So I was bored at work today with nothing much to do... Ok, there was stuff to do, but I didn't feel like doing that stuff, so I decided to write my opinion of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, having finished the game last night with mixed emotions.
***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!***
I loved Uncharted 2, it did pretty much everything right, and whilst Uncharted 3 has undoubtedly improved (albeit only marginally) upon its predecessor in some areas, I was surprised by how stubbornly it refused to progress in others. This adds up, for me at least, to an enjoyable but slightly disappointing experience.
First of all, the game looks better than ever. The series has always pushed the limits of what the PS3 can do, and Uncharted 3 is no exception. Environments are lush and highly detailed, landscapes are sweeping and photorealistic, and the characters have never looked so good. The motion capture animation plays a big part in bringing them to life, as does the same outstanding voice acting that we've come to expect. In short, graphically and artistically the game has no equal.
The platforming too seems to have been tightened up. In previous games I found these sections a little cumbersome and sloppy when compared to games like Assassin's Creed, Prince Of Persia or Tomb Raider. I noticed quite an improvement in Uncharted 3. The speed with which Drake climbs and jumps now feels more fluid, and traversable objects are a little more easily identifiable than before. The shooting and cover mechanics have also been tweaked for the better. I experienced fewer instances of Drake sticking to the wrong bit of cover or getting stuck behind AI allies.
The various set pieces are as breathtaking as ever, and even though many are obviously lifted from well-known movies (Indiana Jones, Poseidon Adventure, The Mummy…anyone?) they still bring a foolish grin to your face.
OK, so far so good. Now onto the negative…
My biggest gripe is with the story. The plots in this series have always been little more than a means to an end, a flimsy thread to tie together the various outstanding set pieces. And until now that has been entirely forgivable. The characters, acting and writing have always more than made up for tired storylines.
However, the story for Uncharted 3 is almost a carbon copy of the previous game. Only the locations and villains have changed. Drake, Sully, Elena, Chloe, etc. are out to find a lost city (in Uncharted 2 it was Shambhala, in Uncharted 3 it's Iram of the Pillars). Said lost city contains some forgotten artefact (Uncharted 2 – the Cintamani Stone, Uncharted 3 – the brass vessel containing imprisoned djinn) before some bad guys (Uncharted 2 – Lazarevic/Flynn, Uncharted 3 – Marlowe/Talbot) get there first and use said artefact to effectively take over/destroy the world. I thought this was really lazy storytelling, and it annoyed me more and more as the story unfolded and I realised how identical it was.
Another thing I found annoying was the circumstances of Drake and Elena's relationship. So apparently since the previous game they got married, and subsequently separated. Fine. But why? The reasons behind their apparent estrangement are never mentioned, almost as though it's inconsequential. What makes this omission even worse is that at the end of the game they are apparently back together, presumably having reconciled whatever differences drove them apart, without the need for even a conversation. I find this kind of thing really insulting, like the writers don't even credit their audience with enough intelligence to notice such gaping plot holes.
The third thing that let the game down for me was the desert sequence after the plane crash. After all the pulse-pounding action that had filled the game up to that point, the sudden slow-down is jarring as Drake spends no less than twenty minutes aimlessly wandering the wasteland. Of course, I realise there's not much else he can do in such a situation, but the whole thing could've been handled better with a cutscene, rather than forcing me to guide him around the featureless landscape with nothing to engage me.
And lastly, the spiders. Yes, really cool and scary (although very obviously inspired by the dreaded scarab beetles from the Mummy). I kept waiting for an explanation for these giant mutant spider swarms that popped up in France, Syria and Yemen. I thought to myself, there's going to be some really cool reason these things exist, and why they live in such random places. But no. Nothing. So, we're just supposed to accept the existence and random placement of these things are we? And without an explanation for them, it feels like a thoughtlessly tacked-on device that serves no purpose other than to thrill for the sake of it.
So there it is. I know this may be a bit controversial, given how the gaming community as a whole seems to be virtually humping the game's leg. I DID enjoy Uncharted 3, but as a whole package I found it inferior to its predecessor, let down by poor storytelling, some bad pacing, and a complete lack of innovation. I would even go so far as to say that if you played Among Thieves and liked it, you wouldn't really be missing out on much if you gave Drake's Deception a miss.