Memorable Moments in Gaming: ‘Sink or Swim’ in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

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The Uncharted series is well known for its cinematic and spectacular moments, and the third installment in the series is no exception. A very memorable chapter in the game is a level that takes place on a sinking cruise ship, aptly named ‘Sink or Swim’.’

In an attempt to rescue his friend Sully, Nathan Drake has boarded a large cruise ship where he is supposedly being held hostage by a gang of pirates. When Drake was approaching the ship, the weather had started to turn, rain began falling down and it looked like a storm was coming. After making his way through the enemy infested ship, Drake finds out it was just a set up, and Sully isn’t on the ship at all. Suddenly he is surrounded by enemies, and Drake has to fight his way out. During the fight, the hull of the ship gets breached, and large amounts of water begin to fill the room. Their weight pull the ship to one side, crates and cars begin to slide. It’s time for Drake to get to safety.

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“We’re sinking if you haven’t noticed.”

 The rest of the level is about Drake desperately trying to make an escape, while the ship starts to capsize and sink into the ocean. He has to run for his life, working his way through the ship’s narrow corridors, barely outpacing the water. As the ship begins to sink, it topples to one side. Now Drake has to climb over de walls of the hallways, hanging by the door handles, trying to find a way out.

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“I gotta get outta here.”

Drake steps into a glass elevator that now moves sideways, but the glass can’t support his weight and he tumbles into the room below: the large ball room he was earlier. Behind a large glass ceiling, that is now on the side, the seawater can be seen churning and splashing ferociously.

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“Can’t get much worse than this. (…) Yes, it can.”

Drake has to find his way to safety using a large glass chandelier. After reaching the ground and heading for the doorway, the pirate leader suddenly appears, and, in an attempt to take Drake with him fires a shot at the glass wall, shattering it. An enormous body of water thrusts itself into the room, and Drake has to sprint for the nearest exit, while being followed by the massive wave that comes crashing in behind him. 

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“Crazy son-of-a-bitch!”

Uncharted games (and Naughty Dog titles in general) have always been known for pushing the graphical boundaries, but the water in this level is of an incredible beauty and realism. This adds to the experience because it really looks like seawater that fills this ship.

In a behind the scenes video Naughty Dog explained that first they wanted to fake this level with animation, but in the end they created an entire ‘procedural, real time ocean’. It gives the level a sense of realism, where the player can feel the power of the water and the danger of the situation. And they certainly succeeded, resulting in a spectacular and unforgettable moment.