Warning: Major Spoilers for Uncharted 3
One morning in late October of 2011, I woke up and groggily logged onto my computer. I went to IGN.com to check out the latest video game news and saw an early review for Uncharted 3. As a big fan of the second Uncharted, I eagerly read through it and discovered that Naughty Dog’s latest received a perfect 10. Awesome.
Homework and finals kept me from playing Drake’s latest adventure for almost two months but in the days after Christmas I finally got around to it and quite frankly, I’m disappointed. Uncharted 2 felt bigger and bolder than its predecessor but with Uncharted 3 it feels as though Naughty Dog is afraid to mess anything up.
In-game you spend tons of time fighting off groups of enemies but the gunplay hasn't been improved. You still use nearly identical weapons to kill nearly identical enemies. In addition, the series has a tendency to send an insane number of bad guys at you; I think fewer, smarter enemies would be a great improvement. There’s nothing inherently wrong with fighting tons of enemies but it hurts the believability when Drake, a guy whose only super powers are perfect hair and the ability to destroy any vehicle he touches, dispatches an entire army of mercenaries. Also, why do you still have to push triangle to pick up ammo?! There is no good reason for this and it leads to accidentally picking up a weapon that happens to be next to ammo.
The big addition to gameplay is more advanced hand-to-hand combat. It works fine and creates some pretty cool moments such as breaking a bottle over an enemy’s head but I have two complaints. First, much of the melee combat boils down to a quick time event and a fairly easy one at that. Second, the game tries to force you to use melee combat all the time. Even if you have a gun, overgrown Jason Statham clone number twenty will appear out of a doorway with fists raised. No, I have a sawed-off shotgun; I will not get into a two-minute slap fight with you.
YOU HAVE TWO GUNS
Interactive set pieces are probably the highlight of Uncharted 2 but in Drake’s Deception they feel stale and are arguably a step backwards for the series. For example, virtually every advertisement forUncharted 3 included a picture of a large cargo plane in the desert. I couldn’t wait to play that part of the game and when I finally made it onboard I excitedly said to my roommate, “This is going to be awesome! I bet I’m going to kick someone out of the plane and into a propeller!” Nope. While in melee combat with the first enemy you encounter, all the plane’s cargo is ejected out the back and shortly afterwards it crashes. In less than five minutes it’s all over! Judging from the game’s cover art and Drake’s penchant for being incredibly destructive, I knew the plane would crash but at least let me have some fun first. In my opinion, nothing in Drake’s Deception exceeds or even matches the train sequence or the fight against the tank in Among Thieves. Naughty Dog's latest relied too heavily on big stuff falling apart in dramatic fashion.
RIP plane, you died too young.
Creating a better villain is an area where Uncharted 3 could have easily improved over its predecessor, as Lazarevic is a huge dick for no apparent reason other than he’s Eastern European. Marlowe improves nothing by being a huge dick for no reason other than she’s British. The only difference is that you don’t fight the old British woman. Creating a morally ambiguous antagonist instead of one who pisses pure malevolence is a simple way to make bad guys somewhat interesting.
I enjoyed the flashback about how Sully and Drake met but Drake’s other relationships haven’t developed. Elena and Drake are married but don’t act any differently. In fact, Chloe isn’t even mentioned until her appearance three-quarters of the way through the game. Even if you are estranged, it’s worth mentioning you got married before the last two minutes of the game. Meanwhile, Chloe is back but she, along with newcomer Cutter, completely disappear at the midway point.
Overall, the story is nothing special or new. Snow from Among Thieves is substituted for sand, the lost city of immeasurable wealth is now Ubar instead of Shambhala, and lots of old stuff still falls apart. The story tries to include a twist where Sully "dies" but it fails spectacularly. Having an important character die is huge but then saying fifteen minutes later, “JK, he’s not dead. You were hallucinating,” feels like a giant cop-out. Either kill Sully or don't.
Uncharted 3’s graphics and production values in general are top-notch and I think the treasure hunter genre still has plenty of untapped potential. Unfortunately, Naughty Dog didn’t keep pushing the envelope. The developer played it safe and as a result, the game isn't an improvement. Drake's Deception is still a good game and one of the best Playstation exclusives but I can’t shake the feeling that it missed an opportunity to be something truly great.
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