Uncharted 3 Review - November 7th 2011

Uncharted 3's greatest trick is also its most confusing: it's difficult to tell who's playing - you or the game? You crash land in the desert, splintered shards of your cargo plane smoking in the sand around you. Our hero, plucky treasure hunter Nathan Drake, picks himself up, brushes a million grains of the Rub' al Khali out of his hair, and pauses. Then it dawns...the cutscene finished 30 seconds ago. Love it or hate it, this is the ultimate in cinematic storytelling.


The Uncharted series has always been the ultimate in linearity too. Open world aficionados might see 'linear' as a byword for 'bad', but it's the only way to deliver properly paced, properly framed action. Another example lies in a Yemen dockyard. You'll edge along the rusted hull of a crumbling ocean liner when suddenly the gangway falls through. You turn from gamer to viewer as Drake plummets. The camera darts after the rogue as he falls towards the water, at the last moment clutching a porthole with his fingertips and clawing himself back to solid ground. "I'll need a tetanus shot after this", he wisecracks. Seamlessly, you're back in control. This happens a lot, and it's exhilarating.

The graphics and animation are phenomenal.

It's also disconcerting, gameplay sometimes feeling like an illusion. It won't stop you anxiously jabbing buttons during cutscenes - it's that involving - but at times it's spitting distance from the dreaded quick time event (of which there are a few). Combat, for instance, thrives on the stuff. It recalls the best bits of Batman: Arkham Asylum, surrounding you with goons and giving you just one fisticuffs button, but lacks its smooth, rhythmic flow, and mid-fight button prompts are a needless aggravation. What it gains is beautifully brawly punchups straight out of an Indiana Jones flick; you'll grab ruffians by the collar, belt them with combos and, if the context is right, smash them over the head with a piece of scenery. It's a major improvement, even if enemies require a bit too much attention in later levels.

Throw guns into the mix, however, and the game might as well punch you in the face. At various junctions (you'll know you're in one when you see lots of waist-high cover) you're overrun by a 'Best Of' collection of goons: nimble and evasive foes who rush you, soldiers on turrets to pin you down, and bullet-sponge heavies who'll laugh off your grenades like a Lee Evans one-liner. The difficulty spike is almost barbaric. Approach it like a cover shooter and you'll find yourself flanked; move around too much and gunfire will cut you down. Enemies are too numerous, too powerful, and too smart if you aren't well versed in Uncharted's distinctive multiplayer. If you are, there's potential. Levels are built to be parkoured through, cover well placed to pirouette between as you pop off a few rounds and move on. These are lessons only the multiplayer could've taught.

Voice acting is superb.

And the multiplayer expands, firefights liberating pleasures that reveal Marcus Fenix for the unwieldy tank he is. Taking cues from the campaign, Naughty Dog have added a cinematic bent to the action. One mode puts a team on the ramp of a speeding cargo plane with the mission to fight off another group of players chasing in an army of jeeps. Another sees you rescuing a captive from a camp, bookended by cutscenes featuring faces from the story. It's not as satisfying as Battlefield 3 or Halo Reach, and it's hard to master simultaneous shooting and climbing, but there's a definite gap in the market for a more balletic online shooter.

The Uncharted series is defined by set pieces. With firefights often a drag (which is true now more than ever) Drake swings from one feat of seat-of-your-pants daring to the next like a chino-wearing Tarzan: a burning chateau, sinking cruise liner and airplane hijack are best, with a horseback attack on a convoy this year's 'train bit', and a late jump-the-shark moment this year's 'blue people bit'. There's stealth filler in between, but disregard that; there's no better example of PS3 pulling power than an Uncharted 3 set piece.


Ben Griffin

 

Gameplay:

You are not always at the helm, but its always rip-roaring stuff.

Audio:

Brilliant voice work from Nolan North and co, and a sumptuous score.

Graphics:

The desert level. Oh God, the desert level.

Longevity:

A 7-hour campaign, but well considered co op and multiplayer.

     

Final Score:



Uncharted 3 is a thrill ride. You cant deviate from the track, and you certainly cant stop the engine, but really, why would you want to?

 

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