Summary [7.5 out of 10]:
Uncharted 3 is the disappointing third game in an otherwise incredible series. I love Uncharted. I bought my PS3 with the express purpose of playing the first game and I thought the second game was one of the best ever made. I expected this same level of quality from the third entry but what I found was an experience that felt very rushed and lacked the polish of the previous entries. The story has always been a strong point in the series but here we are handed a story that is full of holes and has very little originality or the heart that the other games have had. It all felt very flat and boring. This sadly extends to the action which is repetitive and often frustrating with a broken targeting system and faulty platforming. This isn’t a horrible game but it is not a very good one either. If we were talking to some random game or series then that would be fine but this coming from Uncharted is heartbreaking.
What It’s Like:
- Previous Uncharted games: In many ways this game is like a by the numbers version of the other games with all the story notes and action notes that we’ve seen before without the high quality execution. This game feels like a lesser developer tried to do their own version of Uncharted with half the time and half the budget.
- Tomb Raider: Obviously Tomb Raider is a similar series but in this case I am talking about the quality. Tomb Raider eventually became stale with frustrating action and controls. Uncharted 3 sadly follows this pattern with gameplay that is satisfying when it hits but most of the time misses.
- Graphics: The Uncharted series has long been the benchmark of graphical fidelity for not only the PS3 but video games in general. You would be hard pressed to name a game that looks better and Uncharted 3 continues this trend with graphics that are close to photo realistic. From in game action to cut scenes this is one of the best looking games you are likely to ever play. The animation is also very smooth and fluid with no glitches or tearing to take you out of the game.
- Voice Acting: Another hallmark of the series is the voice acting and it is firing on all cylinders here. Nolan North again delivers a terrific performance as Nathan Drake and the other returning voice actors are excellent as well. For a game that trades off of the sense of family and friendship as much as this one does, chemistry between the characters is essential. It is hard to imagine that with voice acting in a video game but that is what we get here. The new characters and villains are equally well represented making the voice work pretty much a perfect package.
- Cool Set Pieces: There are some moments, like a ill fated plane trip and an equally doomed boat ride, that are really cool and exciting to see. That you play through these moments is pretty incredible and makes them very exciting aside from the visual aspect of them. The controls on these segments tend to be typical timed button sequences but occasionally you have to jump and shoot freely and those are the most intense of these moments. Generally these sections play pretty well. Had the rest of the game gone as well, it would have been in much better shape.
- General Gameplay: In the most general of senses, the gameplay remains solid when it works. The general set up is unchanged and is solid as far as it goes. Sadly, it doesn’t go far enough and some of the individual elements are inexplicabley broken.
- Puzzles: There aren’t as many puzzles as in previous games but the ones found here are pretty interesting and intuitive enough to be fun without being too frustrating. Normally I am not a big fan of puzzles in these sorts of games but here I wished there were a few more.
- Hand to Hand: While melee combat has been a part of previous games, there is much more of an focus put on it here. It works pretty well even if it does get a little repetitive. Given the difficulty with the targeting in the game, melee combat becomes very important. There were many times I gave up shooting an enemy and just bum rushed him and took care of him using hand to hand. This system with the targeting of the previous games would be a perfect combat package.
- Multi-player: Uncharted 3 brings back a solid multiplayer mode that offers up a unique game play experience from a lot of other competitive multiplayer modes. The gameplay in this mode, including the targeting and climbing, is solid and you have a lot of tactical options. If you are feeling the strain of the typical first person shooter multiplayer, this is a good alternative.
- Rushed: While I will get into more specific complaints below the game as whole just has a rushed feeling to it and it lacks the polish of previous entries. You can waste a hour wandering around because a cut scene didn’t trigger when it was supposed to or end up fighting an endless stream of enemies if you didn’t advance to the right checkpoint at the right time. These sorts of things are just sloppy and take away from the over all experience. This shouldn’t happen in a AAA title especially not one of the best ones of this generation. Perhaps more time polishing would have fixed this up. Hopefully in the future Naughty Dog will release the game when it is done and not when they want it ready for Christmas.
- Story: One would think that with the same writer across all three games the story for this one would be just as good and just as satisfying as previous titles but unfortunately the story here is unsatisfying, unengaging and just generally falls flat. There is an attempt to make it more personal and meaningful but with holes and twists that are not effective the story just falls on its face. Taking it a step further, the McGuffin is uninteresting and difficult to get terribly excited about. It just doesn’t feel as creative as previous efforts. I just couldn’t get involved in the story and for a series well established as having the best stories in video games, this is a major blow.
- Broken platforming: There have been plenty of series with the sort of climbing and platforming that Uncharted offers but this series has always done it the best. It is nice to have an intuitive system you don’t have to fight with or isn’t so demanding that you are having to line every jump up down to the pixel. For some reason, the platforming in Uncharted 3 has taken some steps back in this area and there are a lot more instant deaths from places that look safe to jump but plunge you headlong to your death. That is almost acceptable in the main flow of the game where you can take your time but given the amount of chases in this game and abject lack of leeway offered during pursuit, this becomes very frustrating. If you don’t hit just the right spot in a lot of these areas you will get hung up on the wall or plummet to death. This makes sequences that should be exciting and gripping and turns them into controller throwing rage corridors. I would just assume that I suck at these sections if I hadn’t played this series before but given that these moments in previous games have been challenging but worked well, I can only conclude that it is a problem with mapping and collision detection.
- Broken Targeting: The first two games in the series have generally been awesome with targeting. The gun fighting sequences have always been intense and challenging but that has been because of the AI and finding the right tactics. In Uncharted 3, the targeting is very loose and, regardless of the weapon you are using, you can have an enemy’s face in the cross hairs and you will still miss by a mile. This does not extend to the enemies themselves though as they will be filling your ass full of lead while you are emptying a clip into their face. Again, this isn’t a question of me sucking as I have never had these problems with any other games in the series. The targeting has always been spot on so the problem here is much more glaring than it would be otherwise. I found myself using CQC more often than not just to avoid the targeting issues. Given how much of the gameplay revolves around gun fighting, this is a pretty unacceptable issue and could have been easily fixed with some polish, but like a lot of things in the game it just feels rushed and unfinished.
- Broken Checkpoints: For some reason the checkpoints and cut scene triggers are pretty easy to miss by doing nothing in particular. There was a particular moment in which I spent an hour running around trying to advance to the next spot and never could. When turned the game back on the next day I lingered a little bit longer on the trigger spot that I had been fighting with the night before and a cut scene advanced me to the next sequence. If that happened once I would let it go but it happened again and again, sometimes even in the midst of combat. This is a frustrating thing and brings otherwise cinematic gameplay to a screeching halt.
Conclusion [7.5 out of 10]
Look, I know this will not be a popular score. I have seen this game rated ridiculously high from other outlets and I really wish I had gotten to play whatever game it was they were reviewing but it is what it is. I wanted this game to be just as awesome as one and two but it just wasn’t. Tweaks and polish could have gone a long way to fix a lot of the problems here but as shipped, the game goes from being an epic and near perfect experience to a slightly above average one. This is heartbreaking for a series that is normally so goo. I hope that the next iteration can get the series back on track and I hope that Uncharted: Golden Abyss for the PSVita, which I suspect is the culprit here as resources were likely divided, is awesome. I still love Uncharted but the third installment just didn’t measure up to previous games in the series.