Uncharted 3 preview: Meet Katherine Marlowe

Over the course of his last two adventures, Nathan Drake has traded shots with pirates, arms dealers, thieves, mutants and Serbian mercenaries. He’s outrun tanks, blown up helicopter gunships and been caught in more impossible situations than we can bother to count. After an unveiling at last week’s Game Developers Conference, however, it looks like Uncharted 3: Drake's Deceptionwill pit him against his most memorably badass enemy yet: Katherine Marlowe, a severe British matron with a mysterious connection to Drake’s distant past.

Coming off like a subtly vicious cross between Helen Mirren and Judi Dench, Marlowe may not have the brutal,unhinged ferocity of Uncharted 2’s warlord Zoran Lazarevic, but she nonetheless sits at the top of a shadowy conspiracy dating back to the days of Queen Elizabeth I. And aside from exuding quiet menace and sharing some history with Drake’s partner, Victor “Sully” Sullivan, she brings something potentially more interesting to the series: a return to the Sir Francis Drake plotline, which was introduced in the first Uncharted and then mostly ignored by its sequel.

The elder Drake’s ring is more than just a memento, it seems, and after Marlowe takes it from Drake – with the help of her Jason Statham-looking henchman, whose name appears to be Cutter – she’ll lead Drake and Sully on a chase around the world, eventually winding up somewhere in the Arabian Rub’al Khali desert in a search for the lost city of Iram of the Pillars.

One of the places Drake and Sully will chase her to is a sprawling chateau – which we covered inour last preview. And after the Marlowe reveal, we were shown that same level once again, with one important difference: this time, we got to see it in 3D. And while we’re generally of the opinion that 3D gaming is an eye-straining, cash-grabbing gimmick, it’s hard to deny that Uncharted 3 looks damned impressive with 3D in full effect.

Adding in layers of depth might not bring a whole lot to a shooter, say, but in a platformer like Uncharted 3, where size and distance are more important, it could significantly alter the way players perceive and approach obstacles. In any case, the illusion was ridiculously impressive during the demo; chasms and drops gained a more tangible sense of depth, moving objects seemed weightier and large platforms stretched from the background into the foreground, looking much bigger as a result.

Above: Like this, but in 3D

When Drake swung on a half-ruined chandelier, for example, it looked more wobbly and precarious now that we could more clearly make out how far it was from the surrounding ledges (and, to a certain extent, the ground). And late in the demo, when a floor gave way and Drake briefly dangled over a sea of flames, we could see that the fire was raging a long way down, making the prospect of a drop just a little more frightening (which is to say it wasfrightening at all).

The gameplay looked to be fundamentally the same whether it was in 2D or 3D, but seeing everything take on a definite depth certainly enhanced the experience. if the effect is done as consistently well as it was in the demo, it stands to at least make Uncharted 3’s already impressively detailed environments seem just a little more real, and a hell of a lot more deadly. Whether or not it’ll make much of a difference when we’re actually playing remains to be seen, but with any luck we’ll get to find out very soon.

Mar 8, 2011

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Mikel Reparaz
After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.