Video Game Review: Uncharted 3
Video Game Review: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Developer: Naughty Dog
Plot: Nathan Drake, treasure hunter, has done it again. After searching for the truth about his long-lost relative, Sir Frances Drake, Nate has finally put together the clues to discover why Drake’s mission to the East Indies came back with nothing. Why he faked his death and hid the clues to his adventures.
The game opens with Drake and Sully (Drake’s best bud) trying to sell the ring Nate used at the very beginning of the first game to a man named Talbot. However, they fake him out and get into a fist fight instead (with the entire bar). At the end of this fight, we’re introduced to Katherine Marlowe, who’s someone from Sully’s past. She wants the ring, and the secrets it hides, at all costs.
The game is a race around the world to put the clues together before Marlowe and company can find the the Pillars of Iram – The Atlantis of the Sands.
Along the way you’ll run into people new and old, and find out there’s some missing history between our characters between this game and the previous one. Additionally, you’ll get to play mostly along side your life-long friend, Victor Sullivan. Which is a nice change of pace from previous titles, since he is supposed to be your best friend, after all.
The gameplay is nothing really new: the majority of your time will be spent doing third-person platforming, with some over-the-shoulder shooting action. However, this game has an emphasis on three areas (for better or worse) that previous games only touched on:
1) Fist fighting. The hand-to-hand combat has been expanded a bit, highly reflective of the combat you see in Batman: Arkham Asylum. The square button does your melee attacks, while triangle performs counters. They also throw in circle for grabs and throws.
Previous installments of Uncharted had combat, but not like this. It’s a crucial component to this game.
2) Running. There are a lot of chase sequences in this game. A LOT. And while they’re exciting at the time you’re playing, during long play throughs they started to feel a bit old. The emotional resonance of the previous games appeared replaced by a series of running sequences while the world crumbles around you.
While the technical innovation that went into the world crumbing was, indeed, impressive, a little more moderation (or more context) would have been appreciated.
3) Falling. In previous games, Nate falls. Quite a bit, in fact. However, in this game, every fall is epic and impossible. There’s no build to a larger event or fall in later levels. From the word “go” this title has him falling an impossible amount, and again – it just didn’t build the way I thought it should. To a bigger or more dangerous fall later on in the game.
So I’ve touched on a few of the disappointments in the title above, but I’ll list some of the things I was a little let down by with this game:
1) The build up. Nothing builds up to an impressive or more dramatic event. Sure, the end of the game (no spoilers) literally has you running through a level that’s ripping itself apart in front of you. But with everything that came before, it just didn’t feel as big or impactful as it should have.
Every place Nate goes gets destroyed. Every fall is epic and impossible. Every chase sequence has the same intensity as the previous. The pacing felt kind of monotonous.
In Uncharted 2, the game built to this very personal experience where you were invested with Nate the entire way. But in Uncharted 3, on several occasions, even Nate’s closest friends are asking what his drive is to keep going forward. And unfortunately, that question is never really answered.
2) Story. Sure the past game’s have had pretty outlandish stories, but this one just felt a little too…fictional? It’s difficult to go into details without giving away plot points, but essentially there’s some pretty far-fetched stuff going on in this game more so than in previous titles. You’ll understand what I mean when you see the first dart go flying into someone’s neck….
My main beef here is really with the villains in the story, Talbot and Marlowe. The villains in past games have been pretty one-dimensional, but Marlowe at least clearly has history with Sully (we see it in flashbacks), but we never really discover her motivations or get to know her or Talbot very well. Sure, the villain in Uncharted 2 was a one-dimensional hack…but he was a hack who was clearly evil and needed to get stopped. In this story, I just didn’t feel that so much.
3) Combat. I loved the previous titles mixture of hand-to-hand combat and shooting focus. However, this game relies very heavily on the physical combat. And unfortunately, a lot of those animations are a little repetitive.
Sure, taking out a dude twice your size with your fists (and doing so flawlessly) is very satisfying. But doing it flawlessly 3 times in the same hour gets a little old.
4) Length. This game felt loads shorter (and easier) than the previous titles. Maybe this was to make room for the multiplayer (which I haven’t tried out yet), maybe this is because the technology used for the environments took up more disc space.
In any case, I beat this game in a little less than a week playing only a handful of hours each night. I would honestly rather have had another 2-3 hours of gameplay than extra multiplayer modes. Make those free downloads later on or something. I just want my co-op, and enough of it to keep me entertained for a few months.
5) Gallery. Mostly my beef here is that you can’t watch the chapter videos anymore. I liked watching the videos. Bring them back, Naughty Dog. 🙁
So I’ve talked a lot about what I didn’t like (and honestly, these are pretty minor things), now let’s talk about what I loved. Not liked…LOVED!
I love the Uncharted game series, and I was super psyched for this game when it was announced. Nathan Drake is a fun protagonist, who is surrounded by interesting and enjoyable supporting characters. Sully, Elena, Chloe – all of these characters are great, and they all make appearances in this game. Plus, there are some other fun characters added to the roster of Nate’s friends.
These relationships continue to be a shining part of the series, as well as their realistic movement and dialogue. The acting / performances are top notch from all characters, and the music is incredible! You feel like you’re playing a big budget action / adventure flick.
And big budget is an under-statement. This game does things technologically that are mind-blowing. When you play some levels out at sea, the level literally moves. And not just the waves moving, but the level itself tilts at 90 degree angles. This isn’t an animation – this is actually a program that simulates waves in real time. While this might not seem incredible, let me assure you it is a technical achievement and it looks great.
The set pieces, while not as impressive as Uncharted 2, are still pretty awesome. Sand storms block your ability to see a great distance in the desert, for example, so you have to rely on cover and searching while dodging fire to find your objective to advance. It’s pretty awesome.
Some of the levels literally rip apart while you’re running through them. And not in pre-determined ways where you can see in advance where the level will rip apart. It does it in real time. It forces you to adapt your tactics in real time as well, and encourages multiple play throughs.
Overall, the game looks great, sounds amazing, and is extremely fun to play. Sure there are a few minor issues I had (probably mostly due to the high expectations I had for the game), but that’s not a reason to not go out and buy this game right now and play through it.
Then come find me online and offer to play co-op, so I can check that out!