Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

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Uncharted 3.jpg

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Playstation 3, remastered for PS4
Developed by Naughty Dog
Released in 2011

After Uncharted 2 drove me to the edge of my patience with its drawn-out story and seemingly endless puzzle-platforming segments, it was with some hesitation and much delay that I started playing Drake’s Deception, the third game in the series and final installment on the excellent Playstation 3.

What a coincidence

We kick the game off with Drake and Sully arriving in a pub where they are meant to make a trade for Drake’s ring, which once belonged to his ancestor, the legendary explorer Sir Francis Drake. The deal goes sour and the duo end up chasing after the buyer, a sadistic woman from Sully’s past that wants to know the same thing as our heroes: why did Francis Drake disappear for a few months during his voyages, where did he go, and what did he find there?

Uncharted 3 Talbot.png

To this end Drake and Sully once again team up with Zoe, Elena, and newcomer Charlie Cutter, which is a little awkward. Everybody in the plot treats Charlie as if he has always been there and we are supposed to already know the guy. Not helping here is that he really doesn’t get much of an introduction or any development at all until he suddenly vanishes from the plot. A shame, because with a little effort he could have been a worthy addition to the cast; he has a fun, English accent, some endearing quirks and fun lines, but he is just dropped in there for a few missions before vanishing.

In fact, most of the story here feels distinctly thrown together with many of the transitions and setpieces making little sense. Early on in the game Drake finds a clue to a puzzle in a book and immediately concludes the puzzle must be in this very same room. Characters even ask how he knows that without getting much of a response. Later down the line Drake runs away from a few goons in a middle-eastern city and enters a random building to hide, which just happens to turn out to be the entrance to a mythical, underground labyrinth he needed to get to. How has nobody ever found that before despite it being behind an unlocked door in a populated part of the city? So much of the plot hangs together by coincidences and leaps of logic.

Uncharted 3 Cutter

It’s a well-known fact that Naughty Dog comes up with fun set-pieces first and finds story justifications for it later, and never has that been more obvious than here. Drake and crew warp all across the world to be in the right place for iconic moments to happen, and the villains really fail to establish a presence throughout all this. While a little more memorable than previous bad guys, you don’t really feel like you learn much of anything about these villains and what motivates them. One of them is just suddenly introduced halfway through the plot and only has 3 conversations before dying.

By now it’s also a little too apparent that Naughty Dog is just plundering ideas from the previous games and the Indiana Jones series, leading to a lot of this plot having the exact same twists as Uncharted 2 and The Last Crusade in particular. While I won’t spoil the ending, the entire final confrontation takes this problem to its extreme and left me actually surprised at how shameless it all is. Really makes you wonder if Naughty Dog actually employs writers at all.

Story score: 2.5/10

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Just like how the story is pieced together from bits of the previous games, the gameplay follows a similar strategy: just use the old stuff again!

Uncharted 3 is a mix of platforming, third-person shooting, and puzzle solving. To the game’s credit, puzzles are a bit more sophisticated this time around and there are more of them. It’s just kind of lame that the solution to all of them is opening up the notebook and have it outright tell you what to do. Even in situations where the notebook proves insufficient, the characters are overly eager to hint at what you should do or point out where to move when you are missing a piece of the puzzle or vital clue.

Uncharted 3 body

The combat is basically the same and remains functional; a simple cover-based shooter where you can have a main weapon and a side-arm, as well as a number of grenades. I believe there are some new guns here, but they tick off the same familiar checklist of shotguns, assault rifles, etc. New is the ability to throw grenades back at your foe through a quick-time event, but this comes at the cost of firefights being notably less interesting than they were in the previous two games. Especially compared to the second game, the arenas you fight in have a lot less options to them and the battles are rarely as complex and engaging as they were before.

Stealth was Among Thieves‘ new toy and is now a lot less present. While there are still parts where you can use it to clear out baddies before needing to draw guns, it felt like stealth is broken a lot easier and more arbitrarily than before, nor are there many options to clear out entire areas using just stealth. Fistfights are more developed though, now featuring grapple moves, environmental attacks, counters, and big guys that take a lot of punishment. While these are fun and the game is eager to throw you into such fights, it isn’t particularly hard to master and especially the brutes are really easy, as the quick-time events to counter or dodge them give you way too much time to respond.

Uncharted 3 horses.jpg

Platforming hasn’t budged an inch and remains an unchallenging, underdeveloped mess. As long as you keep holding the button to move forward, Drake will proceed automatically. Platforms might crumble as you jump or hang from them, but so long as you keep moving the threat is all bark and no bite; a fake sense of urgency. To the game’s credit, never before has it been this easy to figure out where to start with your platforming, with stuff you can climb on being much easier to spot than ever before, and many platforming segment now taking place in linear segments. It makes it less tedious, but man does this part of the game need some sort of spice to it.

Gameplay score: 4.5/10

“Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks”

The first two games in the series were relatively consistent with their themes: the first took place in jungles, #2 had the icy reaches of Nepal, but the third opts for more variety. After a start in London where we pick up Charlie, whose main role is being as obviously British as possible, we detour through France before hitting up the middle-east for a bit. It won’t surprise anybody that all of these different areas look great, with a lot of detail worked into them and the graphical quality turned up to max.

Uncharted 3 lost city.jpg

In fact, my favorite part of the game is a bit where Drake, Elena, and Sully walk around a city in Yemen and you see all the people going about their business and speaking Arabian. A beautiful segment that is only slightly ruined by Drake trying to stay under the radar despite wearing a sweat-drenched, muddy shirt he must have scooped up in a bin. How did he even get on the plane wearing that and why does nobody tell the guy to take a darn shower?

Slight issues like that notwithstanding, this is an excellent-looking game with a great voice cast. The actors for Elena, Drake, Sully, and Zoe return to reprise their roles once more. The little known actress Rosalind Ayres lends just the right touch to the utterly detestable Marlowe and her favorite goon Talbot is voiced by Robin Atkin Downes, Travis Touchdown from No More Heroes, Faldio Landzaat from Valkyria Chronicles, and many other characters from many different games, movies, and shows. Seeing Graham McTavish back after he voiced the villain of Uncharted 2 is a bit weird, but he does a great job hamming up the Britishness of Charlie.

Presentation score: 8/10

Trash hunt

In terms of extras the game once again features a huge supply of treasures players can chase after and some simplistic achievements, but these aren’t that interesting for a game you play just once and then forget about entirely.

Extras score: 3/10

Verdict

Uncharted 3 is a pretty game that obviously had a lot of effort sunk into it, but lacking an entertaining story and having the gameplay mostly take steps back leaves it devoid of much value. If you just want some pretty adventure game to jump around and shoot some baddies in, then it might be sufficient. Otherwise you can safely skip it.

45/100

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