Onyx Reviews: Uncharted 3

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Standard stone-faced hero cover #4522

It's been a good year for PS3 games. With Killzone 3 starting the year off being a high-profile exclusive back in February, and inFamous 2 kicking off the summer back in June, they've had a good run. Now, with Uncharted 3 coming to close the PS3's year, that streak of glory continues as Naughty Dog seeks their own. Naughty Dog was always a key Sony developer, delivering one trilogy (Crash Bandicoot, Jak) per generation, and following it up with a less well-received racing spin-off. (Come on, Naughty Dog, make UnKarted!) With Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog had suddenly found themselves with the challenge of outdoing what many hailed as the best game of 2009. And with Uncharted 3, they have proven that their previous success was no fluke.

Nathan Drake's latest excursion finds him in a race to find the Atlantis of the Sands, yet another ancient lost civilization. His opponent in this race is Katherine Marlowe, a woman from his past. This race will take the player on a tour of a vast array of different environments, from a cruise ship to a French chateau. Throughout this adventure, the player will experience a mix of puzzle-solving, platforming, cover-based shooting, stealth, brawling, and even a few on-foot chase sequences. Each one of these mechanics is done well, with some better than others, as is the price you often pay for variety. Still, they have been improved from the already high standards Uncharted 2 set for them.

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Elena's new face kinda creeps me out.

The first thing you'll notice after the intro is how much the brawling has been improved. Think Batman, but less graceful and with more environmental interaction. It has a heavy emphasis on countering and fighting multiple opponents at once, and introduced a new melee-oriented Brute type enemy to polish your skills. And you'll need those skills, are there are a few "boss" fight melee scraps. On the other side of close quarters combat, we have the stealth. It's a basic system, focused on line of sight instead of lighting, but it functions well in the situations presented. There are many more opportunities to utilize stealth, and the game never associates detection with instant failure. The addition of silenced pistols is pretty nice, too, although you only get them twice.

Speaking of pistols, the gunplay in Uncharted has gotten better with each iteration, capping off with Uncharted 3. The default aiming speed still felt a little sluggish to me, but it is adjustable, so no complaints. Drake can still only carry two weapons at a time, a one-handed and a two-handed, and only a few clips for each, so there is a constant sense of scavenging to the combat. Thankfully, none of the guns in the game are crap by any means, with a fine-tuned balance ensuring that even a basic pistol is deadly. In fact, I found myself treating pistols as a primary weapon on many occasions, rather than a pea-shooter used in emergencies. Of special note are the grenades, which started as a motion sensor required gimmick in Uncharted 1, and evolved into the best grenade system I've seen. Any aimed toss is basically spot-on accurate, and the physics will never betray you. Grenades can be tossed back now, in a fun system that lets you take out closer enemies with their allies' grenades. Seeing as grenades are some of the most powerful weapons in the game, having a free toss can change the course of a battle.

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These fire effects are brilliant in motion.

The platforming is still excellent, presenting a good portion of the game's challenge and set-pieces, while never frustrating the player. The routes are usually pretty obvious at first, with the challenge coming from timing your navigation properly as the environment will often be crumbling around you, either due to bad luck, enemies, or Drake's own clumsiness. All of this feels natural due to brilliant scripting and some of the best animation in the business. Simply put, these animations are amazing, with clipping issues rare and transitions fluid.

The puzzle solving has been given an overhaul since Uncharted 2. The puzzles in the previous game were by no means bad, but often just felt like extended platforming sequences. The challenges that Uncharted 3 presents are more cerebral, with hints and clues scattered about the room and in Drake's journal. Take too long and a quick press of the Up button with give you hints as to the method to go about solving the puzzle, but will never outright solve it for you. The only problem I have with the puzzles is that there aren't enough of them, and that's the highest praise you can usually give to this part of a game.

