Uncharted 3 was my most anticipated game of the year. It’s been a week since its release, and I have finished the single player campaign twice (Normal and Crushing), and I can safely say that it lived up to my anticipation and expectations. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves set the bar extremely high, and I believe Naughty Dog are right when they say the kind of jump between Uncharted to Uncharted 2 can only happen once a generation. Where Among Thieves vastly improved in every way over the first game, Drake’s Deception is only a minor step above the second in the series.
One of the key new features in Uncharted 3 is the improved melee system. Drake can now grab nearby objects to smash over the head of an enemy, grab enemies and throw them in a specific direction (even into other enemies), and he has improved counter attack. It’s obvious Naughty Dog wanted to put a greater focus on hand-to-hand combat, as the game begins with a lengthy brawl in a London pub, and you’ll be forced into melee combat several times throughout the game. Enemies will now try to flank you, get close to you, and initiate melee. During these instances, you want be extremely quick in escaping the fight or winning it, because the other enemies won’t stop shooting you just because you’re trading fisticuffs with one of their crazy friends.
The lifesaving new feature is the ability to toss back grenades that are thrown at you. I don’t have a clue why this isn’t the norm for every game with grenades. This ability also carries over to the games online portion (both competitive and co-op). There is a trick to it though, so it isn’t cheap. There’s a small window when you are near a grenade, and that window changes every time and sometimes is smaller, where you can press the triangle button and throw the grenade back in whatever direction you are looking. There are two trophies for throwing grenades back. This is the best new addition they made to game as far as I’m concerned as it saved my butt several times from sure death.
Graphically, Uncharted 3 looks a little better than Uncharted 2, which is an impressive feat, but it does suffer from some occasional (and pretty noticeable) texture pop-in. That’s not a huge issue to me personally, but it is a problem that is persistent throughout the game.
Where Uncharted 3 takes a step back from Uncharted 2 is in the gun combat, particularly when aiming. Players coming directly from Uncharted 2 to this one will notice an immediate, and initially frustrating, difference. Where aiming was smooth and quick in Uncharted 2, the aiming in Uncharted 3 is slow and jerky and suffers from the nasty “bloom” effect. Luckily, I was able to get used to the aiming after a couple of hours and it no longer hinders my accuracy, but it will take a while to get used too if you’ve played a lot of Uncharted 2.
There are more puzzles in this one, which is a great thing, and a few are clever. You shouldn’t have any trouble with the puzzles as Drake’s notebook once again is pretty straight forward for most of them, but there is one that is on the difficult side and took a while (along with some frustration). For the most part though, the puzzles are well done and not very time consuming.
One of the complaints leveled against the game by some critics has been that it is very linear. That’s not a problem to me personally because that’s what I expect from an Uncharted game. It is very scripted and cinematic and Naughty Dog is always pushing forward at the pace they want you to go. There’s a lot more moments in this game where you are forced into walking without being able to do anything else. Luckily these moments don’t drag the game down, mostly due to the great scenery and the fantastic voice acting and quick little one liners.
The story is much deeper than any we have seen from the franchise yet. It answers a lot of questions, but also creates new ones in the classic “give them some info, but not too much” vein. We get to learn, and experience, a little bit more about Drake’s past and how he met Sully. The second and third chapters, while completely devoid of any gunplay, are amongst the most enjoyable in the game purely because of the story mechanic of a young Nathan Drake meeting Sully for the first time and meeting the villain of the game at the same time.
Unfortunately, the pacing does seem a little off compared to the previous games. Naughty Dog is on record saying they created set pieces that would be cool and writing the story around them and that really does show. The cruise ship for instance really serves no useful story purpose. Locations shift through cutscenes quite a bit, making it seem like the entire journey takes place over a couple of weeks versus the previous games being a nonstop adventure (save for a little coma in the second game that made sense).
Ultimately though, I am more forgiving of the pacing and set changes of the story because it is a video game and those set pieces are an absolute delight to playthrough which renders the story secondary to me. Naughty Dog has done an amazing job at creating realistic fire, water, and sand in a video game (especially the water and sand). There are chapters with water that are breathtaking, and you won’t mind that the aiming is made more difficult due to the awesome effects of the rough seas. And of course, the music is great and the cast delivers some of the best voice acting you’ll find in a video game. A complete enjoyment from beginning to end, with enough twists and turns along the way to keep you glued to your couch.
Once you work your way through the campaign, and if you are anything like me you will play through it several times, the multiplayer will definitely keep you coming back. Like many gamers, I have been playing the Uncharted 3 multiplayer since the first of October. Since I’ve had my fill of only being able to play competitive multiplayer during the month of October, I have been playing co-op exclusively when playing the multiplayer.
The aiming is better in the multiplayer than it is in the single player, which is one of the reasons I was a little taken aback by the aiming in the campaign. The multiplayer maintains the high-octane action excitement of the single player; it’s fast paced, you’re in and out of cover and climbing stuff, and there are dynamic events that take place in some maps. You’ll see a sandstorm blow in, or a helicopter fill fly in and shoot rockets, and there’s even trains.
Competitively, there is still a slight problem with people blindfiring and meleeing, or at least there was during the few Team Objective games I played a few days ago. That tactic can get frustrating, which is one of the reasons I love the co-op so much. I’d say Uncharted 3 has some of the best co-op out there; it even surpasses Red Dead Redemption to me. Co-op Arena is my favorite mode, and that’s where you and two others have 15-20 lives to share amongst the three of you to make it through 10 waves of enemies who get harder and harder. The rounds change objectives; there’s Survival, Siege, and Gold Rush, and I think that keeps things a little fresh and more challenging. Siege, for example, forces players to get into a specified area to have their kills count towards winning the round and earning cash. Things can get a lot more intense during this round than it does in Survival, where you can spread out a little bit and still have your kills count.
Co-op Adventure is a mini-five chapter story that takes place in an alternate universe. Characters who have died in the first and second games are back here and working together. Each chapter takes place on a different map, three of which are from Uncharted 3’s campaign, and one from the two previous games. Adventure has quick cutscenes, but is well put together and even features some friendly fourth characters that are NPC (like Drake for example during one chapter). There’s enough here to keep you coming back even after experiencing each adventure.
RECOMMENDATION: Uncharted is one of my favorite series’ of all time. The three Uncharted games are amongst the best out there, and certainly the best PS3 exclusives. The jump from the first Uncharted to Uncharted 2 was immense and very impressive. Uncharted 3 isn’t as big of a jump, but how could anyone possibly expect it to? Uncharted 3 feels like more Uncharted 2 with a few different mechanics, but that isn’t a bad thing. I enjoyed every moment, from the extremely fast paced portions to the slow walking segments and puzzles, Uncharted 3 is the best in the franchise thus far. Buy it, and cherish it, because it’s the best game currently available on the Playstation 3 and has to be a top contender for Game of the Year; it’s certainly sitting in first place on my personal list as of right now.