A hunger for profit gives this adventure a bad taste.
Uncharted has long been the flagship title of the Playstation3 since it's release in 2007, much like Gears of War in the case of the Xbox 360. The first Uncharted was the game that validated everyone's ownerships of their PS3s due to its high level of quality and the system's lack of big name games at the time. It was a game that had some flaws and no multi-player with a total focus on the Single-player campaign, so it was an excellent release for the time and what a lot of people had been waiting for. Later in 2009, the sequel would be released, a game that pushed the hardware of the PS3 even further and basically defined the action/exploration genre as a whole with a longer story mode, good pacing, a well-told story and some of the best combat in any cover-based shooter. Although a few of the elements felt tacked on and the end-game terrains were quite boring, up to that point it was an even stronger game than the last.
Now, the second sequel has arrived, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, does it hold up to the high standards set before by its predecessor?
Well...no, it doesn't. In fact it takes three steps backwards, and the game has clearly suffered due to the climate of the 2011 market where MP-shooter games are going to dominate the Holidays. The development team was either forced into it by Sony or Naughty Dog was in it for themselves here, trying to capitalize on the big profits coming up, and I'll get to why it's very obvious after I talk about what has really fallen apart here, and it's a huge shame, too.
The "Uncharted" franchise has always been known for its high-tech cutscenes, amazing motion-capture and a stunning degree of attention-to-detail where the voice actors act out the characters themselves, which is the realistic sense that everyone has come to love. Unfortunately, although the tech is at its highest in Uncharted 3, it is not enough to save the poorly designed campaign, which can be beaten in a minimum of 6 hours even on the Hard difficulty setting, but that time does not include the many deaths you may incur due to the rushed nature of the game.
First and foremost, let's talk combat, this is where most of the mistakes are made.
So, imagine going into the game all hyped from all the trailers; new guns, great new melee, you just want get into that, right? That's fine and all, but the problem is its executed poorly. While the melee is fun and an improvement over UC2's melee with more animations and better contextual detail, the gunplay falls short.
To start with, the crosshairs for each weapon are needlessly huge and constantly get in the way of your shots, and the way they are designed make almost no sense. That said, the aiming in this game is broken, and you cannot aim on certain zones. Spinning the analog stick in a full circle only nets you a rectangular like pattern, it is not consistent, and you are better off strafing to aim than you are by using the camera stick. The aiming also feels very slow outside of Multi-player for some reason, and the sensitivity on any setting never really "connects", it doesn't feel like there is a proper setting for anybody.
During actual battle scenarios, the enemy AI shows improvement, and moves around a lot more, and much faster too. The problem with the enemies is that they are, in every sense, broken and cheap. Remember in Uncharted 2 when you switched around in cover mid-fight and enemies lost track of you and you could be tactical? That's gone. The enemies always know where you are now, even if you are underwater during a portion of the game where you can swim. They will keep jumping across barges to come at you, rendering you mostly defenseless should kitty get wet. Oh, and rolling doesn't work anymore. Even if you roll, enemies still shoot you and they can't lose track of you. In UC2, rolling was very useful, but now it's just there to be showy and to get you into cover (From which they can still shoot you behind of anyway!).
Another thing is that all of the enemies have a blatant auto-aim, but some worse than others. The absolute worst enemy to face without cover is an enemy wielding an Arm-Micro, the Mac-10 gun of the game. They will always hit you, no matter what, and all of the enemies with Riot Shields in the game uses these guns, and unless you have a grenade, you would most likely be boned unless you found some way to exploit an AI even more relentless than before. I've been sniped with perfect accuracy by a soldier wielding an AK-47 from about 100 feet away on a tall bridge and I'mdown below switching walls and they still hit me and I went into grey very fast due to the injury from that alone.
While I do like that enemies are more mobile, it makes the game feel rushed due to the confined spaces. You have to constantly move around and find cover only for it to be rendered pointless when an armored shotgun carrier walks up behind you completely unseen and one-shot kills you. While it's good the enemies are less likely to throw grenades at their own feet and that shotgun soldiers don't have the "shot of god" accuracy they did in the last two games, the level design, both in SP and MP, is atrocious and makes it an uncomfortable experience that leaves you only begging for it to be over so you can move on.
It's almost like what a certain FPS does to make sure people don't play SP...
