Wednesday, November 23

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Review (PS3): A great adventure and a broken ride

The first two Uncharted games were reason enough to buy a PlayStation 3. Both were challenging, beautifully-rendered adventure games that combined solid third-person cover shooting with thrilling set pieces and platforming sequences. Nathan Drake returns - two years on - for his third adventure, Drake’s Deception. Can Naughty Dog deliver three essential experiences on the Sony platform?

The Good
The Keanu Reeves Effect – Drake’s Deception is the most visually-stunning game that I’ve played since Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction. The varied locales – which range from ancient temples to the London Underground – are rendered with such painstaking attention to detail, that you’ll often want to take pause and appreciate what Naughty Dog have managed to create. More spectacular still, is watching these structures and vistas fall apart. Be prepared to think and say “Whoa,” a lot. 

Knowing the ropes – The Uncharted games have been like comfort food for this gamer’s soul; and the third game works similarly enough to its forebears to soothe even the most cynical gamer. You’ll be able to predict every plot twist, every explosion, every false platform and handhold. You’ll laugh at each of the casts’ clever quips, and sit on the edge of your seat when you believe for anyone of them to be in mortal danger. Even the way trophies are doled out is nearly identical to its predecessor. Uncharted 3 is the videogame equivalent of an action movie, and it’s an association of which the developers are clearly not ashamed. 

 We're getting the band back together!

The Bad
Doesn’t play well with others – Even now, just weeks after launch, most of Uncharted 3’s various multiplayer lobbies are as desolate as the Rub’ al Khali desert. Worse still, modes like Co-op Adventure feel like a missed opportunity. Recycled assets, aimless narratives, and repetitive shoot-out stacked upon repetitive shoot-out makes this mode entirely skip-able. 

Fisticuffed – You’ll notice from the outset that Uncharted 3 features a more fluid melee combat system than that found in previous iterations of the series. What you’ll also notice – particularly by the end of the adventure – is that said melee combat system is shoehorned into as many situations as humanly possible. When there’s competition that does it better (far better if we look to the recently released Batman: Arkham City), you have to question whether the attention devoted here could have been diverted to more important areas... like the gunplay. 

The Ugly
Stormtrooper Syndrome – Do yourself a favour: as soon as you’re armed with a gun, crank the sensitivity up to full. Even then, aiming is almost unforgivably-sluggish; particularly for a series where the gunplay has previously been a highlight.

A bigger bang – For all the explosions and burning buildings, Drake’s Deception doesn’t take any risks in term of narrative outcomes. It would have been nice to have been surprised when the credits rolled. To have been subjected to heartbreak, or failure: this did not happen. 

Sheltered life - Even seven chapters (roughly two hours) in, the game is still teaching you how to play: freezing the action and presenting button prompts to help you along. If any of the puzzles stump you, you're often presented with a fully-fledged solution instead of a subtle "hint". All of that handholding ends abruptly with the nineteenth chapter: the damage model becomes insanely brutal, and I'd wager that most of my one-hundred and twenty-nine deaths eventuated from those oppressive final acts. Sometimes I'd spawn to a hail of RPG and grenade fire, or in front of a group of over-powered enemies. All of the momentum from the earlier levels was ground to a frustrating halt.  

It's not quite a steaming wreck, but it can be frustrating

The Verdict
If I may, I would like to contest Simon Parkin’s oft-discussed review of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with the score (if anything, I would have gone lower), it’s the content of his argument that I have a problem with. He essentially claimed that to its detriment, Drake’s Deception does everything to keep you on course; and that even when you’re set to fail, the game will give you a helpful push to make that final jump, or kill that persistent group of bad guys. This doesn’t bother me at all, as the Uncharted games have always provided hyper-linear experiences that are at their best when the player is “on the track.” It’s when the track work isn’t quite finished that the games have faltered. The third instalment has more of those “bumps” than any other game in the series. It’s a great game that is unmatched in terms of visual prowess; it’s just this time, the flaws are more noticeable, and this impacted on my enjoyment of the game as a whole.

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