Uncharted 3 Review
Uncharted 3 is a fantastic cinematic experience that plays well and is entertaining from start to finish. That being said, there are some significant potholes along the way that, while they don’t derail this fantastic experience, certainly cause it to slow down. Uncharted 3 picks up a while after Uncharted 2 with Drake and his longtime companion Sully searching for a new treasure while following in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia and Sir Francis Drake. They and their friends, both old and new, contend with a group of evil British people led by Marlowe. The story is far less humorous and silly then we have come to expect from Uncharted, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Drake and Sully have fantastic interactions that shed new light not only on their history, but also into who they are as characters. Nolan North continues to impress as Drake and is still able to convey a mix of toughness and humor. Marlowe and her Henchmen Talbot are fantastic villains, and are a nice change of pace from the generic crazy mercenary. While the story is still good, it is not as much simple fun as Uncharted 2’s, and personally I do not come to the Uncharted series for serious character study. This is a very different type of Nathan Drake story, which is refreshing in an otherwise very iterative game, but ultimately not as satisfying as the other games in the series.
Uncharted 3 is at its core a third-person action game featuring the shooting, climbing, puzzles, globetrotting, and swashbuckling adventure that has become a mainstay of the series. The controls are tight, and while you will probably die a lot, it is never due to unresponsiveness or Drake not doing what you want him to. The ability to throw grenades back at your enemies is a great new ability, and it makes the game much more playable. The set pieces are both technical masterpieces and fun to play, although many are trying to imitate the more famous portions of Uncharted 2. You will flee through a burning chateau and fight thugs on airplanes to name just a few. When the action is nonstop and the platforming smooth and flowing Uncharted is a joy to play. Occasionally poor or murky design can slow you down significantly. There are several combat encounters, most specifically an entire level pitting you against pirates, that result in death after death thanks to the AI’s almost perfect aim and aggressiveness. Sometimes I was also unable to understand the direction that the designers wanted me to move during platforming or chase sequences. Being forced to repeat these actions over and over makes them lose their appeal and it can get boring fast. This happens just a little too often to be ignored, but it is certainly not game breaking. The puzzles do not suffer from this problem as they are designed to make you stop and think for a while. They are clever and really cool just to look a. I never found myself frustrated with them and I never spent too long in one room. As great as this all is, it is still the gameplay that we expect from Uncharted, so if you did not like the previous games there is no reason to try again with this one.
Graphically Uncharted is a very good looking game. The shadows and textures perfectly convey the feelings of the scene, whether it is beneath London or in the middle of a blistering hot desert. The camera angles are cinematic and the transition from cut scene, to quicktime event, to regular gameplay is smooth and continuous. Art design continues to impress, with awesome temples and ruins that are as much fun to look at as they are to climb. It is in the visual department that Uncharted suffers one of its more nit-picky flaws, but a flaw nonetheless. There really is no more simple way to say it then pretty much all of your enemies are bald. It won’t bother you at first, but once you start fighting all manners of different villains it starts standing out pretty starkly. To go along with this, the big bruiser character that you fight several times throughout the game is the exact same character model with different clothes, as though they were trying to hide it. While it doesn’t break the game, it is just stupid and lazy and we expect more from Naughty Dog.
Once you finish the main Uncharted story, you can go on to multiplayer. There are both competitive and corporative modes. The competitive multiplayer is quite fun and enjoyable, but the weapons are not balanced at all with a very noticeable difference between he two tiers of long guns. This doesn’t break the game, but it makes it significantly less fun for lower level characters while they spend the 5 hours or so necessary to unlock the weapons. Co-op takes the form of 8 standalone missions as well as a wave based survival mode.
Uncharted 3 is undoubtedly a great game. The basic gameplay is fun, the setpieces are breathtaking, and it is easy to lose yourself in the multiplayer. There are some problems with the game though largely pertaining to poor combat encounters and some immersion breaking enemy models. It’s not perfect, but Uncharted 3 is one of the most entertaining experiences of the year.