Another improvement to melee, though, is the fact that enemies are less likely to shoot at you while you are fist-fighting one of their companions, unless they are right behind you, so you will not be killed while you're in the middle of an action like that. Another gripe is that the jumping in Uncharted 3 returns to its roots more literally than you might think. It's very picky, and jumps you could have made in UC2 cannot be made anymore. The jumping distance is smaller, and the character you control never shows any incentive to grab anything that isn't dead ahead of them. All that is changed is that the jump just looks "cool" now, its more of an "action jump" now only made to serve even smaller level designs.
You can also throw grenades while in mid-air and drop grenades while rolling, but in SP, I never, ever had a place to use these features. There are all these great new additions but they weren't even thought of during the development process.
One other thing that deserves mention is that AI partners are now very useful, they can actually kill enemies. Its more than a little unfair though, because even armored soldiers can be punched to death in a corner by the AI, and when I found this out, it helped me out in some of the trickier areas. Your AI partner cannot die, cannot be touched at all, so it makes them handy.
So, you have rushed gameplay with almost no enjoyment to be found unlike the last two games. What else is there?
Oh yes...the thing that most of the fans will use to defend their game. The story and its realism.
While the cutscenes are just as excellent as before...that's the thing, they really haven't changed. It's still the same thing as the last, it's nothing new. I will say one thing though, I am glad that there are more characters in play during the cinematics, Uncharted finally realizes one thing, a sense of teamwork in the treasure hunting business, not just one man does all the work while a crudely portrayed and borderline racist hispanic stereotype watches and an old man stands aside making a few one-liners for the sake of banter.
As for the story, they've taken more creative liberties with the plot than they have before.
Plot holes are everywhere, and the pacing is awful. An event they were hyping up was where Cutter shot Drake in an alleyway, turns out it was all a joke and was planned. Finally, we thought Drake would stop being a mary sue and we might finally see some tension in this game along with actual drama, a real sense of loss, but no, we don't, it was just a joke to begin our alienation. Not once has Nate or his escort ever been close to death without some sort of unexplained and out of place form of plot convenience or deus ex machina come to save the day. While its OK to use something like this once...maybe twice if you think you can get away with it, this many times is unacceptable, and after watching him survive an inhuman amount of time wandering through a desert only to end up trapped between a battalion of the antagonists mercenaries to be saved by yet another character only put there just to rescue the main characters, I almost stopped playing, at this point I was just forcing myself through the game.
The story is all over the place, its chaotic. You are rushed from place to place to search for the Atlantis of the Sands, a task that is much easier than it sounds and certainly a lot less involved than hunting down Shambhala in UC2. They never explain where some of the characters in the game come from, nor do they explain how other characters know the new additions. Elena Fisher even alluded to knowing Charlie Cutter, but it never went into detail on that. The story feels very shafted, very lackluster because they throw you right into all of this without giving you a platform to stand on, you're left to just watch as everything happens and you get to "experience" the situations, but without any sense of context or build-up. It all happens just to happen.
It is not endearing, nor is it as good as the last games. It tries to be dramatic when it has no substance for it. Drake is constantly being shifted from one end of the world to another only to experience one, epic bad moment to the next, the only things in between are the quibblings of the characters between themselves and finding random loot on the ground, which might I add has no real value except for trophies now. More on that in a bit.
The game could have had a better start if they took at least seven to nine chapters to get up to the point where Sully and Drake are heading to the Pelican Inn, which starts off UC3, which would have done more for the game's quality and length. As it stands, UC3 has no replay value and only 22 chapters that are over before you know it.
Drake's opposition in this game is so badly written you'd think that it was a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon. Talbot gets shot and doesn't appear injured, he's always one step ahead of the Heroes and is somehow, always tracking them no matter where they go, he always seems to know whats going on, and even beats Drake and Sully to Ubar at the end and somehow gets past everything before they can, again, not explained. In UC1 and UC2, the antagonists were human, here, everyone is thrown around for the sake of a broken story that a writer seems so desperately trying to salvage, given an unexplained power over everyone else, and so forth.
People often compare this game to the Legend of Zelda when it comes to puzzles, especially UC3 for some odd reason, but that is very wrong. All of the puzzles in Uncharted 3 are just as painfully easy as the last game, save for just one where you have to figure out the placement of tiles on a board, which requires you to use a little common sense. Finding some of the valuable macguffins throughout the chapters feels much more rewarding than solving any of the puzzles, honestly, I was more impressed with using a light source meant to solve one puzzle to scare a group of bats on the ceiling which then knocked down a treasure for me to collect, but then I realize I'm not earning anything for getting these.
Uncharted 2 had a grand feeling to the puzzles, there were large rooms and lots to see when you were doing it, but the puzzles in Uncharted 3 are tedious and only serve to pad the game's time, they require no more than a minute of thought and show no creativity in their design.
