How do I even begin? A day ago, I finished Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception in my quickest game run ever (four days, because a sloth could finish a campaign faster than I). And how do I feel you ask, dear reader? Fucking fantastic.
Now first, let me provide my bias. I love this series. I love Naughty Dog. I love Nathan Drake in all his wet shirt glory. I started the series with the second game, and it just blew me away in every single aspect. It was one of those games where you couldn’t just play it, because it was an experience in itself. It left me a blubbering mess at the end. And it happened to me again yesterday. Note: this review is for the single player campaign since I haven’t the time to try multi-player and I am too lonely for co-op.
Anyone familiar with the Uncharted series has probably heard it described as “Gears of War mixed with Tomb Raider,” which, yes, is essentially true. The game is a cover-based third person shooter with heavy platforming and puzzles. However, the intermingling of these two elements produces a sweet symphony of engaging gameplay. This time around, shooting mechanics were tweaked, and a higher emphasis is placed on melee with some satisfying finishing moves. (My personal favorite was being able to pull the pin on an enemy’s grenade and then kick him back in a sweeping explosion of awesome.)
Let’s hit the basics before getting to the nitty-gritty. The story picks off two years after the events of Uncharted 2. Nathan Drake, self-proclaimed treasure hunter and supposed descendant of Sir Francis Drake, has hooked up again with constant partner-in-crime Victor “Sully” Sullivan. They are on a mission to find the legendary Iram of the Pillars, a lost city “of immeasurable wealth” hidden in the sands of Arabia. Of course, searching ruins and traveling around the world always comes with a hefty dose of danger, so we have two new antagonists: Helen Mirren look-a-like Katherine Marlowe and her second-in-command and possibly magical Talbot. Also, there’s a whole slew of agents straight from the Matrix for target practice. We see the return of the sassy Australian Chloe Frazer and Nate’s on-again-off-again lady Elena Fisher. We also have a new member among the band of thieves who I won’t name because, in the words of River Song, “SPOILERS.”
So, we set upon a grandiose adventure that not only introduces us to lovely locals but is also engaging story-wise. You’ve probably heard that the games run like a film, which is 100% true. It is popcorn action film craziness – but in all the best ways. My affinity for the series comes from the connection you make with the characters, and they, honest-to-God, force you to care about them. While the previous game had a more solid plot, this one excels in character development. There is an overwhelming sense of danger and urgency that permeates everything. The ending left me with a few more questions than I would have liked, but I was too busy enjoying my post-coitus emotional haze to think about it.
While we’re talking story, let me spend a moment on the game’s art direction and storytelling. If you are even looking at these pictures, you can tell that this game is GORGEOUS. Every little scene is rendered with meticulous detail. Locals are not only real but living and thriving with activity. Temples have unparalleled imagination in their design. As a proud owner of the Uncharted 2 art book, I can attest that Naughty Dog has an excellent sense of color schemes and their effects on a specific scene’s mood. It is almost a shame how amazing everything looks, because there are chase scenes where you really want to stop and look around but OHSHITGUYSARECHASINGTIMETOHAULASS. I shouldn’t have to talk VA work and mo-cap because you all know it’s great. Nolan North, my imaginary lover/enemy does his damnedest. The character animations are even more contact sensitive – at times, it makes Nate walk like he’s drunk, but it’s great overall.
There are moments in the game that are pure storytelling. You aren’t shooting or climbing but just sheer experiencing things. If anyone remembers the last game’s Nepalese village level – well, there are a handful of scenes like that one. For example, there is a section in the desert that is beautiful and engrossing in which I was just caught up in the goddamn sand and scarf physics. SCARF PHYSICS, GUYS.
I have been rambling for so long that I should probably talk gameplay. You climb and you gun. You climb and gun at the same time. You nearly escape sudden death about a million times and climb like a goddamn ape on steroids. No really, Nate is freaking superhuman. He either suffers from the worst of luck or the best of luck, because he gets shot so many times and suffers from every sort of possible calamity BUT SURVIVES. I think Nate has Adamantium bones, because he should be dead.
The game feels harder. Some enemies just won’t die unless you load, like, a full clip into them, which can be a bit frustrating. There are also really inventive shooting sequences, like a section in a shipyard where each platform floats separately, and a ship in a storm that will make you seasick, maybe… it made me seasick. The camera can be a hindrance, because it wants to be too cinematic for its own good. I will say that I HATE the few running sequences where Nate runs towards the camera as your path breaks apart on account of apocalyptic doom, because these scenes are hard as fuck.
I’ve been putting you guys through my rants, so one last statement: Buy the game. Enjoy it like I enjoyed it. Have fun. Become an emotional wreck. Shoot hundreds of people and explore temples that for some reason nobody has discovered yet. And when you do, you’re welcome.