Uncharted 3 Isn’t As Amazing as You’ve Heard

Dear Reader,

(Note: The following pertains to the single-player. Multi is not up yet) I love “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception,” but contrary to what IGN is telling you, it doesn’t turn water into wine, cure cancer, or bring meaning to an otherwise cold and unfeeling universe. It’s a very good continuation of the “Uncharted 2″ formula, but it’s by far the smallest step forward in the franchise. For the first time in the series, a mild sense of “boy, I’ve jumped to a lot of yellow ledges in my day” sets in.

Mmmm, lookin sexy

In no way is “Deception” a slouch; anything its brothers can do, it can do as well or better. The puzzles are the best of the entire franchise, the graphics are face-meltingly beautiful with vivid animation, the dialog snaps like “His Girl Friday” meets “Indiana Jones,” and the set pieces are appropriately jaw-dropping. But in between these peaks, U3 marks time with two things the franchise has never done more than adequately: gunfights and ledge-jumping. The former continues to go on forever and feel kinda slippery, and the latter is pretty much connect-the-dots. Now the game does a great job of giving you breaks from these two activities, but they still crop up just a bit too much. And remember: we’ve been doing them, exactly as they are here, for two whole games already.

Hit the jump while I discuss a few more issues to bring us back down to Earth, then lavish the game with the praise it deserves.

To its credit, “Uncharted 3″ tries to a new regular to the mix: fist-fighting. They’ve flirted with this before, but just like U2 opened with a stealth mission in an attempt to bring that mechanic into the fold, U3 starts us off with a barroom brawl. It’s not totally effective. Hit detection is fine, but the animation steps on its own toes and often jitters around trying to move characters into the right places for action cues. And the fighting is simple, taxing neither timing nor muscle memory particularly well. The result is little more than a glorified quick-time event.

This is an honorable battle

Okay, but these quibbles aside, this is still one of the best action-adventure games on the market. Naughty Dog knows how to design an action set-piece that gets your heart racing and your eyeballs popping. Everyone loves to talk about how amazing the action in “Call of Duty” is, and that may be true, but Nathan Drake’s escapades match COD’s scale and toss in the messy, chaotic feel of real life. Our hero sweats, curses, yells in surprise, and bleeds from the mouth. God bless him for it.

And in case you missed it above, the graphics and sound are amazing. Team Ninja and Sony Santa Monica can suck Naughty Dog’s left testicle, because these guys can run circles around both graphically. And the nail in the coffin? Absurdly short load times. How do they do that? How? How does a game that looks this good boot you right back into the action after you die with almost no wait? It simply should not be possible.

Oh, and speaking of that, let me also take a moment to thank Naughty Dog for their extremely “it’s okay, champ” save policy. You can save whenever, but I never do, because the checkpoints always put me exactly where I’d like/deserve to be. And even better, the menu helpfully informs you at any time how long ago the most recent auto-save was. This kind of player-positive game design always wins big with me. I would really like Naughty Dog to pay Crytek a visit and explain the virtue of these things to them.

Please don’t misunderstand the title of this article: “Uncharted 3″ is a gorgeous, amazing experience every PS3 owner needs to have. But I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that there’s a faint whiff of ennui finally settling in here, after three solid games of “stay the course.” I simply cannot go along with anyone who says U3 is on par with “Half Life 2.” That was a sequel that expanded the franchise in every way imaginable. This is a game that just holds the line.

_AA

what assurance do I have that your parenting isn’t screwing me up? 

 

 

 

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/dustin.hall1 Dustin Hall

    Andrew, I appreciate that you’re grounded and lacking in hyperbole in your game reviews, but sometimes I feel like a game would have to suck your dick to get a 10/10. 

    … that would get it a 10, right? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

      I feel like a Blu Ray disc trying to fellatio me would just make me angry. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/dustin.hall1 Dustin Hall

        You’ve just been dating the wrong BR discs, I say. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=688428495 Arron Clements

          I’ve had some really slutty BR discs, the trick is to get them a little drunk before you make a move….

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

            Haha, what do you pour alcohol through the hole in the middle? 

  • Anonymous

    Please elaborate on whats so different about gears 3, battlefield 3, fear 3, etc.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

      Fear 3? Really? You wanna open that up? Fear 3 introduces a whole new playable character with completely unique play style, a whole slew of new game mechanics and enemies and weapons, AND runs on a brand new engine! THAT’S how it’s different. 

      BF3 also runs on a brand-new engine, features jets and new vehicles, and massively overhauled multiplayer. 

      Gears 3 does not, but I’ve also accused that campaign of ennui. 

      • Anonymous

        I disagree.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dustin.hall1 Dustin Hall

      You scared away a comment. 

  • http://twitter.com/wishingW3L WEL

    I agree, the game’s not amazing, it is pure epicness!  So good that the game was nominated for GOTY at the VGA’s while GeoW3 got left out. ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

      First off, remember that the opening line of this article is “I love Uncharted 3,” and I genuinely do. But it does have flaws. 