Before we get on to more confounding details, there is another thing requiring attention: The graphics.
Uncharted 2, again, made a huge improvement over Uncharted 1 and, even after the release of Uncharted 3, is still the best looking game on the PS3. Everyone under the sun is constantly praising Uncharted 3 when it is a very noticeable step down from the previous. There is no anisotropic filtering, and the backgrounds look horrible, not to mention they aren't even rendering them to save on resources. Most of the textures in the game look hideous, almost like I'm playing a game from 1998 sometimes. At one point in the jungle before the Chateau, I saw a log that had rendered, but it still looked ugly, it was jagged, and the lighting throughout the whole two minute romp was irritating.
The best looking level by far is the Chateau, though. While the fire in this game is sub-par, most of the designs in the Chateau were pretty nice, and it was a decent length. The same cannot be said about anywhere else in the game, though. You are basically walking through pre-determined corridors with everything outside unrendered so they can fit this all in and still have 3D effects.
Personally, I think ND, or maybe Sony asked them, made a huge mistake by adding 3D. For one, it takes up way too much space just to be a gimmick. When I went to Best Buy to try out the Single-player demo, I decided to finally see what all the fuss over this gimmick was, and when I tried it out, I lasted ten seconds before taking them off. You can't even see anything in 3D, it's dark, and the overlapping images distract me. Playing in non-3D was obviously better. I've had better 3D effects with stereoscopic images on my PC, they retain their color and appear more 3D than this game did in 3D.
Time to debunk the critical opinion: How can this game look breathtaking when a meager portion of the PS3's hardware is being used to render an expanse of Sand and Ocean, each having obvious cut offs in the horizon? There are lots of overlooked areas in the game with broken mapping and poor rendering. In Yemen, when I climbed the tower in Chapter 10, this still jumps out at me. There is this massive hole in the ground out in the center, like the floor of the level was just deleted and you can see into the technological "underworld" so to speak. Even if its not a mistake, it looks so terrible that it resembles such a thing, which is just downright disappointing.
It's obvious they didn't put much effort into this game as they did with the last. Their effort really shows when you realize that there are no unlockables for the Single-player campaign. You can no longer get infinite ammo or one shot kills or spawn weapons for yourself, you also can't earn any money for MP from SP anymore. They took out the bonuses of the last games, and their reason was they couldn't figure out how to stop making their own debug menu not crash the game. Naughty Dog could have made it work, there is absolutely NO excuse for why you can't even use different skins. There's no real reason to do anything in SP, because none of it carries over for further progression in your MP.
Now, why do you think all of this is the way it happend? I could continue on this long set of facts on why the single-player campaign looks like shattered glass when compared to the previous games, but there are three simple words I can use instead to tell you why.
'Cause of money.
That's all. The focus of this game was obvious from Day 1 of announcement was Competitive Multi-player. Naughty Dog has taken a note from Activision and EA, they decided to join in for fun and profit this Holiday season. As this is the year of threes, why can't we join in with our brand and do what they do? Uncharted's MP is an exact replica of the Call of Duty series, it has loadouts, the same matchmaking layout, it has kill-streaks (Medal Kickbacks), Perks, (Boosters), Weapon mods, Ranks, and uses only P2P matchmaking, obviously. Oh, they even have a Prestige system too! But not to be left out, they also have created replay value in the form of treasures you can find in the deathmatch modes to unlock character customization items. Yup, you can make a custom hero or villain.
Too bad they did it wrong, because ever since the start of the Subway promotional beta, there has been a constant drumming up of chaos by the fans angry at ND for their bad weapon design and how blindfiring always locks onto other players when close enough and is basically unstoppable also due to the addition of sprinting for MP only. This focus on MP has killed the SP campaign, and ended Uncharted's legacy for good. Another franchise that should have had a high note with Uncharted 3 was tossed aside for the sake of making a quick buck on the market.
Not stopping there though, Naughty Dog(Or Sony?) had one more trick up their sleeve...I mean two: Online pass and Day 1 DLC.
Online pass, although a sizeable minus to the game, the Day 1 DLC is more sickening, especially when you know what it entails. Before Uncharted 3 was even released, Naughty Dog put up something called the "Fortune Hunter's Club", where you could pay $25 and get $45 worth of DLC later on when it was released, which is 4 map packs and 3 skin packs. Problem is, you had no idea what kind of skins they were, what the maps would even be, so why would you even waste the money? Also, most people probably wouldn't even buy it, and it would divide the community because even though the maps, and the skins, are already on the disc, you still can't play on or with them if you don't have the unlock code. It's a disturbing trend in the video game industry these days that people just let happen, don't even care.
