Thursday, 3 November 2011

Review: Uncharted 3

According to Uncharted 3 Sir Francis Drake's moto was 'greatness from small beginnings' and whilst Drake's Fortune was anything but small it pales in comparison to how great the Uncharted franchise has become. Whilst the moto and most of the history in Uncharted 3 might be fiction it serves it's purpose to create an interesting story that drives Drake's globe trotting adventure. Along the way Drake meets up with some new characters as well as some old friends, but in this chapter of Drake's life Sully is your main companion. Among the new characters is Charlie Cutter a British thug who adds a nice bit of variety to the American lead cast. The main antagonists, Katherine Marlow and Talbot, are also both British and add some class to Uncharted 3 though I think they could have been used more. All of Drake's adventures are pretty similar; following in the steps of Sir Francis Drake to find a lost city of immeasurable wealth but discovering something that should remain hidden and preventing it from ever being found; it's a shame there isn't any more innovation in this game.
As a Brit I wasn't sure who to root for.

The start of the game sees you making a business deal, in a shady British pub, that promptly goes bad and introduces you to the new and improved hand to hand combat in the game. You can now engage in context sensitive attacks like throwing people out of windows, smashing their faces against tables or whacking them with something from the environments. In chapter 2 you play through Drake's memories of how he met Sully and entered the life of treasure hunting, playing as young Drake is different as he is scrappier and doesn't engage in fighting, and also ties in well with the rest of the story. Drake is driven by more that money in this game and half way through the game the motivations only increase, however I still think Naughty Dog needs to come up with a new type of story structure as this one is getting old and surely they are running out of lost cities? Overall I found the opening to Uncharted 3 brilliant but found that bits of the middle dragged and the ending was not as epic as I thought it was going to be. It may just because the hype for the game was so massive but I feel that the Uncharted 3 campaign is only on par with the second game's and not above it, though as the second is among my favourite games ever this is not a bad thing. Towards the end of the game I found that the battles were too long and too hard and this made the ending a bit anticlimactic as it was easier than the two or three chapters that preceded it but this is a minor concern.
Even a British thug adds some class to the motley crew with his knowledge of Shakespeare.

It's the little touches and constant attention to detail that makes Uncharted 3 more than just a good game. As Drake walks past a wall he will run his hand along it, whilst running through a flaming ch√Ęteau he will shy away from the fire and if he is suspicious or in stealth he will keep checking over his shoulder. Throughout the game there are moments where you have to just stop and take in the vistas or look at the effects at work. Sun shines through the canopies of trees in beams that cut across objects and sand blows across the desert getting stuck in Drake's hair; some of the effects are simply stunning. I don't think it's as technically amazing as Uncharted 2 was for it's time but for a console game it's definitely in the top tier. The level design is really well done and it's nearly always obvious where you are going, even as you race across the rooftops of a Yemeni city or navigate a cluttered ship graveyard. The puzzles are all relatively easy to do and if you get stuck the game is pretty quick to offer hints to keep your progress going.
Here you can see sunlight streaming through the rafters as well as the beautiful fire effects.

Throughout the game you either have a companion with you to banter with or else you have Drake muttering to himself as he forces himself forwards in his quest. As ever the voice work is stellar with all the same actors returning to reprise their roles or even as different people. Trawling through imdb last night I noticed that the person that voices Cutter in this game did Lazarovic in the last and the person that plays Talbot in this game was Tenzin; though both of these performances are so different it doesn't matter at all that they have reused the actors. Naughty Dog says it has blockbuster production values and it's not wrong as the voice acting, motion capture and writing all help to create a cinematic experience that won't be easily forgotten. The facial capture may not be as advanced as L.A. Noire's but it's still streets ahead of most of the competitions. Throughout the game there are a number of moments that really get the adrenalin pumping as it really feels like time is of the essence in some of the perfectly scripted set pieces.
Some of the set pieces are ridiculous but still amazingly fun.

The single player campaign is what will draw people to Uncharted 3 but the multiplayer is what will keep people interested. Multiplayer was introduced in Uncharted 2 and was a good solid first attempt; Uncharted 3 improves on that further and is well worth checking out. There are now six competitive modes to try out. One the new modes is three team deathmatch which pitches three sets of two against each other and is great to play whilst talking tactics with a friend over VoIP. There is also three co operative modes which include a horde-like arena mode. The co-op adventure allows you and two others to play through edited sections of the single player campaign, competing to gain the most points. There are lots of different guns to unlock which all have different stats and each one has a number of mods that can be used to upgrade them further. You also choose two boosters, each from a list of fifteen, that are like perks that help you to play like you want to play. Whilst playing you gain medals by killing people or doing challenges; get enough medals and you gain a kickback that allows you to do stuff like spawn an awesome weapon or turn into a swarm of spiders. With appearance customisation as well there are a lot of settings that allow you to vary how the multiplayer looks and feels and should keep it interesting for a long time. One thing I don't like is the melee animation as it looks stupid, is short range and requires two to kill a person. Also I think that the ledge grab kill is too powerful and too easy to do, but these are minor gripes. I haven't played them all yet but so far the level design looks well done with some cool effects like a sandstorm in one level and a moving vehicle chase in another.
At the end of the game what they achieve with just vast sand dunes is amazing.

In conclusion I don't think that Uncharted 3 deserves all the hype it has been getting from some media websites saying it's the perfect game but it does come damn close. I would say that the campaign is only on par with the second game's but as the multiplayer is much improved it is overall a better game so I am going to give Uncharted 3:
9.5/10

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