WITH THE RELEASE of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune in 2007, developer Naughty Dog set a high bar for fan expectations. The game blended the globe-spanning adventure of the Indiana Jones films with the gunplay and puzzle solving of Eidos' Tomb Raider games in an intuitively playable package that became an instant classic.

2009's follow-up, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, only elevated player expectations by massively expanding the scope of the world, adding online multiplayer, and improving on the original's already stunning aesthetics. The game won countless "game of the year" awards and is still regarded as one of the best games of the current console generation.

So it seems almost inconceivable that the company could top itself yet again—but with Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Naughty Dog has gone back to the well and returned with a sequel that shames its predecessors.

It's no surprise that Drake's Deception is gorgeous, or that it includes the largest single-player adventure to date, but what is surprising is how much work went into the game's multiplayer component. Whereas Among Thieves featured relatively standard competitive gunfights, Drake's Deception offers a wholly new experience that pits teams of players against one another in dynamic, evolving battles with varied objectives. You might start out on a runway tarmac, but by the end of the match, you'll have assaulted a moving cargo plane, taken to the skies, and rained down death from above.

Complex, objective-based multiplayer maps like this have been done before, but this is a first for the series and it makes the game's online options as compelling, if not more so, than the 20-plus-hour-long single-player story. Combined with the puzzle solving—and the expanded melee and weapon combat that the series has always done so well—this makes Drake's Deception the biggest and best entry in the series, and yet again cements a Naughty Dog title as a must-have videogame for anyone who owns a PlayStation 3.