Levelling Out: Uncharted 3 – Rub ‘al Khali Desert

Each day this week our writer Vaughn will be putting up an article about one particular level, place, moment, in a game that’s really captures the titles essence but because of this there could be spoilers ahead.. It’s called Levelling Out, and for day two he’s looking at Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

Naughty Dog’s Uncharted seris has fast become a fan favourite amongst PlayStation players. Just like Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter, Uncharted makes a strong case for why you should own a Sony console. It redefined the action/adventure genre and really showed that creating engaging characters and crafting brilliant gameplay together means you can still have an exciting plot that ties all the elements seamlessly together.

For some, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception may just be the best in the series. Even those who don’t rate it above Uncharted 2: Among Thieves will agree that the Rub ‘al Khali Desert is by far one of the series most shining moments.

Past Uncharted games, along with many other action/adventure games, focus mostly on taking you on a roller coaster ride that replicate Hollywood thrills from start to finish. It’s rare that an opportunity arises for contemplation amongst the QTEs and or swift puzzle solving that blocks your progression. However, in Drake’s Deception Naughty Dog use the Rub ‘al Khali Desert to slow the pace to a crawl, a stumble even. They strand you in this sandy void in the middle east. You’re left baking under the hot sun, contemplating your fate. Accepting the fact that our hero, Nathan Drake, could die. It strips him of his near invincible state and you finally see him as someone much more human.

The Rub ‘al Khali Desert scene is bookended by to rather action packed scenes, which makes it stand out all the more. After having survived an absurd plane crash – one that sees him hanging out of the back of a plane on loose cargo – Nathan awakes in the beautifully rendered desert. There’s not a single landmark within sight and he has no idea if anybody would have seen the plane crash occur. Even if they had, there’s no garuntee that they would be allies in his search.

It’s here that, for the first time in the three games, our hero is truly helpless. He’s natures plaything, continually walking aimlessly out across the sand only to fall pray to nature’s cruel ways and thus winding back at the crash site. What makes things worse, or better for you playing through it all, is that Nathan knows this. Nolan North delivers a superb performace, gasping and muttering to himself as Nathan slowly loses his grip on reality. The witty quips begin to dull as focus turns to survival and hallucinations start to set in.

In terms of narrative, being lost in the desert genuinel makes you wonder if – and how – Nathan will find a way out of his situation; after all, he always finds a way out. It’s the perfect respite from the superhuman activities that Nathan so regularly partakes in. If anything, this entire section is an extension of the character development that Naughty Dog have been crafting since the first Uncharted – we’re finally seeing Nathan as the vulnerable man he is under the tough and witty exterior.

Unfortunately the moment is spoiled by Naughty Dog’s reservations. They want to keep fans happy and so this means Nathan can’t be helpless for too long. So, after these ten or fifteen minutes of utter perfection, Drake’s Deception quickly slips back into the run and gun action sequences of yore. Not that that’s an entirely bad thing, it jus sullies the moment that preceeded it.

More games should follow in the footsteps of Naughty Dog and create moments of helplessness and vulnerability around their cast and the player. It’s these mments that really make you appreciate those thick with bullets and smoke. After all,  it was Solid Snake’s age and weakness in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots that really made his feats all the more impressive. Hopefully Naughty Dog can do it all again with the more survival focused The Last of Us.

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One Comment to “ Levelling Out: Uncharted 3 – Rub ‘al Khali Desert ”

  • JustaGamerNovember 28, 2012 at 12:13 pmLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    The fact Nate could still perform a fierce fireight after the desert sequence without finding any water was a little spoiling for me. But it didn’t detract my fun or love for the game. Just a slit glitch as it would’ve been a little more acceptable had he found a cup of drinkable water just before the fight. But it’s a game and I’ve seen worse in films. Also, I went back and played the whole damn game one more time, that’s how good it is. Nice mention of Old Snake, MGS forever!