I love Uncharted. I really do. If you ask me, Nathan Drake has seamlessly brought the spirit of Indiana Jones to a contemporary setting. No small feat, mind you. As such a huge fan of the franchise, you can imagine my excitement when Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception came out on November 1st. But this article isn’t about how much I loved it. No, unfortunately when I put the controller down after my first play-through I was left disappointed. I couldn’t tell you why at the time…on paper all the stuff that made it Uncharted was there; explosive action, beautiful vistas, witty banter. To make sure I wasn’t going crazy I quickly whipped out the first two games and played straight through the trilogy. Suddenly things became clearer.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was a visual showpiece for the PlayStation 3. While the “shooting gallery” elements were notoriously repetitive, the charming characters and beautiful graphics shined through to deliver a solid first installment for the franchise.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves hit store shelves and set a new bar for presentation. Everything was so delicately put together. The art design, writing, performances, set pieces, pacing and gameplay all hit their sweet spots and added up to what I would argue is the best videogame to come out this generation. The final exchange between Drake and Elena still puts a big dumb smile on my face. All in all it was the perfect blockbuster action flick packed into an interactive experience. Simple yet addictive multiplayer didn’t hurt either.
Playing through the first two games again I felt exactly the same about them as I did before. So if I haven’t changed, has Uncharted?
Watching the featurettes that come with Uncharted 3, it’s pretty clear that the game was built with the mindset of “Levels & Set-pieces first, Story that ties them together second”; which would be fine if the pacing followed suit. Instead the first act is very slow and plays out like it is setting the stage for a really great story, then the narrative changes gears and turns into an unfocused mess of an Uncharted game.
Below is a list of problems I had with Uncharted 3:
Naughty Dog decided to touch up the aiming by allowing you to move the reticle in any direction instead of the 8 that you could in the first two games. They also claim that it’s now more sensitive. Whatever they did, it’s now much harder to hit your targets. Even with the sensitivity all the way up I felt like my crosshairs moved too slow.
Hand to hand combat works, but it’s a little stiff. After coming off of Batman Arkham City (which has extremely similar controls), there’s certainly something to be desired from UC3’s fisticuffs.
I couldn’t tell you if the AI is just that much better or the enemy placement is worse, but I consistently found myself getting shot from behind. A small yet notable frustration.
- Strange plot points and revelations without follow through
Who are Marlow and Talbot’s organization?
If they have mind-control drugs why are they are after some artifact that makes you see Ghost Rider?
Talbot gets shot by Cutter and heals with no explanation.What’s with the Tarot cards?
What’s up with the spiders?
Cutter and Chloe suddenly bail. What?
Drake and Elena’s relationship is left up to the audience to figure out.
“You can’t spend two games building up the relationship of these two people and then just press the RESET button at the start of the next one.” –Griffin McElroy
Marlow drops the bombshell that Nate isn’t really a descendant of Sir Francis Drake and not once is it mentioned again!?
- Omission of Single-Player Bonuses
No Weapon Spawning
No Costume Selection
No Visual Filters
No Cutscene viewer
By now you might think that I hated Uncharted 3, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was a great game with some of the coolest action sequences I’ve ever seen, and the multiplayer is a lot of fun. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Yet as a huge fan of the series I can’t help but feel disappointed; for Uncharted 2 it is not. Not even close. Yes, the graphics and set pieces are incredible, but something is missing. The pacing is off and characters’ motivations aren’t clear. In a way that makes the whole game a bit soulless. Also, ending the game on the same note as the last feels cheap.
I feel like there were so many chances to force the characters in interesting directions but they copped out of all of them. If Naughty Dog had balls Elena wouldn’t just take Drake back the second he decides he wants a relationship again, Cutter wouldn’t have survived the fall from that tower or they’d have to leave him, Sully really would’ve died in the City of Brass, and Drake would have to deal with the consequences for being so selfish.
On a side note: Whoever handled the promotional material for Uncharted 3 deserves a kick in the nuts. It’s bad enough that the cargo plane crashing in the desert is ruined by the cover of the game, but every TV spot I’ve seen has shown most of the horse chase, boat flooding, tidal wave, chateau on fire, cargo plane exploding, or in some cases…all of it. Unfortunately the Launch Trailer was sent to me two weeks before the game came out. Little did I know, I had just spoiled every jaw dropping moment in the game sans the final escape sequence.
Afterthoughts is not a review. It is a chance to reflect on games that we are passionate about and share our opinions. Good or bad. What did you think of UC3?