Review by Skylight
"The plight and victory of an abandoned man on the inside"
Uncharted 3, much like Uncharted 2 relies a bit too much on the "did you just see that?" moments. Whereas, those moments are spectacular, I got the sense while playing (about halfway through) that they were created first by the dev's. This may not be true, but the impression is that they are by far the most important and most heavily worked on parts of the game. After playing through 2 and coming away so excited and pleasantly surprised, who could blame them?
The problem is, These parts go off like clockwork. Enter an area with some banter between the characters on screen, see some chest-high walls and you get that feeling..."I'm going to be running out of here any moment with guns blazing, probably running after a jeep, horse, jet or anything huge and fast, and make my daring escape....yet again".
The story starts out pretty strong, you're introduced to a new character who has some charm about him, a good accent and part of a pretty good fight scene in a bar. Not quite the opening of Uncharted 2, but this one works well for opening the pace of Uncharted 3. The attention to detail in the bar alone is pretty astounding, lights dancing realistically, a good look at the cleaned up character models and a good introduction to the new melee combat system. Instead of just punching and kicking your way through a melee fight, there are now grapples, context sensitive use of items in the area (a beer bottle for instance is used to bash on one of the thugs heads, if you decide to use it) and counter attacks. The strong start up of the story doesn't last tremendously long, as some characters exit stage right, others come and go sporadically and the villains barely get any screen time. You get to learn a lot about how far Nate is willing to go to find what he is looking for, but you don't have that same sense of desperation or strong characterization with the villains, which is a shame. If naughty dog cared about every character the same way they care about Nate and Sully, we'd have an exciting, fun, witty and well told story. It doesn't need to be shakespear, but some more in depth characters beyond Nate and Sully would have been greatly appreciated.
The melee system works well for most of the game. The only issue is that you end up seeing the exact same counter attack animation used ad naseum. The melee system can sometimes become a hinderance in later parts of the game due to the enemies frequent usage of flanking tactics. When this happens and one of the armored brutes (think Uncharted 2 the guys with armor who take many shots to take down) walks up to you, he will usually start a fist fight all the while bullets are flying by your head. That said, overall the combat is improved and gives a good sense of improving the gameplay.
The visuals are nothing short of amazing. There are some dull moments, although not because the areas look bad technically speaking, it's that there are some truly outstanding areas in the game that demand some scenic viewing. Sand flows in the wind beautifully, the use of light is the best I've seen in any game, be it console or PC. Naughty Dog clearly understands how to use the PS3 to its fullest (so far) in terms of technology. The art direction is also excellent. Cities are well designed, an old worn out building will be crumbling, ready to fall and the beautiful large scale structures look to have been intricately designed from a master of the craft. One thing that did bother me is...at one point in the game, you witness Drake at his wits end, about to give up due to necessity, staggering around with lack of water and shelter. It's at this point you start to feel bad for drake, wondering if it was all worth it. Then, a huge army of enemies pop up in the next area and it's full battle mode ahead. It broke the sense of immersion and was the most awkward part of the story. It's as if the gameplay and story are 2 seperate things that don't interact much with each other. This, however, is a relatively small complaint.
Lastly, we have the Multiplayer. 8 hours in and I still love it. It's very well made (although a few hiccups are present, but nothing game breaking). Naughty Dog took the great ideas formed with Uncharted 2 Multiplayer and expanded on them. More modes, more unlockables, more boosters, additional categories (such as a kickback category that plays out much like the Modern Warfare kill streak concept) and a co-op campaign mode. This isn't the single player game played with others, it's snippets of story woven into a cooperative gametype where helping your team survive is much more than just gunning down every enemy you see. Helping your team, covering them while they bring treasure to an objective point and seeing some new cutscenes are all part of the mode. The visuals are pared down a little bit, and less post processing is used, but that's to be expected with latency, multiple players and overall more going on in a scene.
Overall, the game equals that of Uncharted 2 in terms of presentation, but takes a step back with story. It's evident that set pieces (cruise ships capsizing, airplanes crashing, high speed chases and escapes) took the forefront of development. WIth a more gripping and cohesive story, Uncharted 3 could have been top notch in every field. As it is, this game should not be missed by Uncharted fans just don't take the story too seriously and you'll have plenty of those "....WOW" moments.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/09/11
Game Release: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (US, 11/01/11)
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