SteadiestShark Gaming

Reviewing videogames and posting gaming articles since 2012.

Uncharted 3 Review

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Platform: Playstation 3
Genre: Third Person Shooter, Action/Adventure.
Time Spent: Around 20-30 hours.
Completion: The main story & some amount of multiplayer (level 18 of 75)
Review Spoilers: Nothing worth noting.

Uncharted 3 logo

Game background:

Back in October of 2009, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – a sequel to the now-classic Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – was released, and to extremely high praise. The game not only provided another brilliant single player experience, but also added an interesting multiplayer aspect that was instantly praised due to the unique style of gameplay that it brought to the generation. There really isn’t much else to say, the game was brilliant and many wondered if Naughty Dog could possibly improve upon it.

Since then, a couple of years have passed and Naughty Dog have recently (kind of) released Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

Does the game live up to the reputation that its predecessors created? Read on…

Introduction to Uncharted 3’s story:

Uncharted 3 continues (somewhat) from where the previous game left off. Nathan “Nate” Drake and Victor “Sully” Sullivan are still treasure hunters of sorts and have their eyes set on another prize. This prize comes in the form of Sir Francis Drake’s biggest secret, the “Atlantis of the sands”.

Why is this such a large secret? Well, Sir Francis Drake apparently spent an unusually large amount of time in a certain region of the world before reaching his assigned destination by Queen Elizabeth – but left no real clues as to what he was doing or what he found during this time.

Forget that, who is Sir Francis Drake anyway? Whilst I believe liberties were taken here, the game paints him as a brilliant sea-man/navigator/treasure/artefact discoverer that used to serve Queen Elizabeth. Sir Francis Drake’s findings were also Nathan’s main motivation for his journey in the first game of the series.

Anyway, since Nathan is well-versed in pretty much everything involving Sir Francis Drake, he is able to begin his great clue-finding journey to find out where – or even what the “Atlantis of the sands” is.

However, as expected, Nathan and co. are not the only ones with enough knowledge to pursue this secret goal – and this other party is far from friendly.

In order to avoid spoilers, I had to warp the events a little – but the general story is in-tact.

So, how enjoyable is the story?

Uncharted 3’s story retains many of the storytelling quirks from the previous games, such as jumping back and forth through time (which is used to show how events lead up to a certain moment), having Nathan go through multiple insane action-movie situations as well as using various plot-twists and revelations throughout. As with Final Fantasy XIII-2 (the previous game that I reviewed), these techniques equate to an immersive and gripping experience that is likely to keep you playing to find out what happens next.

That said, there is a negative point to be had from using the same story techniques – some things became rather predictable. During my time with this game, there were a few instances where I was able to correctly guess the next few turns of events, simply because things had been handled in similar ways in the last two games – mostly the second game. Naturally, this detracts from the experience.

Another negative point is that the main villains seem to suffer from James Bond-syndrome, in that they will clearly have ideal opportunities to be rid of Nathan Drake and his allies forever, yet for some reason choose not to – only for it to inevitably bite them in the ass later. Although, maybe some players will like this cliché display of criminal cockiness.

In terms of the good guys, whilst rather generic-looking, all of them are very likeable and absolutely full of character. The voice acting is also very natural-sounding and is riddled with improvised/unscripted lines. This is further augmented by the fact the voice actors themselves provided the motion-captured animations for their respective characters as well as the fact that hardly anything was recorded solo. This all leads to some of the most realistic exchanges I’ve seen between characters in a videogame and that alone is a large reason as to why you’ll enjoy the story.

Unfortunately, the main bad guys kind of got the short-end of the stick. On one hand you have a generic British lady with an eye set on obtaining power/riches, and on the other hand you have a generic British guy in a suit – that apparently utilises a whole army of other generic guys in suits in order to help fulfil the British lady’s goal. In short, outside of learning about their ambition of power – there is pretty much nothing else to them. At least the villains in most other games (Uncharted prequels included) have personality to go with their usually-uninspired goals!

Overall, whilst I believe that the story is generally somewhat gripping, lengthy and interesting – it does have a few points that let it down. This is mostly on the grounds of predictability, villain stupidity, and overall lack of character motivation. Although, I’m glad that the game finally showed us the back-story of Nathan and Sully – including how and why they first met. With regards how it compares to Uncharted 2, I believe that the prequel has a much better story due to the magnitude of its twists, its overall pacing, and how much more the characters are fleshed out.

My story rating: 7.75/10

Uncharted 3 Story

Gameplay

The gameplay of Uncharted 3 is largely unchanged from that of the previous entry, which was already rather solid and well-polished. However, I’ll still go into the gameplay with some amount detail.

In the single player, gunplay is kept interesting as the game gives you a rather low amount of ammo for each weapon you pick up – which leads to frequently needing to change or scavenge weapons. Aside from this, overall,  gun-play mechanics are generally enjoyable, no problems, yet nothing groundbreaking either.

