake cares when the guy is flung towards him. Drake cheekily grabs the gunner, nicks his machine gun, and kicks him down to the abyss below with a jovial “See yah!”
Now armed, Drake is able to surmount the netting, quickly taking down two more gunmen with keffiyeh scarves across their faces, one on either side of him. It’s only been about a minute since Drake was physically on board the cargo plane, but it’s now a very different sight from when he was on last. Cargo is flying about everywhere, from side to side and more crucially down the plane and towards Drake as the plane struggles to stay balanced. The floor is now ablaze with rings of fire; clearly bullets and volatile cargo flying around does not a good mixture make. There’s no time for Drake to contemplate this further, though, as there are still more gunmen to dispatch.
Drake negotiates his way towards the front of the plane, shielding himself from the rings of fire and trying to slide his way through the mass of crates flying around, all while taking aim at the baddies keen to reap some revenge against the American who’s taken down their plane. When Drake does finally find some stable cover to hide behind, suddenly the plane’s lights go haywire, switching off for a few moments and then on again before flashing red as the plane starts to crumble even further.
The lighting effects during this moment are staggering, even with so many objects floating around that plane, along with the fire blazing on it and the colored lighting shining down on it all, the shadowing is still full and smooth, and every lick of flame or shade of light glistens across the bedraggled Drake. Naughty Dog set the graphics bar so damn high with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and yet the team has found a whole new level with Uncharted 3, and it is genuinely mind-boggling how they are doing it.
A flashing red light is rarely a light bearing good news, and so it proves as the walls of the front-right of the plane start to tear away, leaving only holes and carcass behind them as the plane gets ever closer to a nosedive. It’s even worse news for the gunmen than it is for Drake as they’re thrown out through the giant right-hand hole. Just as we found him, Drake is left clinging on for dear life as the whole hull starts to rip out, but no such luck this time as he too is thrown out through the front of what little remains of the plane, screaming out “No!” as he’s heads towards a personal crash landing in the sands below. Fade to darkness and the end of another gripping Uncharted sequence.
I spoke with Arne Myer after the demo and asked him if there was an intended emphasis on Naughty Dog’s part to raise the level of complexity in the environment to make it more alive in these kinds of sequences.
“Definitely,” he replies, “With Uncharted 2, we had the train sequence and others that had moving platforms with physics [based] objects, and so we’re taking that to the next step and blowing it out here. That introduced a lot of opportunities for us to have Drake interact with the world, whether it’s moving him back and forth or more of a hazard for him to negotiate. We’re always trying to find new challenges for Drake. He’s obviously a man pushed to his limits. The antagonist we have in this game, she’s not guns and brawn, so he’s not always going to be fighting armies. She’s a little bit more about power and psychology, so turning to the environment around Drake is a great way to introduce these challenges, challenges that we weren’t able to do before.”
Watching the sequence makes me realize that in what we’ve seen of Drake so far in Uncharted 3, just about everything he’s been involved with is ending up blown up or sinking or getting ripped to shreds. I ask Arne about the process of creating complicated structures like the cargo plane and then having to tear them down in these destructive sequences, and what’s that like for the dev team.
“It’s actually kind of fun because it goes back to challenging yourselves. It creates scenarios that we have to try and find technical solutions for. You know, it’s like, 'What’s it like when a plane starts coming apart and crashing?' Again, it goes back to the physics of objects going back and forth, so we have to tackle what that’s going to be like in a cruise ship that’s starting to capsize. So it’s a lot of one thing leading to another, and it’s actually a lot of fun for everyone involved because they’re trying to work out how to overcome those challenges.”
And you know, I pretty much believe him. You get the feeling with a studio like Naughty Dog that it relishes the challenge of developing these insane moments, and that’s what drives the developers to take their games to higher and higher levels. Having said all that, as Kevin pointed out in his E3 preview, it’s going take more than polygons and special effects to make Uncharted 3 stand up to the quality of Uncharted 2, and so I’m eager to find out what happens to Drake when he sets off past the wreckage and into the mystery of those sandy dunes. November 11 can’t come soon enough.