      You’re right that Uncharted has its personality, and shouldn’t be expected to deviate from that unreasonably. Still, I think there was more they could do to open up the gameplay and give us something fresh. 
      The fist-fighting, for example, could have been a lot tighter, and frankly more challenging. Stealth still feels like a frustrating, trial-and-error afterthought. Driving levels might have been fun (the horse does not count).

      And hey, why not tweak the climbing a little? Catwoman’s “time your jumps” system in Arkham City was bangin, and brought just the right extra level of challenge to getting around. Something like that for Uncharted would have revitalized the game.  

  • http://twitter.com/DarthDiggler Rich

    In terms of technical leaps I think the developer is starting to really hit the ceiling of what is capable with the hardware.  That being said everything seems amped up in this release over the predecessor.

    This article really smacks of “please look at me I am controversial”.

    • Isaw All Stars

      Well what the fuck do you want bro? You want to hear the game reviewer to say that UC 3 is a total and groundbreaking revolution of UC 2? That the gameplay has been changed and refreshed to best the first two UC’s??? SWALLOW the fucking truth you SONY fanboy scums of this earth.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=688428495 Arron Clements

        Swearing, telling people to fuck off and calling them fanboys isn’t a valid debating tactic, neither is an overuse of the question mark and capital letters. If anything it just draws attention to your emotional immaturity and poor typing skills. 

        Maybe you should chill out a bit and stay off the internet if it bothers you that someone might, heaven forbid, like something you don’t. I mean life’s too short. 

  • Anonymous

    I disagree. This game is much more enjoyable to me than even the last Uncharted. Maybe you should consider taking a step back from games as a job and start playing games as a gamer, you know…like everybody else?

    • Isaw All Stars

      Fuck you for being too influenced by fanboyism and treating the game as a cure for cancer. The article was downright fair and firm.

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  • Anonymous

    The shitty MLAA that seems to have become so infectious recently killed the graphics in half of the game for me.

  • http://twitter.com/mrstraightfire Reginald Da R Star

    Andrew,

    Let me start off by saying that Uncharted 2 is my favorite game of all-time and that I’m an Uncharted fanboy.  So take my opinion as you wish.

    I’ve noticed that reviews either say that U3 is a masterpiece or they say that it feels too much of the same.  And I feel that the latter is a bit unfair to U3.  For example, most of your review you are comparing it with U2.  I know that is a common approach when reviewing sequels, but if you take this game as a stand alone and compare it to the rest of the market, it blows everything out of the water.

    But I do think that it is fair when people are calling it Uncharted 2.5. But then again, if people like you are saying that it’s U2 with better graphics, a new melee systems and with more set pieces, how isn’t it a better game?

    Naughty Dogs are victims of their own success, where their game are no longer compared to what’s out in the market but what they’ve done before. Yes, the leap between U2 and U3 is much much smaller than between U1 and U2, but it’s still a better game.

    And even if people feel like the solo in U3 is not as good as U2, well the multiplayer is much more complete in U3, so overall the game is a better game (yes I know you didn’t review the multi yet).  I don’t think there’s a lot of game with such a great single player and a complete multi-player experience out there and that includes U2.

    And one last thing, you said this:

    “Stealth still feels like a frustrating, trial-and-error afterthought.”

    First of all, in ANY GAME, whether it’s MGS, Splinter Cell or the recent Batman, stealth is ALWAYS trial-and-error as enemies have a set pattern and you must figure out when and who to kill.  I felt that that argument was coming from someone who generally hates stealth action.

    • Isaw All Stars

      Well I couldn’t agree more. Nice input bro. 

      …. but… the exact same thought and input can be applied to Gears of War 3. Your entire statement can be made to clear Gears 3 from its critics. We could just change all your “UC” “UC2″ & “UC3″ words to “GOW1″ GOW2″ & “GOW3″ and viola we could make the same HONEST AND FAIR SENTIMENT for Gears of War 3. Fair & firm bro.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

    Reginald,

    I think your points have a lot of merit, I’ve thought a bit about what you’ve said. I’m totally with you that “Among Thieves” is one of the best games ever, bar none. It’s the reason I bought a PS3, I just had to have it. 

    But I dunno, did you really think U3 had more setpieces? Because I thought it actually had less. I mean U2 was dropping my jaw every level, and with U3 I kind of thought the first quarter of the game dragged. I dunno, did you feel differently? 

    No question, U3 standing by itself kills almost anything. But games don’t stand by themselves, everything is and should be judged in context. And in context, U3 is a bit samey to me. 

    On the other hand, look maybe I just don’t dig Uncharted as much as some people. It might just be that what’s growing familiar to me is still fresh to others, and the game still works well for a lot of people. 

    You may be right about me and stealth: I’m a little cagey about it, but I wouldn’t say I hate it. Thief: The Dark Project is one of my favorite games ever, ditto for Arkham Asylum. I think what I don’t like is being expected to stealth when I don’t have any specialized tools for it. I mean, Nathan Drake can’t chill on a gargoyle, or shoot out lights, or do ANYTHING that gives him the upper hand.