Lara Croft is so passé. The undisputed queen of raiding has been replaced by Nathan Drake, an everyday man with a penchant for danger and an amicable shoot first or rather jump first, ask questions later mentality. Two games in and the Uncharted series has already established itself as the definitive blockbuster experience on the PlayStation 3. In our mind, Uncharted 2 was the perfect game fusing action and platforming with some of the most gripping set-pieces ever witnessed in a video game into one highly attractive package. Naturally, our expectations were sky high from its sequel, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. With such lofty expectations riding on its shoulders, Uncharted 3 still manages to deliver a thoroughly entertaining blockbuster experience. Only it’s not as perfect as we’d hoped.
Long road out of hell
This time around, Drake and his mentor, Sully are in search of something called the Atlantis of the Sands, a mythical place in the Rub’ Al Khali desert that houses a powerful secret. Naturally, they aren’t the only ones after this. A shady organization that dabbles in the occult has their eye on the prize as well for obvious nefarious reasons. The plot while predictable is extremely enjoyable thanks to some witty writing and the banter shared between Drake and his companions. It’s the video game equivalent of a buddy cop movie from the nineties and we love it.
Those who’ve played the last two games know exactly what to expect from this one as well. Your time in Uncharted 3 will be spent climbing around derelict, crumbling structures, shooting bad dudes and indulging in some big budget sequences I’d rather not spoil for you. This being a sequel carries with it the unfortunate side-effect of being predictable. Every time you enter a level your mind will immediately begin to pick up clues as to how the set-pieces will play out. Of course, predictable or not, when they do occur, they’ll still blow your brains out. No doubt about that.
While I’m fine with the “more of the same” mentality most sequels bring to the table, I was pretty disappointed with the game’s combat that actually felt like a step back from Uncharted 2. Naughty Dog have tried to make Drake’s animations feel as life like as possible and they’ve succeeded with their vision to a certain extent but an unfortunate side effect of this is that I never quite felt in control of Drake. Gunplay also felt a bit off as the game’s aiming mechanics are not as tight and responsive as they used to be. This makes combat feel like somewhat of a chore.
Making matters worse is the game’s extremely annoying enemy spawn point system. You’ll constantly be ambushed by enemies that’ll come out in droves lobbing a billion grenades right at your feet. They also have the obnoxious knack of spawning behind you out of thin air making death in this game feel rather cheap even on Normal difficulty. Hand to hand combat also plays a big role in this game and while it seems enjoyable at first, it becomes real annoying when you’re forced to press the same button prompts every single time. What’s worse is that during certain gun fights, enemies may grab you or come too close for comfort forcing you to indulge in the same Quick Time Event over and over and over again.
Yeah, this is definitely not a good idea
Expecting backup from your friends during a fire fight borders on stupidity as they’ll be busy sitting in a corner, sucking on their thumb while you patiently dispatch every enemy in sight. What’s worse is that when they do come out to play, they constantly come in your way, making you wish they had stayed put in the first place. The game’s pacing, something Naughty Dog had nailed down in previous games also felt a bit off. As opposed to Uncharted 2 that started with a bang, this one starts off rather slow and drags in the middle only picking up after the half way mark. It’s like Naughty Dog had run out of ideas and were filling in the blanks with boring levels where you mindlessly grind away against enemy forces to reach the next exciting part.
Once you’re done with the single player campaign, you can head online to tackle the game’s stand-alone co-operative mode or dive straight into versus multiplayer. Co-operative missions in this game exist for the sake of being there since most of them are just rehashed Uncharted 2 or 1 levels. And they aren’t too exciting to begin since most of them play out like a Horde mode. Enter a room, kill an ‘x’ amount of enemies, hit a checkpoint, move on, rinse, repeat and it’s level over. Thankfully all the XP you earn in co-op can be carried over to multiplayer as well.
Sully's never too old for this s**t
Multiplayer in the Uncharted games works like any other modern day shooter with persistent unlocks, only you can't run and jump around the environment the way you can in the single player campaign. This adds an exciting sense of verticality not seen in most online games. You’ll start off with a rather basic load out but as you progress through your online career, you’ll unlock better weaponry and cooler boosters. Boosters are perks of sorts that give you an added advantage on the battlefield like the ability to regenerate health faster, collect more ammo from dead players and so on. New to this game is something called Medal Kickbacks, kill streaks of sorts where you are rewarded for racking up a certain amount of medals. Score ten medals for example and activate your kickback that’ll spawn a rocket launcher in your hands.
While I’m still enjoying the game’s multiplayer, like the single player campaign, it is not without its faults. Perhaps my biggest grouse with it lies in its match making system that doesn’t pair up similarly skilled enemies against each other. For my first few rounds in which I was trying to learn the maps, my entire low ranked team was constantly pit against extremely high ranked players who obviously knew the maps real well. Before we could even learn the in and outs of a map, we were being gunned down mercilessly. Not fun! Another minor niggle I have with the unlock system is that unlocks are way too expensive. $75,000 just to unlock a pair of fingerless gloves for my character? I know we’re reeling under the recession and all but this is freaking ridiculous.
In and out
By now you’re probably thinking I hate the game but that’s really not the case. It’s just that I’m a bit disappointed by the fact that the follow up to what I consider the perfect game isn’t as stellar as I had hoped for. Technically, Uncharted 3 is still a marvel delivering some phenomenal moments with style not seen in other games. Special mention goes out to one ship level in particular that’ll make you giggle like a young schoolgirl with its size, scope and design. It’s pretty much the best set-piece I’ve witnessed in a game but glorious moments like this cannot mask some of the game’s nagging issues. While none of the issues I have with the game are complete deal breakers, together they mar the perfect experience that could have been Uncharted 3. That being said, I still recommend this game to anyone looking for an extremely polished experience on their PlayStation 3.
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