During most games presentations it's standard procedure to look at the screen for a bit, then quickly at your pad of paper to scribble down some notes, then back up again and repeat until you hear '... and that concludes the demo. The bar is now open'. But sitting here watching Uncharted 3, we daren't miss a frame of what's happening with Nathan Drake and his buddy Sully. It's nothing short of bloody brilliant, and we don't even mind that our no-look writings skills are jumbled all over the page. Uncharted 3 is that good.
We're bearing witness to the chateau scene that was doing the rounds on the internet a while back. This one...
... but we're seeing far more than this. The demo in front of us shows the very beginning of this mission - the stuff before the fire and the soon-to-be dead bad guys. It's your classic platforming section with Drake being thrust into action to find a way out of the dilapidated chateau. Cue shimmying across beams, leaps of faith and creating hastily knocked up walkways for Sully to catch up with you. The banter between the two as Nathan swings from a wobbly chandelier just highlights the great script writing too. And the doom of almost plummeting to his death.
This is a chance to see a host of new animations that make our hero far more flexible in his actions. Backward climbing, for example, allows Nathan to leap back from a ledge and grab an over-hanging platform - think Ezio from Assassin's Creed minus the moody hood. There are also far more subtle animations to represent his nimbleness like when he has to jump from one moss-covered beam to another as he almost slips to his doom. It all adds to a sense of constant peril but also makes Drake feel far smoother than ever.
Above: The fire inside the chateau licks up the walls in real-time
As Drake and Sully search for an exit they come across a couple of blokes dousing the run-down chateau with fuel. Cue the familiar duck and cover shoot-outs that brilliantly punctuate Uncharted games. From what we're looking at Naughty Dog have resisted the temptation to fiddle with the mechanics here. Quite right too. So the precise gunplay of old remains intact, but it's the hand-to-hand scuffles that have been tweaked for the better.
The cinematics focus closer in on the fisticuffs than before and as a result it really adds weight to each uppercut and head butt. Drake's also got more bare-handed attacks in his arsenal. Our favourite from what we see is the flying squirrel attack. Nathan leaps from a ledge like he's performing a free-fall, and smashes the head of the enemy into the floor as though he's powering home an alley-oop dunk. Ouch.
Also applied to Drake's repertoire is the ability to fight off two foes at once. There's one bit where he's restrained from behind by some goon and another one charges in to sucker punch him. With a quick leap up he delivers a blood-curdling dropkick to the chest of guy running in, spins, ducks a punch and - KAPOW! - KO's the other guy.
Above: Sully promises to play a far more prominent role in Uncharted 3
As the rest of the mission plays out we're unable to do anything but gasp as Uncharted 3 unfolds into an incredible rollercoaster of entertainment. The video above hints at the perilous situation that Sully and Nathan find themselves in but long after the footage ends the two are to be seen scrambling up walls as the fire wrecks everything around them. They're leaping over chasms as the floor just falls from underneath them or there's an absolutely epic moment as Nathan and Sully run up a staircase only for the bloody thing to collapse. Sully manages to get to safety but Drake is left using a fallen banister as an adhoc ladder.
Honestly, we know you've come to expect these thrills from games, not just the Uncharted series, but the chateau escape is all kinds of exciting.