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Best of it's genre

Review: Uncharted 3 Drake’s Deception

by May 4, 2012

Uncharted 3 is the (obviously) third installment in Sony’s famous Uncharted franchise. For anyone not familiar with the series you play as the hero Nathan Drake, he’s an Indiana Jones archetype that’s handsome, witty and charismatic.

Like Indiana he also goes looking for adventure and fortune and in Uncharted 3 it’s to find the fabled “Atlantis of the Sands”.

Now…where did I park?

You start the game in a pub where things go sour fast and are shown a rundown of the melee controls. They’re simple yet effective with basic “attack, counter, throw” commands that handle a swarm of thugs with relative ease. There’s some timing to get down but for the most part you’ll be dispatching foes with various sorts of fisticuffs with minimal effort.

From that point on, the game sends you on a wondrous journey across the globe tracking down your ultimate prize. Along the way there are the expected twists and turns of the Uncharted variety and it’s all done very well. The story itself is captivating and interesting enough to make someone keep playing and in some cases that’s a really good thing.

I’ve already talked about the melee combat and I’m happy to report that the shooting is just as well done, mostly. Aiming and firing is done with the left and right bumpers of the controller and that’s flawless, what’s less then flawless are the results when you fire on someone. Nathan Drake isn’t a mercenary or soldier so we can’t expect perfect marksmanship but the aiming reticule is more of a guess to where the bullets will land.  Not that it matters where you aim all that much because the game does not reward skill, instead skilled players will grow more and more frustrated seeing enemies take comedic amounts of fire and still be alive and kicking. Even if you do hit the mark you’ll wind up not getting the desired result. A head shot is usually a one shot kill in most games, at the very most it’s 2 shots but in Uncharted 3 head shots are 3 and 4, maybe 5 shots for a kill. If you’re aiming at a body then be prepared to fill an enemy with a dozen or more shots to make them fall. No matter what difficulty you play on expect to go through a lot of ammo.

“Let’s see, 3 bad guys taking 12 shots each, I’m gonna need more ammo”

That leads me to my second complaint, the idea that you need to press a button to gather extra ammo that’s on the ground. Now I have no problem with a game asking me to press a button if I want to swap a weapon I currently have with one on the ground but to make me press just for ammo? It’s obnoxious in this day and age. There’s a whole line between realistic and arcade and the trick is to make the mundane tasks seamless, automatically picking up ammo you run over helps games because it clears out that mundane activity. Naughty Dog seems to think that it adds to the realism but to that argument I present the punishment that the enemies can take and still come at you.

I found myself sneaking up and around obstacles in levels just so I could engage as many people as possible in melee combat because I didn’t want to use my gun. To me this is a clear sign that something is broken in your design, if your gameplay involving guns is so poor that someone is literally bringing their fists to a gunfight you have to fix it.

The second thing that you’ll notice, during combat especially, is the way that Nathan moves. In order to make his movements realistic he’s programmed to come back to a certain stance. It’s much the way that characters move in the NBA 2K series, they’ll perform whatever action you want and then go back to a “ready” stance. For the most part this movement is great for traversing levels when exploring but in combat it leads to Nathan moving like he’s got an inner ear problem and will have you taking unnecessary hits and bullets because of how Nathan lunged.

The movement is great for traversing levels when exploring but in combat it leads to Nathan moving like he’s got an inner ear problem.

Also Naughty Dog, we could excuse no crouch in the first game, the second game was iffy, this time there is no reason that Nathan Drake can only move perfectly upright. He can take cover and move from cover just fine and you’ll find that depending on the difficulty you’ll be doing it quite often, but as far as moving around during a gunfight you’re stuck standing upright and that’s it.

Despite those problems this is a game that compels you to finish the story because you have a genuine affection for the characters. Nathan Drake is as likable as ever and his partner Sully is completely fleshed out as a character this go round. There are other characters along for the ride but Naughty Dog wanted this to be Nathan’s and Sully’s journey and it shows in how the story unfolds. Besides the scenarios we’ve grown accustomed to from Uncharted we also get to play Nathan as a child in sequences that tell how he got involved in this lifestyle from the beginning. These levels play out much the way the older Nathan Drake levels do except that there’s no fighting, it’s pure exploration and puzzles.