Another enjoyable single-player (and online co-op-only) factor is the melee. This not only looks and feels impressive/satisfying due to various heavy-strike animations, but it also has a degree of challenge as there is a “counter” button that must be timed when the enemy takes a swing at you. Whilst this is made easier than it sounds due to the game applying a slight degree of slow-down as the enemy attacks, it is still an aspect that keeps you on your toes.

Whilst it could be listed as a melee aspect, the game actually has a stealth an assassination system. This aspect is highly enjoyable to correctly pull off, especially against real people in a multiplayer game. Also, given the sheer level of potential mobility in this game, you can exclusively aim to use this stealthy style of gameplay and actually have it be a viable tactic – to a certain degree at least. In short, this system grants the player multiple ways to approach a situation.

On the opposite side of the spectrum to stealth, the game also uses grenades. A lot of them. Whilst I don’t have a problem with them as far as the single-player is concerned, I believe that they are a detriment to the multiplayer side of the game.

Generally, Uncharted 3 mixes terrain traversal with combat seamlessly, which is a large part of what makes the multiplayer-side feel more interesting and unique than most other games of a similar genre. For instance, flanking a group of enemies from a high angle whilst they are hiding behind cover is a rather rewarding experience.

The cover system is also pretty decent and doesn’t leave you nearly as impervious to harm as many other games tend to with their respective cover systems, such as the one in Gears of War. Furthermore, the AI-controlled enemies will instantly recognise the player’s use of cover and will shortly begin using grenades to flush you out. This trains the player to keep moving whilst giving advantage to those that can creatively manoeuvre around somebody in cover.

The Wall-climbing feature is generally enjoyable due to its fast and somewhat precise nature, although jumping on the other hand has an overall flaw. The problem with jumping in all of the Uncharted games is that sometimes you have no idea where to “aim”, as some “possible” platforms look closer than the one that the game wants you to jump to. This issue is made even more troublesome by the fact that many of the jumps in this game are scripted, and usually create very inconsistent jump distances. Ultimately, this creates a lot of “trial and error” or “leap of faith” moments that can be very frustrating to have to deal with.

The single-player exclusive portions that involve puzzles are usually pretty interesting and are completely different each time. These puzzles are also accompanied by cryptic notes in Nathan’s book, so referring between the book’s notes and the actual puzzles themselves is interesting and somewhat unique in a game. Furthermore, friendly characters will give off-the-cuff advice in a very natural way if you are having trouble, instead of subjecting you to an immersion-breaking assault on your ego – which can be experienced in some other games. If however you do find yourself being truly stuck, the game will offer the option to have the solution completed or solved for you.

In terms of the difficulty, the game starts off fairly easily and then gradually gets harder. This is accomplished by adding tougher varieties of enemies as well as increasing the amounts that you generally have to deal with.

All together, I think that Uncharted 3 is one of the best third-person-shooters out there.

My gameplay score: 9.0/10

Uncharted gameplay

Graphics and Audio

Graphically, the Uncharted games have always been a marvel to behold at the times of their releases and Uncharted 3 is definitely no different. It is simply outstanding and perhaps the best looking console game of this generation. The game even flaunts this fact by incorporating an extremely diverse set of locations, from a cruise ship in the middle of a ferocious storm at sea, to a rich jungle-esque area in France – to a vast and empty desert. Each location is sure to visually mesmerise the player in some way.

The effects are also amazing. From progressive model changes as characters are introduced to varying amounts of beautifully-rendered water, to the realistic adjustments between entering/leaving bright or dark areas, to even seeing grains of sand blowing in the wind. The game really is beautiful and polished beyond belief with regards to presentation.

The animations (as mentioned earlier) are all realistic – and the voice acting matches this (also mentioned earlier). The guns and other sound effects also sound very well done.

With regards to frame-rate, I believe this game runs at a respectable and consistent 30fps – or at least something close.

In terms of music, the score is a fantastic combination of some of the most fitting orchestral pieces that I’ve heard in a videogame. Whilst I don’t believe that the music was catchy by any means, it was definitely a joy to listen to.

As for potential improvements, the only thing that I could hope for is the game to run at a silky-smooth 60 fps, but that is simply not possible with the current console generation, not without graphical sacrifice anyway.

All together, Uncharted 3’s presentation is outstanding and probably won’t be beaten by another console game until the next generation (although, the original Final Fantasy XIII could be argued to be on-par with this game).

My graphics and audio score: 10/10

Uncharted 3 graphics

Multiplayer

Uncharted 3’s multiplayer successfully brings most of the aspects from the single player onto the competitive stage. It is generally an enjoyable experience that is absolutely packed with a whole host of modes and features as well as both a shop and an unlock system. Anybody with a lot of time on their hands, an appetite for competitive play, and a desire to make friends with like-minded people may easily find themselves spending hundreds of hours here.

As far as competitive modes are concerned, you will find your standard deathmatches/team deathmatches here as well as multiple objective-based modes. My favourite competitive mode was a best-of-five, round-based, team objective mode – whereby the objective seamlessly changed at the end of each round. This kept things interesting, whilst requiring the use of solid teamwork to prevail.
Further modes include a co-op versus AI-controlled waves style that also incorporates accomplishing certain objectives as well as a co-op adventure mode.

