Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception ReviewNovember 4, 2011
Let me get this out of the way first- I am a big Uncharted fan. Ever since the first game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune launched on PlayStation 3 in 2007, this franchise has been my all time favorite action-adventure series. Combining the exotic locations and insane action of an Indiana Jones movie (we’ll just ignore the fact that Indy 4 happened) with tight controls and epic gameplay, this is a series that gets almost everything right. When Uncharted 2 came out in 2009, developer Naughty Dog topped themselves and not only dodged the sophomore slump, but enhanced and expanded upon Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune in every conceivable way. The hype has been building around Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception for a long time now; is there any way this game could live up to expectations and top one of the most critically lauded games of all time? Yes, and no.
You’re probably asking yourselves, “What the hell does that mean?” Well, it means that certain aspects of Uncharted 3 are in fact much better than Uncharted 2. You could see from any of the game’s trailers that Uncharted 3 is jaw-droppingly gorgeous visually. The melee system is much improved, taking cues from Batman: Arkham City. However, the game’s difficulty gets ramped up so much in the single player campaign as to become infuriating, which I’ll talk more about later.
Uncharted 2 was criticized for being too similar story-wise to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and Naughty Dog decided to make this story about Nate and Sully’s relationship. You’ll find out a lot more about Nate’s past than you have in past games, even playing a section of the game as his younger self 20 years ago, which was a very welcome addition. You’ll find out what makes Drake tick, how he and Sully met, and why Sully means enough to him that he’d go to the ends of the earth to save him- which he will in this game.
As I mentioned before, the graphics in Uncharted 3 are superb. We were all impressed with Uncharted 2’s graphics, but I was certain that some of the trailers for Uncharted 3 were CG rendered. When I saw these cutscenes unfold before my eyes in real time, I was completely blown away. You’ll see a cargo ship sway as a raging ocean rocks it back and forth, sending you and enemies flying 50 feet during a gunfight, as beautiful rain effects coat the entire landscape. You’ll see Drake fight an enemy on a cargo plane, hanging from the back of it while miles of desert fly past beneath him. Seeing sand stuck in Drake’s hair, and rain soak his clothes really immerse you into the experience. And Uncharted 3 is all about the experience. Epic moments in this game happen every 5 minutes, and the game is at it’s best when a level is collapsing around you and you must use the game’s great platforming controls. Thankfully, these haven’t been changed and still work wonderfully. Your heart will be pounding as you try to escape, but the controls for platforming work well enough that you won’t be screaming in frustration.
Unfortunately, that is not the case with the firefights this time around. Firefights can go on way past the point of being fun, until I literally thought the game was glitching out, or that I had to move Drake past a certain point in the level to stop the spawning enemies. I would then be promptly ripped apart by the new Terminator-style enemies in full armor with huge machine guns, or one of the crazed RPG nuts, while being fired upon by so many other enemies that I couldn’t even take cover. The game features a new grenade throwback maneuver, which is a cool idea, however the devs decided to throw grenades at you at every turn to show off this feature. So now, in the middle of these insane, hectic-in-a-bad-way firefights, you can’t even take cover, lest you be descended upon by a rainfall of grenades.
As if that weren’t enough, Naughty Dog has changed the responsiveness of the controls from Uncharted 2 to “be more responsive”. Naughty Dog’s Arne Myer addressed these control changes, stating that “guns fire in a completely different way in Uncharted 2 compared to what you’re experiencing now in Uncharted 3,” and said it was changed to give you “a better grasp of whether you were hitting or missing a target.” They’ve ended up doing the exact opposite. Upon researching these issues, I’ve found that the controls actually lag when compared to Uncharted 2. I thought I was going crazy, but I found it nearly impossible to get a headshot in Uncharted 3, when I had been doing just fine while playing Uncharted 2 in the days leading up to UC3’s release. Forums are inundated with comments about these changes, and hopefully Naughty Dog will listen and change the controls back through a patch. While you’re at it, turn down the difficulty- there’s plenty of threads out there citing how maddening the campaign is towards the end. I am confident that this is one game that will be patched. Naughty Dog have always listened to fans’ concerns in the past and updated their games accordingly. You can watch this video below, showing Uncharted 3’s control problems.
This is the very definition of fixing something that wasn’t broken.
If any other game had these kinds of problems, it would be a deal breaker. However, Uncharted 3’s visuals, story, and multiplayer are all top-notch. It isn’t as well rounded as its predecessor, which, had Metal Arcade been around in 2009, would have received a perfect 5/5 score. Hopefully some of Uncharted 3’s issues will be addressed with a patch, but in the meantime, I have to rate this game based on what was coded into the boxed retail copy. In the end, I base a game’s rating upon how much fun I had while playing it, how entertaining it was on a basic level. While I had lots of fun playing the online multiplayer and co-op online with my brother, the single player became too bloated and difficult, which really took the wind out of its sails. Is Uncharted 3 worth $60 of your hard earned money? If you enjoyed either of the first 2 games, the answer is undoubtedly yes- the sheer amount of content packed into this game will have you playing it for months. However, if Uncharted 3 was shipped without its multiplayer or co-op functionality, and was judged solely on the campaign alone, I might have to rethink that statement, which is a shame because I had so much fun with the first two games. I’ve really had no choice but to change up our review categories for this review, so I could separately factor in the scores for single player and multiplayer. Read my verdict below.
[easyreview title=”Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Score” cat1title=”Graphics” cat1detail=”Uncharted 3 is the new benchmark for Playstation 3 games. Everything from the exotic locales to facial animation to rain effects look spectacular; this is definitely one of Naughty Dog’s strong suits.” cat1rating=”5.0″ cat2title=”Sound” cat2detail=”Another film-quality score permeates this game’s soundtrack, and the voice acting and sound effects are all stellar as usual. Nolan North continues to imbue Nathan Drake with tons of personality, and, for the first time in this series, heart.” cat2rating=”5.0″ cat3title=”Gameplay” cat3detail=”Naughty Dog has gone and fixed something that was far from broken- Uncharted 2 has nearly perfect controls. In changing them they’ve made it nearly impossible to get a head shot, which is a necessity with the amount of enemies being thrown at you in both single player and co-op modes. The new melee system is great, but you will hardly ever get a chance to use it because you will experience the frustration of fighting dozens of enemies at once in a sandstorm, with gunfire and grenades raining down upon you. To say the difficulty got ramped up in this game would be a big understatement- I got so frustrated near the end of the game that I had to switch from Normal to Very Easy difficulty- I’ve never had to do that in an Uncharted game before.” cat3rating=”2.5″ cat4title=”Fun Factor- Single Player” cat4detail=”While the story is great and the visuals spectacular this time around, the gameplay and difficulty have taken a huge turn for the worse. It’s still fun, but to push through to the end I had no choice but to switch to Very Easy due to the game’s broken aiming and gunplay and unending swarms of enemies used to pad out the game’s length.” cat4rating=”3.0″ cat5title=”Fun Factor- Multiplayer” cat5detail=”This is where the game shines. The gunplay is still off, but it’s more apparent in single player and co-op, when you’re facing AI that can always hit you with pinpoint accuracy. In multiplayer deathmatch, everyone has the same aiming handicap, so while it’s frustrating adapting from UC2’s controls, it’s still a lot of fun. The co-op levels are pretty damn difficult, but playing through them with a buddy makes it a lot more manageable and fun.” cat5rating=”4.5″ summary=”Uncharted 3 could have been a masterpiece, but some notable flaws drag the game down and can’t be overlooked, as they negatively impact the fun you’ll have with this game.”]