Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Strangely for a videogame, Uncharted 3 feels at its weakest when adhering to videogame convention; dying in shoot-outs often sends you back to frustratingly placed restart point, while failing to meet the game’s demands only to be thrown back to the beginning of a sequence does, at times, break the cinematic flow. The worst examples of the latter are during a few of the larger set-pieces – one scene, for example, sees Drake fleeing a torrent of water; fail to hit the intended cue laid out by Naughty Dog and insta-death quickly follows, bringing what should be one of the game’s most gripping moments to a jarring halt. There are a few such missteps throughout the game that break the illusion or that make no clear sense – but for a title with such cinematic ambition these moments are easy to overlook; ninety-five times out of a hundred the signposting is both easy to read and unobtrusive, and the pay-off is frequently jaw dropping.
Uncharted’s reputation for delivering some of the biggest ‘Wow!’ moments in videogaming is well deserved, so the fact that Naughty Dog manages to out-do even its previous efforts is something of a marvel. Whether in planes, castles or on boats or the backs of horses, Uncharted 3 presents moments of wonder that manage to do things with polygons and pixels that other games could only dream of. The fact these moments are threaded through with ones of poignancy and player interaction makes them even more impressive, even if your contribution often feels limited to merely keeping Nathan Drake alive. Even those who criticise the game’s linearity will be hard pressed to balk at Naughty Dog’s ability to bring cinematic spectacle worthy of the biggest movie blockbusters into the gaming arena.
Sadly, for all its dazzling achievements and unforgettable moments, Uncharted 3’s campaign has to end, and the conclusion comes with a slight pang of disappointment. The problem is that Naughty Dog has become so competent at working within the Uncharted template that it’s hard to shake the feeling that this third adventure could have offered a little more outside of the headline set-pieces. This is in no way to diminish the quality of the combat, platforming and puzzling – all are delivered with the same quality as fans would expect – but with this third outing there’s a distinct feeling of diminishing returns…that no matter how gorgeous the visuals (and they are utterly gorgeous), how rousing the plot and how likeable the characters may be, the gameplay might be starting to wear a little thin. There is slightly more emphasis on fisticuffs this time around and the odd section that liberally borrows the concept of ‘vertical cover’ from Capcom’s Dark Void, but aside from that it’s largely business as usual. There is also little doubt that the game’s impact can only lessen with each and every play-through. Uncharted 3’s single-player is still as good as (if not better) than the previous two instalments…but we wonder if it also marks the point where the series has to take the leap and start hunting new realms of gameplay as ardently as it has pursued big thrills and emotional drama.
Thankfully, concerns over the game’s longevity are quelled by the hugely enjoyable multiplayer element as well as a selection of cooperative levels. The former builds on Uncharted 2, offering new maps, new weapons and the concept of ‘powerplays’ that temporarily level the playing field should one team be struggling. It’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but succeeds in further cementing Uncharted’s position as one of the premier third-person multiplayer experiences. The Cooperative missions are also very entertaining, offering alternative spins on the single-player while reintroducing some familiar faces from previous instalments. It is a slight shame that they weren’t integrated into the main campaign more, but with such a focused campaign narrative it’s not hard to see why Naughty Dog decided against this.
With a gripping storyline and entertaining multiplayer modes, Uncharted 3 admirably fulfils its duty in completing the series’ meteoric rise from plucky IP upstart to bona fide videogame icon. The attention to detail and polish that has been lavished on every aspect of the game is hugely impressive and you will genuinely struggle to find a better looking game on this generation of hardware – Naughty Dog really do know how to make the PlayStation 3 sing. Despite its unquestionable quality however, the praise we can lavish on Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is tempered slightly by a sense that the template might be reaching its breaking point, and that a little more diversity to accompany the astonishing moments of technical and cinematic wizardry would be a treasure worth seeking.
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