Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Naughty Dog had their work cut out for them when the time came to make a sequel to the highly acclaimed Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The first Uncharted game was nothing ground breaking, but it was some pretty good fun with a colorful cast of characters and interesting story. The second Uncharted game was so spectacular, it almost made me forgive them for what happened to a certain orange bandicooot. But seriously, Uncharted 2 not only improved upon its predecessor by leaps and bounds, but it seems to have set a new standard for the adventure genre. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for this third installment. In fact, it feels like a big step down.
The story in this game is really more of the same. So much so that at this point, I'm sure they write it using Mad Libs. "Drake discovers that [famous explorer] discovered the land of [mythical location] so he and his friends must now race [antagonist] to get there and find [priceless mythical artifact]". Well, there is more to it than that, as this game delves more into Nathan Drake's past and the origins of his partnership with Victor-Goddamn-Sullivan. These parts are interesting, and the game also tries to delve more into Drake's psyche and whatnot.
So what makes an Uncharted game, an Uncharted game? Well, everything is all there. Exciting gun play: check. Hand-to-hand combat: check. Temples and puzzle solving: check. Exotic environments: check. Platforming: Check. Everything we expect is there. So why did this feel empty compared to the second one? To clarify, this is not a bad game by any means. It's just...I couldn't help but think something was missing. Was it that this game didn't seem to contain quite as many of those harrowing fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants action sequences? Was it that the main villainess felt like a step down from the antagonist of the last game, despite having potential? Was it that the game just seemed to drag on in some parts?
Now, I can understand that the task of trying to top the epic single player campaign of Among Thieves was going to be pretty difficult, if not impossible. I am sure Naughty Dog realized this, but it didn't really feel like they at least tried to. There are a few levels in the game which are more or less filler,as they don't contribute to the overall plot. There are a couple plotlines that don't really go anywhere, and new characters introduced who just disappear from the game completely after a while without much development. On the bright side though, this game features plenty of Sully, who was noticeably absent for the majority of Uncharted 2. The environments in this game look pretty amazing and the attention to detail is impeccable. However, I felt they did not vary as much this time around.
One thing this game did improve, however, was the combat. Especially the close quarters combat. This installment places a much greater emphasis on this, as there are many times where you will have to get up close and personal because you either do not have a gun, or are otherwise in a situation where it is impractical. Like before, you use the square button to unleash a flurry of fistocuffs at your opponent, triangle to dodge, and you can now utilize grabs. In a way, it feels like a watered down version of Arkham Asylum's melee. In fact, I notice a few elements in this game that they borrowed from this gen's Batman titles. There are times when they encourage stealth instead of going Rambo on the room; you can even sneak up behind an enemy and press the Square Button for a "silent takedown". Most strikingly, there are segments where Drake is doused with a drug of sorts that causes him to hallucinate which was clearly inspired by the Scarecrow scenes in Arkham Asylum. All it needed was a segment with Drake trying to get to a spotlight while sneaking past a giant floating version of the villain. But of course, that did not happen since boss battles aren't really Uncharted's thing. The second game did have a couple blatant boss battles but for the most part, it's usually all in getting from point A to point B. This game does have a couple boss battles here and there, but they're mostly mini bosses.
These games also never fail to deliver in the soundtrack department. Since there is a desert motif, there is alot of Arabian and middle eastern instrumentals. As always you have exciting fast paced music during those nail-biting action sequences, and for the most part it all works and helps to compliment the game's rich atmosphere. The voice acting is impeccable as per usual and the actors all have great chemistry together. I would say it's due greatly in part to the fact that the voice acting is basically performed on stage while the actors are doing the motion capture. This gives them the chance to be more flexbile and have more fun and energy in the roles, as opposed to standing in a recording booth and regurgitating the lines into the ADR mic like most other games these days do (which often results in phoned in performances).
As far as the online goes, it is much more robust than that of the previous game. There are a plethora of new options for online options. In addition to Team Deathmatch, Free-for-All, and Plunder (which is essentially a "capture the flag" type mode where you must bring a treasure back to your team's base), there is a new online Co-Op Adventure mode, Three Team Deathmatch, and many more. Another new thing is Loadouts, much like the Call of Duty franchise. While I was not a fan of the online at first, it grew on me and unlike at first, I prefer it over Uncharted 2's online multiplayer. It would appear that Uncharted is quickly becoming one of the titans in the online shooter arena, and to be honest I actually prefer it over Call of Duty. There is hours upon hours of hilarious fun to be had with it, and it won't be long before you find yourself addicted. New players might be discouraged but once you get past the learning curve, you'll find yourself mowinig down the competition like it's nothing. For players who prefer the simplicity of Uncharted 2's online though, there is an option called "Classic" that plays basically like the second game's online (meaning no Loadouts and no Power Plays for the losing team, everyone begins with the exact same equipment).
So at the end of the day, how does Uncharted 3 stand? I realize that I have compared it to its predeccessor many times throughout this review; however, being that the third installment had some enormous shoes to fill, it was pretty much born with a strike against it, so it was definately neccessary to know if this game surpassed the second installment. And when all is said and done...it simply didn't. And to be honest, it didn't even feel like it tried, as though the developers already knew that Among Thieves was the pinnacle of the franchise. By all means though, this is far from being a bad game by any stretch. It is definately worth the used price. If I pretend like the second game doesn't exist, then I would say that this is definately good game and a great sequel to the first game, Drake's Fortune. These criticisms aren't even things I noticed after I finished the game and reflected; I realized midway through the playthrough that this simply didn't have anything on Uncharted 2. I couldn't help but think to myself, that if this had been the sequel to the first game, and then have Among Thieves be the third game in the trilogy, it would have all been good. But as it stands, this game pales in comparison as a sequel to the epic second installment.
+Pretty good puzzles (near the beginning, after which puzzle solving takes a back seat)
+Great music and voice acting
+Excellent gunplay and melee
-Filler stages that don't contribute to the rest of the story
-At times I felt like the deaths were cheap
Overall Grade: B