Review – Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

I often wonder what authorities think when they come across the carnage left in the wake of Nathan Drake. As a gunfight raged through what was essentially a museum, I could only theorize on how the discovery would go. Would they blame gang violence? Surely they wouldn’t easily arrive at the conclusion that one dude and his murderous friends were so dead-set on finding treasure, that they readily mowed down dozens of paid mercenaries.

It’s a strange world that Drake lives in. Satellite mapping apparently doesn’t exist, else it would probably find these lost cities that he keeps blowing up. Villains seem to know exactly what biological terror is behind the legends and curses that are intended to keep people at bay. The police only selectively respond to the sound of gunfire. Literally, hundreds of dudes sign up to get shot in the name of archeology. Gosh, what a strange place.

Golly, everything you touch just disintegrates around you, doesn’t it, Drake? (Image source: mobygames.com)

A WHIMSICAL WORLD

At least this time around, multiple characters finally ask Drake the important question: “What the hell is wrong with you?” You never get an answer to that, though. Drake basically shrugs it off and continues dragging his homicidal comrades through ancient ruins. This time around its Iram of the Pillars, a lost city that is… lost? If you’re like me, you almost don’t want Drake to find it, because he’ll doubtlessly just blow it up.

To boil it down, this is probably the worst plot in the whole series. It delves into Drake’s past as a way of establishing a connection to the villain, as well as confirm that Drake has been a dick for most of his life and that maybe Sully, his father figure, had a hand in it. It ties in a lot of stuff that has been hanging around the series, such as Drake’s ring for some reason. There’s this struggle to get everything to fit together, but the threads connecting everything are sloppily tied. It feels that Uncharted 3 isn’t really about anything. It feels like it tries for some underlying theme, whether that’s Drake’s lack of motivation, his parents, or the villain’s shadowy organization. There’s no payoff to anything, it continues to be rickety the whole way through.

THE PAYOFF

The gameplay, on the other hand, was more palatable to me this time around. Uncharted 1 felt like nothing special, and Uncharted 2 was great until it devolved into hours of slogging through waves of dudes. Uncharted 3 strikes a better balance and provides more variety. It’s willing to slow down every once and a while, and even throws fisticuffs in place of constantly firing at dudes behind waist-high cover. It’s still a bunch of corridors connecting nodes of entertainment — almost nauseatingly formulaic at this point — but at least it has new ways to keeps things fresh.

The action set pieces are entertaining as well, though some of them seem a bit forced. There’s nothing as exciting as dodging a helicopter while running across the roof of a train, but there are some exciting sections that help pad out all the face shooting you do from behind cover and all the climbing of ancient ruins. It’s also spread out a lot more evenly, so you’re not left slogging through dudes for the last 3 hours, like in Uncharted 2. Likewise, there’s a better focus on plot this time around, even if the plot winds up being kind of dumb.

You can’t even ride in a plane without destroying it! (Image source: mobygames.com)

KIND OF DUMB

The antagonist this time around is an old woman and a dude who walks around like a discount Scarecrow from Batman. They’re part of an ancient order from Britain that Sir Francis Drake was once part of. That may sound pretty cool, but it’s one of those facets of the story that never get a payoff.

The antagonists are pretty weak overall. It’s become somewhat tiresome to have some lofty figure that commands an army of identical dudes, and this one is the worst lofty figure. Aside from the fact that the old lady isn’t that hands-on and prefers to just jab you with her sharp tongue, she has an unexplained relationship with her number 2 that, once again, doesn’t get a payoff. He’s a dude who has access to hallucinogens that somehow mind-control their victims, and he can survive bullets in a way that is once again unexplained. It’s hard to feel threatened by them when the best they can do is read your diary and send waves of their men at you.

If you get the running theme here, it’s that Uncharted 3 just never cashes in on what it’s setting up. Even the big mystery everyone is trying to solve isn’t as intriguing as the previous ones, even if the villain wants to utilize it for the exact same damned purposes. It retreads the same plot points as the previous games, but trips over the delivery. It comes across as tired and confused.

TIRED AND CONFUSED

I’ve long since realized that the Uncharted games just aren’t for me. The storylines are just too safe to really enthrall me, and the gameplay is about as dry as the Rub’ Al Khali desert. Nathan Drake and his friends are likeable enough, but they’re likable in that innocuous way. There’s very little friction, even when there should be. They’ve got easy flaws, they’re roguish, but not in an offensive way.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing if that’s what you’re looking for. There’s nothing wrong with liking the video game equivalent of a popcorn adventure. It’s just not much fun for me. The plot gives me very little reason to wade through waves of dudes, and the climbing just seems to bog things down. The puzzles are so linear and unrewarding that they almost feel like pointless distractions. Even if Uncharted 3 was a sterling example of the entire series, I don’t think I’d be any more charitable to it. It’s just a series that isn’t for me.

There’s a lot more fisticuffs this time around. (Image source: mobygames.com)

A STERLING EXAMPLE

For that matter, Uncharted 3 is exactly like the previous games, just with a few more fists. That makes it something of a tough sell because everything here has been done but done better. Combat hasn’t improved, climbing is as predictable as it ever was, and the puzzles are just as sparse. It feels less polished, less well thought out. As much as I complain about the previous games, at least they at least smelled like high production values. This time around, you can see the seams and it makes the product seem less impressive.

At the same time, it’s probably my favourite in the series to actually play. It’s paced a lot better than Uncharted 2 and features more variety than Uncharted 1. The story is substantially weaker, and the game feels cheaper, but it’s also more fun. It doesn’t devolve into a slog, and that’s important to me. But if it’s a tale of derring-do that you crave, then this may disappoint. It’s gold plated wood; pretty, but it feels cheap, insubstantial, and it’s easy to tell that something’s off.

6/10

This review was conducted on a PS4 using the game version featured in the Nathan Drake Collection. It was paid for by the author.

About Adzuken 146 Articles
Adzuken has been gaming for as far back as they can remember. Their eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer.

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