The co-op adventure mode is different and deserves its own segment here. It is basically a three-player, six-or-seven-part (20-30 minutes each) mini-story that comes complete with many traits of the single-player campaign – including its main cast of characters. You’ll generally be using teamwork to accomplish various objectives whilst battling groups of enemies – at the same time as listening to more enjoyable dialogue between the characters. Although, despite believing this to be a great addition to the overall content of the game – there is one huge issue with this mode, actually finding people to play with. You cannot play this mode without at least two people and the ideal experience is had when there are three of you (for various reasons). Your only options are to add friends that are also willing to play through it, or to rely on the complete random chance that the online matchmaking will partner you up with two people that are set to play through the same part of the story that you want to play through – which is rather slim.

With regards to the competitive multiplayer gameplay, there are a couple of things that I need to mention. Firstly, the melee combat is watered down as there are no combos and no “counter” system. All you can do in terms of melee is perform a one-off punch, or if you sneak up behind somebody – earn a stealth-kill animation. Secondly, grenades are a complete joke – in my opinion. You spawn with one each time, it is thrown instantly (uninterruptable from what I can tell), has a large deadly explosive radius, and even if it doesn’t kill you – it throws you into a vulnerable animation so that something else will. It is actually a viable tactic to drop the grenade at your feet before you die a close-ranged death since they’re unlikely to escape. I just don’t see why they were so necessary, Gears of War (for example) doesn’t give you lethal grenades with each spawn, and there are far less ways to get behind somebody that is in cover in that game. So it begs the questions of why they decided to make them so predominant in this game.

Another issue I have with the game is weapon balance, as there is one gun that everybody uses as it quite simply dominates the others due to its proficiency at so many ranges. It also requires you being level 16 to unlock, which is a good few hours of gameplay into multiplayer – so until you unlock it, you’re pretty disadvantaged. Furthermore, as you reach higher levels, you can further improve the weapons that you have unlocked by purchasing various attachments – further widening the advantage in favour of the higher levelled player.

Speaking of which, I believe that I should also expand upon my previous mention of the shop and unlock systems. These aspects are built around two statistics – the amount of cash that you currently have, and the level of your character (both increased through doing just about anything). The shop is used to buy anything, from new characters to weapon improvements, to new perks. As you level up, you will unlock the right to buy certain things. You are also able to improve your perks by accomplishing in-game feats, much like the recent Call of Duty games. The level system in this game caps out at 75.

Whilst respawning is an issue for a lot of games these days, Uncharted has a clever way of dealing with it. You have an option of spawning “naturally”, or next to a teammate that is out of combat. You will still get some unfair spawn-deaths, but at least you have an option in this game.

Overall, the multiplayer is decent and provides the player with a lot of customisation. It has a large amount of content to unlock and enjoy and is definitely a bunch of fun to play. It also has a great variety of modes and definitely has a rewarding skill curve. Although those that do not like games that automatically give high-ranked players such large advantages may be put off.

My multiplayer score: 9.0/10

Uncharted 3 Multiplayer

Amount of content

Uncharted 3 has an above-average length story (8-10 hours I’d say) and also boasts a very large amount of multiplayer content filled with many goals and great variety along the way.

There is also DLC available for the game, but it is pretty much limited to multiplayer content right now, such as characters and map-packs. They also cost money.

For a game of its type, I have to say that Uncharted 3 has quite a lot of content and if you’re a competitive gamer, you are likely to get an insane amount of enjoyment out of this game – however the opposite also stands true.

My content score: 8.5/10

Overall Summary

Things I liked:

– Seeing Nathan Drake’s past.

– Beautiful graphics where the environments greatly vary throughout the game.

– Like the previous titles, some of the best voice acting I’ve heard in a game.

– Astounding character interaction.

– Satisfying gameplay.

– Interesting puzzles.

– The sheer amount of multiplayer content, great variety of modes, great amount of customisation.

Things I disliked

– The grenade-obsessed side to the multiplayer. Too easy to gain kills with them and too easy to be killed by them.

– The fact that one gun in multiplayer is used by 95% (made-up statistic) of the players due to its effectiveness and not having access to it myself.

– Being a low-level in a high-level multiplayer match.

– The random scripted jump distances that confuse the player and lead to a lot of trial-and-error deaths.

– Plot predictability, mostly due to following the overall pattern that was established in the previous game.

– The somewhat boring and idiotic villains with cliché motivations.

Final Thoughts

All in all, I believe that Uncharted 3 is a solid entry to the series that is highly likely to charm most that play it – especially fans of the genre. Whilst I don’t believe that the game lives up to Uncharted 2 with regards to the single-play experience, I believe it surpasses it on the multi-player front with its vast amount of polish and customisation.

My overall score: 8.5 – Definitely worth playing through and trying out the multiplayer.

Uncharted 3 end

Image Sources (in order of use):

All written content is
© Copyright SteadiestShark
and SteadiestShark Gaming, 2012
All images and trademarks are property of their respective developers.

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