Uncharted 3's Mediocrity And A Dilemma Between P3FES And P3P

Remember that blog I did a while back and said that I was going to try and make it a more regular occurrence in an attempt to start completing games? Well, here's part two of (hopefully) many! Still not sure when and how often I'll be able to do this but I'll eventually get the ball rollin'.

UNCHARTED 3 SPOILERS IN THE PLOT PARAGRAPH. You'll know it when you see it.

Uncharted 3

If you've ever heard me say anymore than half a sentence about the Uncharted series, then you know that I think it's a fairly mediocre third person shooter with some occasionally witty dialogue and some pretty graphics. And Uncharted 3 does... absolutely nothing to change my opinion.

So where should I start delivering my thoughts on this game? Well, what about the good stuff? It's technically astounding that this game runs on the PS3 at a generally good framerate. It's quite a pretty game for a console game, and it's just full of stuff to gawk at. Well, it is if you've never played a PC game. You're right, I'm going there. Compared to the PC games that I played for quite a while before suddenly jumping interests to JRPG's, none of this stuff really made me go “wow, that looks good”. It always came with that “for a console game” qualifier”. Back to good stuff – the set pieces are often very exciting and interesting, at least until you leap off a ledge you thought was the right one but wasn't because the game sometimes doesn't do a good job of directing you where you need to go when you're being chased/chasing someone. Or maybe until you try to make a jump but don't quite make it and think that you're supposed to go somewhere else, only to find out that the original jump was the right one and the game just decided to let you fall that time just to be a dick. Or maybe you weren't entirely sure which ledge to leap to because some look like they can be jumped on and some can't. All right, all right, I said mediocre and not bad! The dialogue is mostly well-written and good enough, and the characters are generally consistent and likable. Except... I'm kidding, there's nothing more to say on that front.

So what about the bad? Well, nothing really strikes me as actually-bad, just plain mediocre. The shooting controls (as compared to other console shooters, not the mouse) feel awkward and unrefined, for one. They're OK, but popping off headshots feels like an exercise in luck and frustration instead of honed skill and precision. Considering that some enemies have nutty amounts of health unless you put lead in their craniums, that can be quite frustrating. Lucky me, I played the game on Very Easy and didn't have this issue – but I know it's there! It's really not hard to tell that on higher difficulties, this game's balance is completely fucked. Shotgun dudes and riot shield dudes might just be “a bigger nuisance” on the lower difficulties but if they're anything like they were in Uncharted 2 – which I did beat on Normal – then they just feel cheap and unfair, not refined and well-balanced. The actual meat of this game's gameplay simply isn't very good.

I've already gone on for what I feel is too long, but there's one more thing I want to talk about – plot. The plot here is something of a mess. Threads are brought up and dropped without explanation on occasion. Talbot, the secondary bad guy, keeps disappearing in street corners and gets shot at least once without any repercussions, which is brought up several times but never resolved. Marlowe, the Big Bad, pulls a card that says “tower” out of Cutter's jacket and says something along the lines of “I knew this would happen! The cards say so!”, as if she had some way of predicting things, just before trying and failing to kill him. Some middle eastern guy who talks about a genie shows up to rescue Drake out of nowhere and is barely characterized. You spend the first half of the game with Nolan North, I'm-too-old knockoff Danny Glover, Niko Bellic, and that chick that got eaten in half in Pitch Black, and those latter two disappear completely for the last half of the game. It just feels like something that was cobbled together from notes and haphazardly thrown into some sort of sensical order. It's not without sense and I was never at a loss as to what the main plot thread was about, so as far as video game plots go you might even say it's a good baseline – but captivating fiction this is not.

Persona 3 FES vs Persona 3 Portable

Well, here I am stuck with a dilemma. I have had P3P for a long time but when I last started it, I dropped it in favor of something else. Two weeks ago, while playing Nocturne, I picked it back up and decided that I wanted to play it on the big screen in HD on the PS3. So, naturally, I bought it there, knowing that I would have at least one major issue with it.

The PSP version has a trimmed-down “real” world setting, where instead of running around and seeing people, you see a static image and move a cursor around it. It's essentially a very advanced image map. Sort of. In concept. Anyway, all you get for characters are static images and there are no anime cutscenes, two things that take a lot of personality away from the game after playing FES. I tried to go back for reasons that I will elaborate on in the next paragraph, and all I could think of was the aimless running in circles while I decided what to do next and seeing the surprisingly good animations for a PS2 game and then those little anime shorts and those crazy emoticons which added some character to the, uh, characters as well as the game. They do a fairly good job of delivering the story to you on the PSP but it's often obvious that this is not the way the game was originally meant to be played. Sometimes it's even hard to know exactly what's going on in certain scenes because the action itself is heard and not shown.

So why not play FES? Why would anyone pick the PSP version over the PS2 one? Because FES includes the completely baffling decision of not allowing you to control your entire party, at least not in the traditional JRPG menu way of “here's your characters skills, pick which one you want him to do”. Instead, you've got “tactics” that you can set – rather ill-defined tactics, I might add, and not really much in the way of customization – and this just doesn't make up for the ability to say “Main, do this; now Junpei, do this; now Mitsuru, don't freaking cast Marin Karin, Diarama Akihiko because he's nearly dead again.” It ends up in this scenario where you do one move and then you watch the rest of the game play out in front of you instead of doing anything yourself. The PSP version was completely rebalanced to allow Persona 4-style “control your whole party” to even out the visual novel-esque telling of the rest of the story and the fact that part of me wants to drop the 25 hours I've put into FES just to do this reveals how much I wish I could control my whole party. Now that I've said all this, I must be completely frank – the teammate AI generally does a good job of things and it generally helps me instead of hinders me – but “generally” here means “it occasionally screws up in a way that I never would have”. Not that I don't screw up but I have never knocked a game for my own screw-ups.

Do I recommend that you play Persona 3? Absolutely, without a doubt. It's original, it's interesting, and you should absolutely check it out when you've got the chance. I just think it's such a shame that a version that includes both full party control and the “real” world isn't available; you'll have to pick the issue that you would rather deal with, and to be honest I kind of wish I would have stuck with the PSP version. There's no turning back now, though, and I don't regret my time with FES.