Speaking of that, exploration and puzzles are polished to the hilt and are the best they’ve ever been. There’s a sense that these set pieces were carefully planned and tie together perfectly, while you’ll do everything from start in a pub, meet pirates and run into the modern day version of the Arabian Knights it never seems disjointed or halfhearted during the 10 to 12 hours it’ll take you to finish the campaign.

The sound and music are both fantastic with some of the best voice work in the industry paired with powerful and memorable themes, from a pure audio level it’s a masterpiece.

The visuals are also fantastic, Uncharted is one of the titles that Sony loves to show off when it comes to the power of the PS3 and one look will show you why. It’s one of the best looking games this generation. Everything from character models to the design of the set pieces, it’s all top shelf quality.

When you’ve reached the end of your journey in single player there’s multiplayer to sink your teeth into. You have the choice to play in classic multiplayer modes or co-op either in split screen or online with up to three people. The different modes are as follows with the game’s descriptions.

  • Team Deathmatch: A fight to the end with teammates at your side
  • Plunder: Bring the idol back to your base
  • Team Objective: Complete objective before your enemies, best of 5
  • Three Team Deathmatch: Grab a buddy and take on two other teams
  • Free For All: You fight alone and the victory is all yours
  • Hardcore: Nothing but extra health
  • Co-op Arena: Survive waves of soldiers
  • Co-op Hunter Arena: You and your friend against the world….and other people
  • Co-op Adventure: Story based co-op missions with 2-3 players

So we have the usual suspects with deathmatch, capture the flag and hoard style modes to pick from along with the co-op storyline missions.

Melee combat is simple and satisfying

Overall all modes played just fine with little to no lag, I do have an issue about the co-op adventure mode though. When you go into the menu you and the other two members vote on what level you’re going to do, I prefer that the leader of the group selects the level but that’s more of a preference thing. Secondly, the difficulty is also voted on and this to me seems a bit unfair. I had just started playing but my other two teammates, both higher level then myself, selected crushing for the difficulty and then we started the match with me being vastly underpowered to every single bad guy in the level.

After I got my rear handed to me I started another match and the final vote was the easiest setting and everything was going well until someone got disconnected and the whole level reset. As I played more this would happen every single time and I have to say it’s one of the worst things ever for online gaming. The idea that we can’t have drop in and drop out gameplay is absurd. To have the game restart when someone drops out is just wrong. If you don’t want drop in drop out that’s fine, at least let the match keep going once someone leaves, don’t start the scenario over with whoever is left.

 

WHY IT MAY BE HELPFUL WITH ANXIETY

  • Great story and characters that will help take your mind off of focusing on yourself and anxiety
  • Controls are easy to pick up and play so even if you’re anxious you won’t be performing complicated maneuvers

WHY IT MAY BE UNHELPFUL WITH ANXIETY

  • Some parts a bit creepy
  • Quick time events mean that if you’re dealing with cold/numb hands or just aren’t focused all the way you’re going to have to restart many checkpoints

WHY YOU SHOULD BE PLAYING THIS

For story and presentation alone Uncharted 3 is worth a play through for everyone. Sure, having to empty an entire clip in every bad guy is annoying and there are some boss type characters that are a bit on the unfair side but when you take this game in as a whole it’s an enjoyable trip from start to finish.

For anxiety I can highly recommend it because it does a great job of making you think about and feel for the characters. It’s the rare game that makes you put an emotional investment into it’s characters. A story that draws you in and the easy to use controls makes the majority of this game anxiety friendly.

This review was based on the PS3 version that was provided by the reviewer.

Overview
Release Date

Nov 1, 2011

Digital or Retail

Retail

Platform

PS3

Developer

Naughty Dog

Publisher

SCEA

Badges
AwardsBest of it's genrePlay it no matter whatConsistently good games from developer
Positives

Amazing characters, engaging story, great visuals, masterful soundtrack, outstanding voicework

Negatives

Gunplay is a mess, quick time events are tacked on

Nathan Drake circles the globe once again

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Story
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Sound
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