A mixed bag
Let me say straight away that Uncharted 2 is my favourite game of all time so Uncharted 3 had a lot to live up to. Reading other reviews of the game, with a general consensus of "more of the same", I was hugely looking forward to this. After just completing it however I have to say that it most certainly isn't Uncharted 2.2, it's more like Uncharted 1.7.
Let me start with the good : when Uncharted 3 gets it right nothing else can touch it. The standout moment for me is the cargo plane sequence where the line between gameplay and cinema blurs so seamlessly that you will find yourself wondering as you are playing "how the hell did they do this?". The burning chateau, the citadel & the cruise ship all have breath taking moments that will remind you why you love this medium in the first place.
Other little touches are noticeable as well; the first time Drake used an item in the environment to beat an opponent rather than simply punching him shows the level of craft on show.
The characters are also excellent, of the new ones Cutter is by far the standout. It's also nice to have a non-typical bad guy (or gal in this case). The dialogue is as fun and as enjoyable as always and each cut-scene will almost always delay that break were you planning just to see what happens next.
Also the game is an absolute marvel technically (when it isn't bugging but more on that later). The water in particular is mind-blowing and the game takes advantage of the tech well beyond simply the capsizing boat sequence. But also of note is the sand, fire and lighting. The combat sequence in a sandstorm is just as impressive as Uncharted 2's sequence in a blizzard. Oftentimes the sheer scale of what is presented is astonishing all by itself and the camera will sweep back to add yet another cinematic layer to the game.
Gameplay-wise there are nice new features. The hand-to-hand is much more useful here and you will often find yourself resorting to melee even when you have a gun equipped. Throwing back a grenade is also very much appreciated (and often needed). The satisfaction of killing and enemy with his own is very satisfying throughout the game.
This brings me to the bad which I think can be broken into three areas : niggling, poor design choices & broken.
Niggling : for me there were a couple of issues that seemed more prevalent here than in Uncharted 2. Due to it's very nature of linear platforming the Uncharted games need to be clear with colouring and camerawork in showing where you can and cannot go. This game occasionally doesn't guide you enough leading you to attempt to jump to ledges that aren't usable, even when they look almost identical to ones which are, or lead you to fight with the camera. Also in non-platforming sections you will lose track of where you are meant to go and this will lead to frustrating bouts of fighting with both camera and controls before you stumble back on the correct path. The 15 year old Drake tutorial sequence had a few instances of this (most notable being the chase sequence which would almost always lead to game over scenarios).
Also, while the melee combat in a firefight is generally a very useful tool the inability to pull out of it when a grenade lands at your feet or you are taking too many shots can lead to frustrating deaths.
Some story plots seem to be unnecessary and one major issue regarding a character's seeming invulnerability is never resolved (either that or I was just being thick).
Finally, without spoiling anything, don't play this game directly after playing Uncharted 2 as the plot and sequences in a certain couple of chapters don't strike so much of same tone so much as deja-vu.
Poor design : Almost all of these issues are to do with the combat which I feel has never been Uncharted's strongest suit anyway but very early drifted, on normal difficulty, from the realms of challenging to frustrating. On at least six occasions I felt that there were too many over-powered enemies in one area. The worst offender for me was the fight on the several boat wrecks in Chapter 12 - Abducted although I could bring up several other examples. Having laser sighted snipers plus shotgun wielding behemoths (who, for some reason, are essentially bullet proof until you fire several shots at their head to shoot off a turban) as well as people firing M62s and the usual assortment of bullets and grenades in relatively small spaces leads to a lot of frustrating deaths. While this became an issue towards the end of Uncharted 2 this is a problem from the midway point in this game and, while never as frustrating as the blue men in the last game, is a more consistent source of irritation here. Also, if you are going to introduce a new element of melee and gunplay make sure it is consistent. Having certain enemy types that you cannot engage in melee or, even worse, that you cannot shoot is very sloppy and frustrating game design.
broken : I regard Uncharted 2 as probably the most polished game I have ever played so I was stunned to find so many bugs here. From Chapter 9 through to 13 I had A.I. glitches (Elena simply stopped walking with me while the incidental dialogue continued meaning that I only heard half of the conversation), sound glitches (a couple of cut-scenes were a half-second out between visuals and audio) and a stack of visual bugs. It's hard to be impressed by the water tech when the texture map has failed to load. The highlight of these had to be the head and arms I fought on one of the smaller boats leading up to the cruise ship. Bizarrely from Chapter 14 onwards I never had a single bug apart from one late-loading texture.
In final judgement while this game is technically superior to Uncharted 2 (except for broken obviously) I wonder if, like Arkham City, the designers were so interested in grandstanding what they did in the previous game that they forgot to keep it just as polished and, more importantly, just as fun.