E3 2011: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception preview

During the Sony press conference on Monday, Nathan Drake made a literal splash as Naughty Dog unveiled a previously unseen cruise-ship level for Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The level looked great, showing off a good mixture of stealth, furious gunplay (now with a close-quarters kill in which Drake pulled the pin out of a hapless mercenary’s grenade), and just-nailed-it-by-a-hair platforming. It was also a showcase for some impressive fluid physics, as Drake tried to outrun the rising water that slowly filled the ship after he caused an explosion in its cargo hold.

It hit all the right notes for an Uncharted level, with Drake characteristically getting in (again literally) over his head – but for some, it was a little too calm, dark and sedate for what was supposed to have been a blowout look at Uncharted’s frenzied action. As it turns out, the real action was being saved for a closed-door session near Sony’s E3 booth, featuring Drake, his on-again-off-again love interest Elena Fisher, and one very large cargo plane.

The level began with Drake and Elena climbing onto the roof of a hangar, which gave them (and us) a clear view of a sprawling, remote airstrip, at the other end of which sat the aforementioned plane. After getting a good look, Elena and Drake set off in the plane’s direction, stopping only when confronted with a high fence.

Promising to pull her up at the top, Drake got a boost from Elena – only to clear the fence and drop down on the other side. Naturally, Elena started muttering furiously and started to climb the fence, but Drake – suddenly serious – stopped her. What he was about to do was a one-in-a-million shot, he said, and after nearly losing Elena once already, he wasn’t about to risk it again. After Drake begged her to escape in a nearby jeep, he gave her a silent, longing look – and after a moment, she returned it, patted his hand and turned to leave.

With Elena on her way to safety, Drake crept toward the gate to the runway – only to break into a sprint as it started to close. Searchlights snapped on, alarm klaxons blared and machinegun fire started hailing down. Clearly, this was a trap.

Of course, Drake’s never really been fazed by traps, and within moments had fought and climbed his way up to the elevated catwalks where the mercenary guards patrolled, gunning them down and yanking them off ledges as he went. The path through the guards led him around the airfield and, eventually, to the runway itself – at which point the plane started to taxi toward its inevitable takeoff. In a futile attempt to catch up, Drake ran toward the plane, even though it was clearly gaining speed.

This was a perfect opportunity for Elena to sweep back into the action, and so she did, giving Drake a lift in her stolen jeep and gunning it toward the cargo plane’s landing gear. This cued a brief vehicle segment in which Elena, now controlled by the player, had to keep the jeep steady while getting close enough for Drake to leap – at the very last second – onto the landing gear before it lifted and closed in flight.

Safely aboard the plane, Drake crawled into a little service room, rested for a moment, and crawled into a nearby ventilation duct – only to be spotted by a particularly huge mercenary, yanked out of the duct and slammed against a wall of the plane’s cargo hold. While Drake did his best to fight back, the big lug stunned him with a quick smash across the nose, and – as Drake shook it off – opened the cargo bay doors. Drake went for his pistol, but the merc yanked it away and tossed it on the floor. After the two exchanged a few more punches, the merc hurled Drake onto the plane’s loading ramp, now yawning over a vast desert thousands of feet below.

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