On the gameplay side, Uncharted 3 is the best one yet, and flawlessly blends many different genres together, while switching it up enough that it never gets stale. But on the narrative side, it is lacking in comparison, even to the original Uncharted in many ways. The main problem arises by focusing nearly entirely on Drake and Sully, ignoring the leading ladies of the franchise, and even your new ally, the claustrophobic Cutter. While it is nice to finally have Sully in the spotlight, the story lies too heavily on them. Elena and Chloe were some of the best leading ladies in gaming, and having them reduced to much smaller roles hurts the narrative overall. The ending is also very abrupt, with me not even realizing that I'd beaten the game until the trophy popped. Still, Marlowe herself is an excellent villain with clearly established motivations. The superb acting and motion capture are flawless across the board, without a single poor performance in the bunch. And the tale it tells is full of enough twists and mysteries to suck you in until the end.

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That is not Helen Mirren.

For Uncharted fans, a lot of my review is basic and retreads old ground, but the same can be said for Uncharted 3. While lacking the perfect pacing and characterization of it's predecessor, it still manages to deliver one the best campaigns in linear games today, with incredible set-pieces I am trying my hardest not to spoil. And by keeping most of the previous games' events seperate or implied, it makes a fine entry point into the series for anyone. Uncharted 3 proves once again that Naughty Dog polishes a series' gameplay to a fucking shine by improving with each game. The length ain't bad, either, clocking in at 10-12 hours for my first playthrough, and your standard array of trophies and collectibles to try and entice more runs. Sadly, it appears Naughty Dog has abandoned the fun post-game unlocks and "cheats" of the first two, so no Doughnut Drake for you. Doughnut Drake, is however, in the multiplayer, which I haven't gotten to playing since the beta. But the beta was fun, so take that as my recommendation. The campaign alone is easily worth the asking price, so the solid multiplayer is just an added bonus.

/review

NATHAN DRAKE IS A TWAT. TOMB RAIDER WITH A MAN.

Excellent review. I shall add it to my list of "Shit to buy and play." Seems a crowded list right now.

I presume we're not going to be seeing much of you next week?

Calumon: What's the point in a game if you can't be as big as a blimp unless you go online with a bunch of meanies? : (

Getting it any time soon. Uncharted 2 was surprisingly amazing, but there was a lot of ground for improvement - looks like this thing fixes that.

Nice review.

Great review, as always. Excellent grammar, btw. *wink, wink*

I will probably start playing this tonight. Let's see if I go to bed or if I stay up all night like a crazy lady.

Hmmm. Any reviews I read are either glorious praise or indignant condemnation; no room for middle ground on this one?

Nicely written review, anyway. Uncharted has never been a franchise of great interest to me, but I still wound up playing the first two as rentals. Looks like this one's going to sit comfortably in my backlog for a while... if nothing else, it'll make a nice distraction during the next summer games drought. :)

I always feel that Uncharted gets a bad rap from a portion of the gaming community. Be it it's linear gameplay or it's "copy" of other games it seems to get picked on the most.

U3 SP was a tick lower than U2's, but U3 is still a great game. Nice review btw.

Onyx Oblivion:
Naughty Dog was always a key Sony developer, delivering one trilogy (Crash Bandicoot, Jak) per generation, and following it up with a less well-received racing spin-off.

Oh come on, there must be someone else here who enjoyed Jak X as much as I did? Anyone?

I'm going to assume you're referring to Jak X, because you would have to be mad to call Crash Team Racing a bad game...

OT: I really need to play Uncharted some time, the only experience I have is the demo.

Onyx Oblivion:

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Elena's new face kinda creeps me out.

Finally, someone else who noticed!

Chloe's face (the short time she was actually in the game) suffered from the same odd change. Maybe it was the 3D application or some new redering mechanic, but their faces looked like shit.

Other than that I'm sorry to say that I almost completely disagree with your review. I hated this game! And it wasn't because of hype since after the brilliant Uncharted 2 I didn't expect Naughty Dog could top that so I only hoped for more of the same. But even in that it failed.

The gunfights are completely broken due to bad level design and enemy placements - the shipyard being the main offender. The brawing mechanic is terribly unresponsive since Uncharted's ridgid gameplay doesn't lend itself well at all for fluid enemy-to-enemy combat. The first half of the game is the slowest burn since Kingdom Hearts 2, and the second half is lifted straight from Uncharted 2 only much shorter.