As for the skin packs, they are just skins from UC2, a game you already bought, and they are skins you've already bought too because they came with the DLC at the time, which was charged fairly for a new coop mode, two new maps, and some skins. But now you are paying fifty cents for any old skin you want, skins you already own. Most likely, the map packs are all going to be maps from UC2 as well.
This is very important for people to understand. This is part of the problem and why Uncharted 3 has failed.
I played in the Subway beta for Uncharted 3, but only because I was preparing for the coop mode. I was able to get up to Rank 35 and accrue at least a million dollars, but that isn't the point. While playing, I too understood all the problems of UC3's online from the get-go. For one, the recoil is way too high, and the crosshairs jitter all over the place and bullets get spread way too quickly, it's really hard to control this kind of thing on a console controller and makes most long guns useless at anything farther than mid range. A staple of P2P, the lag is horrendous, and the matchmaking is just as bad. Every single game I played, I was paired with foreigners living in Eastern Europe and never someone from around America, making my games unbalanced in the favor of those who I cannot understand the language of.
In all of my games, I was the only person who ever had a full ping bar, which was a huge curse. everyone else had 1 to 3 bars and they always killed me unfairly. I took three shots to kill, they took a clip. I get killed by a grenade from a mile away, my grenades have to be right at their foot. Rolling is meant to protect you from melee, but I still get meleed in the middle of my roll, and I have been stealth killed while in mid-air or jumping, or even when I'm facing the same guy who just killed me with said stealth kill, they get it. If you are actually willing to play this mode, then expect this to happen. A lot.
As for the co-op itself, the one thing I was hyping myself up for...
That's another thing. Co-op is really broken. Let me just show the reasons why in a quick little questionnaire: Why do armored soldiers take at least 80 bullets just to kill a single one even with all headshots? Why is the enemy auto-aim still as prevalent as SP? Why is rolling even more worthless than in SP? Why don't headshots instant kill normal soldiers? Why is the recoil still so bad in co-op when it should just be for Competitive? Why do enemies respawn so fast? Why are Brutes completely undefeatable 99% of the time? Why do shield guys not even react to getting shot on their shields(Applies to SP too) like they did in UC2? They just stand there and you plug over 40 bullets in before they suddenly fall down, or they kill you while you shoot them. Even UC2's coop riot shield enemies had staggering.
That should be all I need to say, but there is something else. Naughty Dog had before talked about expanding the coop, but what did they do? They scrunched the modes up all into one "Coop Arena" which alternates between survival, gold rush, and siege, all each an individual mode in UC2. It breaks up the action, and Gold rush is now nearly impossible to complete on later rounds due to practically undefeatable enemies. While this mode has been severely dismantled, the Co-op Adventure mode has been improved, with more context sensitive actions and five maps to play, each with their own narrative and story telling. They are more fast paced than Arena is, which is wrong, a horde mode should be more frantic, chaotic and awesome by nature, and can help someone to get a co-op fix if they need one, but...it's not really much.
In Gold rush, enemies are never around you, they'll just camp the chest you need to go to. In UC2, you always saw enemies, but in Gold Rush they spawn around the chest so carrying the treasure isn't as hectic or fun as it should be, in fact, the dead silence before reaching your chest is even worse than the fact none of these coop modes have any music playing.
Why couldn't they add any music, still? Uncharted 3's soundtrack is light years ahead of the last two games, and there is a really nice heroic theme that plays during certain portions of the game and it'd be plain awesome to have that going on as you fight the enemy with your friends. It might even make fighting the unstoppable armored soldiers a little more bearable, but not by much.
In closing, Uncharted 3 shows just what can happen when greed permeates a hobby. It's yet another example of something great dying because some old man in a white collar wanted to capitalize on a booming casual market. The game is easily approachable and meant to be played in competitive. The SP has been shown no tender care or affectionate love and has no replay value because of the unlockables being removed. People argue that they are just cheats and that we "don't need them", but they forget that these are things we come to expect. When devs start taking away what we've come to expect as the bare minimum, we naturally get mad. It's because of these unlockables that I have been able to replay UC2 so many times just to see other characters in Drake's shoes, it's because of unlockables like Infinite ammo and a timed horde mode with a true random factor that I am so able to come back to RE5.
It's because of genuine unlockables. Trophies have replaced effort in that department though.
You give them an inch, they'll take a mile. Naughty Dog has become the next Bioware, another sell-out.