Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Review
The following review contains minor spoilers for Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.
It took me a long time to decide how I felt about Uncharted 3. At first, I was in love with the game: it seemed to improve immeasurably on the first two, and enhance the experience as a whole. However, as things progressed, my opinion changed. I appreciate what the game does, why people like it, and think that they’re totally justified in liking it; but somewhere along the way Naughty Dog lost me.
The problem comes when trying to put into words why I don’t think Uncharted 3 works as well as two which is, in my opinion, the best game in the Uncharted series. I think Drake’s Deception has improved gunplay, more fluid action sequences, and –mostly – an incredibly interesting story, plus the banter we know and love.
And it starts incredibly strongly. The second chapter of the game sees a flashback to 20 years earlier when Nate and Sully meet for the first time and the main antagonist – Marlowe – is introduced: more on her later. Looking back at coverage for Drake’s Deception when it first came out, critics loved this part, and they were genuinely surprised at it being there. Despite the fact that I knew about it beforehand – it was still an awesome addition to the game and something I really hoped there would be more of throughout. Alas, there wasn’t, save a brief section near the end.
But that isn’t where my praise for the early stages of the game ends, at least in terms of what it introduces and how it goes about doing that. The very first part of the game showcases the all-new-and-improved hand-to-hand combat system, which is one of my favourite parts of the game: the fact that this portion of the combat is incredibly fun to execute, and – crucially – is made a necessary part of the overall experience. I think that shows that Naughty Dog is aware of the vast improvements that they’ve made and are actually proud enough of them to make them compulsory.
Also introduced are Charlie Cutter – a new British character who is, as are all the “hero” characters, awesome – and also the ability to throw back grenades: an overdue enhancement, but one that is very welcome.
I said before, despite all the praise I’m giving it, that I don’t feel Uncharted 3 works as well as two. I think this is partially – but not totally - down to the villain. Marlowe – and her aide, Talbot – are first introduced in the flashback to Drake’s past. You would imagine that Naughty Dog would utilize that time to explain their motives, right? Yep. So would I. Unfortunately this remains unclear for the whole game and means that neither of them feel particularly intimidating. Especially when comparing this to Lazarevic from the last game, Marlowe and Talbot are incredibly disappointing as bad guys, and it’s never really clear why they want what-they-want, or what they plan to do with it.
Of course, the actors who lend their voices to them do an excellent job: as do the whole cast. Nolan North, Emily Rose and the rest of the usual cast are absolutely superb – yet again, if not more so than the previous two games. No matter how marginal some parts of the game are, in an entry in the Uncharted series, the actors are guaranteed to be incredible.
Something that Uncharted gets a heap of praise for is its story. Drake’s Deception is no exception to that: for the most part (I’ll get to the rest later) it’s engaging, interesting and ties into the gameplay more-so than the first two games. The first is very much “Go shoot those dudes! Great! Now, go shoot those dudes! Great! etc…” , the second ties shooting “those dudes” more in with the over-arching plot, but I think this instalment does it the best. It gives a real, solid reason as to why you’re killing these dudes (at least most of the time).
I think the story plays out really well, even if the ending seems a little rushed. The final boss-battle is much more grounded than that in the previous game, and – again – lets you use the awesome new hand-to-hand combat. But, after this, we see something of a conclusion to the Nate & Elena love story: which is very satisfying.
So, why don’t I like it? Surely if the puzzles are fun, and much more challenging; the camera and platforming are finally fixed; the game is beautiful; and – most importantly – I was actually sad to finish, then it was a great game – yes? I think what really made me take a slight dislike to the game was the overwhelming frustration I felt for brief moments on occasion.
There were times when the enemies were devastatingly hard, the puzzles weren’t particularly obvious and thus took a very long time to complete, or something lasted just a little too long, so that it stopped being fun. All of these together stick in my mind more than anything else when I think of the game and that really isn’t a good thing.
I don’t think of the incredible desert chapter, that really showcasing everything that makes Uncharted great, I don’t think of the plane crash that was oddly similar to the train in Uncharted 2 and I don’t think of the aforementioned flashback: I think of my gripes with the game.
That means that – all in all – Uncharted 3 sticks in my mind as the technically best game in the franchise, but not my favourite in terms of everything else: Uncharted 2 holds that prize. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s bad by any stretch - hopefully this review presents that – it just means that, in a stellar line of games, it falls into second place in my mind and possibly – and more importantly - my heart.