When Uncharted 2 came out in late 2009 many of us, myself included, praised the game beyond measure. In fact it was most likely our game of the year. It was always going to be tough act to follow, but this is Naughty Dog we’re talking about here.
And pull it off they did. Uncharted 3 features the same whiz-bang graphics, narration, and action. But for some reason it just wasn’t as memorable. Perhaps other great games overshadowed it last year. Or maybe threequels have a disadvantage, now that things aren’t as shiny and new as they once were…
Nathan Drake, like Indiana Jones before him, is up to no good again, trying to solve another of Sir Francis Drake’s uncharted voyages (see what I did there?). It’s another globe trotting adventure, taking Drake and friends across London, France, Syria, and Yemen.
The story doesn’t pull an Uncharted 2. Instead of starting off near the end of the story, it’s pretty much linear time from the get go — excluding the flashbacks to Drake’s childhood. Running around as lil’ Drake is quite a strange experience, and yet as a spry wee thing he’s a little more believable than big Drake at climbing up drainpipes.
Sully, Chloe, and Elena all make appearances. Plus a new British chap, Cutter, who is a welcome add to the mix with all his quips and a new accent. The big bad of the day is British born Katherine Marlowe. A rich and powerful lady.
There’s no doubt that Uncharted is amazing when it comes to dialogue and characters. The plot itself leaves much to be desired however. But as an imitation of a big budget action flick I suppose I can’t complain.
At it’s core Uncharted is a third-person shooter. Though some folks thought the controls were worse I didn’t find any problems with it. Guns fire, bullets hit, men go down.
I did notice that the mêlée combat has been improved. The introductory fight scene in a dingy London bar shows this off rather well. Besides the standard 1-2 punch, Drake will grab an object in his vicinity and use it as a weapon, whether that’s a beer bottle or a fridge door.
As much as it sounds strange I’m saying this, at times Uncharted 3 could go over the top. There are moments where everything feels so unbelievable. I know it’s supposed to be a videogame, but it really pulls you out of the experience when you’re questioning the laws of physics and the plausibility of things. Running over the exploding rooftop of the Chateau springs to mind. Though the cargo plane sequence did turn out pretty awesome.
The action continues to build and build until you’re not really in control any longer and it just happens to you. And Drake will never miss a handhold — he may slip and act dramatically but as long as you keep moving you’ll be fine. This takes a lot of the suspense away. With the port level at least I felt like I had some agency. It felt a little more open worldy.
In contrast Uncharted 3 does use quiet (non-shooting) bits really effectively. Simply walking around an environment and taking everything in does break up the constant shooting and dodging of explosions.
The game is beautiful. No doubt about that. Naughty Dog managed to step up in this department, from Uncharted 2, an already gorgeous game. The tech to create the rippling sand dunes, the impact of water, and fire spreading is just amazing. Watch that wallpaper curl!
I enjoyed Uncharted 2’s multiplayer. The mix of climbing and gunplay felt like something entirely new. It was not just another shooter. The offering is expanded upon here, adding Call of Duty style perks, customization and all that jazz. Split-screen & LAN support is also a nice wee gesture.
The maps are well varied, taking place around levels from the campaign whether that’s a city of high-rises, a subway, or a middle eastern village. The cinematic set pieces are something altogether new and inspired from the single-player mayhem. It still feels like they could be refined a little, but it’s a pretty interesting concept I’d like to see expanded upon if there were to be another Uncharted game (I’m holding out for Naughty Dog’s Uncharted kart racer). By set pieces I mean like a fight between several moving trains, a plane taking off down a runway, or a crumbling floor in a chateau. You will also find plenty of zip lines and turrets for more environment interaction.
You have your typical standard fare of modes: Deathmatch, King of the Hill etc. But there’s also a mode or two that feels rather new. Co-op Hunter Arena is half-horde, half-capture-the-flag. You face off against a nasty bunch of AI baddies but to make things interesting two of the henchmen are controlled by two human players. As the round progresses and you rack up kills you can select better equipped henchmen, one of the heavy armoured dudes or maybe even a sniper.
The co-op missions have a lot to be desired. They feel like dumbed-down single player missions with really the only focus being the shooting. I would have appreciated some puzzle solving or at least something to make the co-op, well… co-op. Areas from Uncharted 2 are re-used, and old enemies who should really be dead are brought back from the grave. There are a few cinematic pieces such as climbing a Syrian tower and shooting baddies off the top, but they are few and far between.
Crash Bandicoot 2, Jak II… Naughty Dog’s sequels always left a big mark on me. The third game in a series would always be great, maybe even perfected. But their middle games are the ones that innovate, the ones that surprise and leave you at the credits still clutching your controller, mouth agape.
Uncharted 3 is a fantastic game, but then again we’ve seen it all before. It’s just not as fresh and exciting as the one before it. Despite these things, it’s still an amazing campaign, and the multiplayer is truly great fun.