Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Review
Having just completed Uncharted 3, I’m sitting here ruminating on what to actually give the game for this review. It is certainly a beautiful game, and the core juxtaposition of the Gears of War-lite shooting with Prince of Persia exploration is as enjoyable and solid as ever. From the airport novel plot to the immensely likable characters, Amy Henig and her crew of developers at Naughty Dog have done an outstanding job creating an amazing game worthy of all of the attention Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception will most definitely receive.
So there, if you want to end the review now, do it. The game is outstandingly beautiful, and it has a single-player campaign that took me 12 hours to beat and is exciting from beginning to end. The multiplayer modes and co-operative missions are just cherries on top of a fabulous third-person shooter that's made by a team of hard-working craftsmen.
So, I’m giving Uncharted 3 a nine out of ten, much like many of my fellow critics in this industry, and this is why: Uncharted 3 is an amalgamation of some of the best design decisions in modern gaming. It isn’t perfect, however, but the goods outweigh the bads by so much that it is undeniable: Uncharted 3 is an amazing game.
The core of Uncharted 3 remains unchanged from its predecessors. Drake and his pals Sully, Elena, and Chloe discover the location of a fabulous…”thing,” journey forth to various locations around the world, partake in dangerous feats (including a death-defying gun fight in he back of an imploding airplane over a desert), and question the nature of their quest before finally saving the day in a feel-good moment. It’s a plot line seen before in the previous Uncharted games, Indiana Jones, Sahara, National Treasure, and an untold number of cheap novels.
Now, I personally find these stories to lack soul and depth. Drake is a comically likable rouge with a posse of attractive friends filling out every character trope necessary to move the story forward. Naughty Dog has a franchise as controlled and defined as a summer blockbuster popcorn flick, and that’s exactly what Uncharted 3 and its predecessors are--popcorn entertainment easy to digest with very little to offend. So while I may bitch and moan about the formulaic plot (estranged lovers, evil British female aristocrats, helpful desert Sheikhs, high-speed horse back rides), I must concede to Naughty Dog that they know how to make a story that is immediately satisfying.
Also returning from previous Uncharted games is the somewhat odd pacing regarding the shooting mechanics. Like is predecessors, Uncharted 3 begins with contrasting moments of shooting and exploration. For every five minutes of cover-driven shooting, the player is tasked with an equal amount of puzzle solving and exploration. I love this balance, but unfortunately, this is only prevalent for the first portion of the game. That’s right, like Uncharted 1 and 2 before it, Uncharted 3 quickly devolves into just he shooting mechanics by the end of the game. It’s not that I hate the shooting elements of the game, it’s just that the even balance of the exploration versus the shooting is very satisfying, and with nothing but shooting for the last half of the game, it can feel like a bit much.
Thankfully the shooting is pretty great. I’m not going to go into this mechanic too deeply, for anyone who has played an Uncharted game before should be well aware of how Nathan Drake likes to use a gun. It’s solid stuff, albeit fairly difficult. That’s right, Uncharted 3 is a hard game, so do expect to die often, especially during the almost frustrating stealth elements. Thankfully, Naughty Dog has one of the fastest respawns I have ever seen, and players will never have to reload the game to get back in the action. It is this design decision that makes potentially frustrating moments tolerable.
Of course, most of you probably know each of the things I pointed out. Uncharted 3 doesn’t really mix things up from their predecessors, leaving me with the feeling of déjà vu. The game is stunning to look at, from Drake’s fluid facial and bodily animations to the idealized rough beauty of ruined temples, old French chateaus, and ancient Damascan forts. These games have always been stunning to look at. The shooting mechanics? Like I said, they feel to me like a slightly casual version of Gears of War, very polished and good enough for a passable multiplayer mode. While any other game may attempt to mimic this slightly middle of the road gameplay, Naughty Dog pulls elements from different genres and games and polishes and polishes until the resulting product is better than their inspirational product. Uncharted 3 is a fantastic title as we gear down 2011, and while it doesn’t really do anything new, it certainly does them better than its nearest true competitors.