Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was released in 2011 for the PlayStation 3, and re-released in the remastered “Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection” in 2015 for the PS4 along with its two predecessors. I waited about two weeks after playing Uncharted 2 before jumping into this, because I knew to manage my expectations… and because it was the holidays and I didn’t have time to play this thing all the way through. Even though I tried to keep my expectations lower than they would have been, I still have mixed feelings about this game as a whole. Of course, there are many improvements featured in this game that outshine the first two games, but all in all, this game falls way short of the second game in the collection.
The story in this game is honestly more of the same: there’s a secret coveted item or place and we have to find it before the villain does, it’s a story we expect to see in Uncharted games, which is totally fine, but I didn’t think this game added much, which is the big drawback for me. First, let’s talk about the positives: the game looks gorgeous. This is by far the most aesthetically pleasing game in the saga thus far, and that’s not just saying a lot about the remastered graphics, but also the artwork on screen is so nice to look at. It was chapter 18 that had me take a picture of the screen and send it to my friends with the caption “wow,” just admiring the look of the game. All of the following chapters, which take place in the desert as seen on the cover and poster, look just as impressive, and I was awe-struck just seeing what was on screen. Another aspect that was vastly improved was the fluidity of the controls and movements. It was very easy to maneuver and traverse and I never had any real problems with glitching or anything as I did occasionally in the first two games. The gun control felt good, although it was harder to pop off headshots than it was in the previous games, partially because the “crosshairs” look different, and seem to block part of my targets which annoyed me slightly.
Another aspect that the first didn’t have at all, and the second toyed around with a bit, was stealth. This game vastly improved the stealth missions and allowed me to take out enemies silently, even with a silenced pistol this time! In the last two games, I’d always have to go in guns blazing, but the AI is slightly more able to understand that they can’t see you when you’re hiding, which made killing more fun. Furthermore, this game takes the highly cinematic elements from the second game and delivers some that almost rival those. That being said, the game doesn’t really pick up or get interesting until the 5th chapter, which made the introduction kind of a chore to get through but it finally kicked into high gear with a great set piece in a collapsing, burning building. In the second game, there are about 10 amazing sequences, and there are about 5 or so in this game, but they’re just as fun to play in. Speaking of fun, this game had a lot, and I don’t want to undervalue the excitement just because I’m going to be focusing on some negative aspects for the rest of the review. This is a really good- in fact, great– game, and I’m only going to be saying a lot of negative things because all of the good aspects of this game can be found in the Uncharted 2, which I’ve already reviewed.
There are a lot of things in this game that don’t live up to the second, and the main thing is originality. This story felt so much like the last game, especially at the end, that I felt as though I’d already played it before. In the game, we’re searching for a lost city (just like the second), and it’s a race to there against the antagonist (just like the second), and I won’t tell you how it ends, but it felt very much recycled as well. I mean, it’s almost the exact same ending, minus the emotional slap in the face and the boss battle. Yeah, there’s no boss battle in this game, just henchmen-killing the entire time, and not even as fun as it was in the last game; I felt like I was simply playing through the motions. There are some henchmen that are larger than others, and I was always forced to fight them hand-to-hand and couldn’t kill them with bullets. This annoyed me for three reasons: a) they should’ve died when I shot them, but b) I’m forced to get into a fight with them, sometimes in the middle of trying to kill other people, and c) fighting them is just button-mashing with no skill, strategy or anything required. The guy walks up to you, you mash square until the game tells you to press triangle, and then repeat those steps until he’s unconscious. It’s a tedious and annoying trap, no doubt. Another thing that I thought was missing was the ability to sprint because running away from spiders and people sometimes was impossible, and it proved to be quite a challenge.
That being said, those instances were really the only times in the game that I felt challenged at all. I played this game on the same difficulty setting as the last two; the first one was easy, and the second one kicked my ass. This game was easy again, and I missed having the challenge even though it was very frustrating at times in 2. The puzzles in this game were also very simple, and I had no trouble breezing through them every time, whereas the second game (I’m going to keep drawing comparisons) had hard puzzles.The last aspect that didn’t live up to the predecessor was the characterization of the lead, and his relationships with his friends. Yes, this game focuses on Nate and Sully’s relationship first and foremost, but his relationship with Elena was the best part of the last two games, and actually got me to shed a tear at the end of the second. In that game, I laughed a lot at Nate’s jokes and really dug his character. In this game, he wasn’t nearly as fun or funny, and he just felt like he did in the first game again; this, of course, is far from being a bad thing, but I just feel like we took a few steps backward here.
I guess, if I were to find a silver lining here, I’d say that this game took the franchise back to its roots, but with set pieces reminiscent of the second game. There’s a happy way to say it:) But seriously, though, this game is a blast on its own, and only when drawing comparisons between it and the second (which set an impossible bar to beat), does it fail. One thing that I liked more about this game was that it maintained to be more “realistic” in the fact that it didn’t have zombies or strangely evolved beasts. In this game, all of the weird creatures we encounter are in hallucinations and don’t actually exist which made everything a little more believable (Nathan Drake can still move 10-ton stones by himself, though). Lastly, the best thing that I can say about this game is that it feels like an old-school James Bond game, but with glorious graphics and insane set pieces, like a convoy battle on a horse, racing to get off of a sinking boat (oh, by the way, THAT was a fantastic experience. Chapters 12-15 or so were one continuous and amazing “level”), venturing into the Mines or Moria or whatever the crypts were called, etc., I was reminded of the good old days with Goldeneye or Nightfire or even Quantum of Solace. The villain was decent at best, she or he or whoever the real villain ended up being was forgettable, and never really challenged the hero as he was in the second game.
The gun battles, the larger-than-life sequences that made my jaw drop, the relationship between Sully and Nate, and the gorgeous graphics are all elements of this game that make it so much fun to play, yet also make it fairly average when compared to the second game. Going into this with the expectations that Uncharted 2 sets you up with is a bad idea, but going into this game expecting to have fun, be amazed by some action scenes, and solve some puzzles while shooting some bad guys, is the best way to ensure that you’ll like this game for all that it has to offer. Regardless, Uncharted 3 is a great time and a very memorable game, and I’m going to give it an 8/10, and a green recommendation. However, if you had a choice, I’d ultimately say to play the second one again instead because you’ll probably have a better time in the end. I still have mixed feelings about it, but I’d feel terrible for giving such a gorgeous and fun game any poorer of a rating than it deserves, which is probably higher than I’ve given it, but I want to be an honest review and I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed. Anyways, these are just my thoughts, and I’d love to hear yours! As always, thank you for reading and I’ll see you soon!
Edit: It’s been 10 days since I’ve published this review, and I can’t help but think that I’ve been a little “hard” on it by comparing it to the second game so much. On its own, this game is stellar; if you go into The Return of the Jedi expecting The Empire Strikes Back, you might be let down, but that doesn’t mean that Return is a bad film. This is a fantastic game and it was a lot of fun to play, and I’m still thinking about some of the amazing sequences that were in the story. There are still many faults, such as the button mashing and anticlimactic finale that felt recycled, but that doesn’t make this game “bad” by any standards, just “different.” I’ll stand by my rating of the game, however.