And then there's the story... *ugh*

Naughty Dog really seemed to have listened to all those people complaining about there not being enough Sully in Uncharted 2, and now we're getting it in spades. Creating some deep and meaningful relationship between Drake and Sully that never needed to be established. Actaully making Sully come across to me as some sick and twisted individual that takes advantage of a young, impressionable boy.

Thanks, ND!

Replaying Uncharted 2 right now to wash down the horrid taste this game left in my mouth.

ChupathingyX:

Onyx Oblivion:
Naughty Dog was always a key Sony developer, delivering one trilogy (Crash Bandicoot, Jak) per generation, and following it up with a less well-received racing spin-off.

Oh come on, there must be someone else here who enjoyed Jak X as much as I did? Anyone?

I'm going to assume you're referring to Jak X, because you would have to be mad to call Crash Team Racing a bad game...

OT: I really need to play Uncharted some time, the only experience I have is the demo.

I wasn't aware that "less well-recieved" translated to "bad". I enjoyed them greatly.

Casual Shinji:

Onyx Oblivion:

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Elena's new face kinda creeps me out.

Finally, someone else who noticed!

Chloe's face (the short time she was actually in the game) suffered from the same odd change. Maybe it was the 3D application or some new redering mechanic, but their faces looked like shit.

Other than that I'm sorry to say that I almost completely disagree with your review. I hated this game! And it wasn't because of hype since after the brilliant Uncharted 2 I didn't expect Naughty Dog could top that so I only hoped for more of the same. But even in that it failed.

The gunfights are completely broken due to bad level design and enemy placements - the shipyard being the main offender. The brawing mechanic is terribly unresponsive since Uncharted's ridgid gameplay doesn't lend itself well at all for fluid enemy-to-enemy combat. The first half of the game is the slowest burn since Kingdom Hearts 2, and the second half is lifted straight from Uncharted 2 only much shorter.

And then there's the story... *ugh*

Naughty Dog really seemed to have listened to all those people complaining about there not being enough Sully in Uncharted 2, and now we're getting it in spades. Creating some deep and meaningful relationship between Drake and Sully that never needed to be established. Actaully making Sully come across to me as some sick and twisted individual that takes advantage of a young, impressionable boy.

Thanks, ND!

Replaying Uncharted 2 right now to wash down the horrid taste this game left in my mouth.

Sorry to hear that, but I was one of those "not enough Sully" people from two. I honestly don't see the level design issues outside of that shipyard fight, which after doing on Crushing, was an absolute hell due to lack of solid cover and enemies from all angles.

I have one thing to ask about the story: Does it make that awkward turn into the supernatural in third act? The first two games did, and I hated it both times.

DustyDrB:
I have one thing to ask about the story: Does it make that awkward turn into the supernatural in third act? The first two games did, and I hated it both times.

Not really. I hated those, too. There story still has supernatural tinges, but you never find yourself fighting tribal beastmen or zombies.

I always found Uncharted a little bit 'meh' mostly in gameplay, which is what matters to me.

Dialogue is like always superb.

JochemDude:
I always found Uncharted a little bit 'meh' mostly in gameplay, which is what matters to me.

Dialogue is like always superb.

The first time I played Uncharted, I wondered what the fuss was about myself, and I'm a gameplay person, too.

But when I tried it again a few months after disliking it during a lull, I loved it for it's variety. The quality isn't high, but it tries a lot of things and pulls them off.

Casual Shinji:

Other than that I'm sorry to say that I almost completely disagree with your review. I hated this game! And it wasn't because of hype since after the brilliant Uncharted 2 I didn't expect Naughty Dog could top that so I only hoped for more of the same. But even in that it failed.

You know, I was kinda hoping this would be at least somewhat decent. Not sure why since I didn't like Uncharted 1 but... eh, I don't know. I haven't played 2 though. Is it really as good as everyone keeps saying? Keep in mind I fucking hated the first one but... that game got numerous 10/10 scores so it can't be all bad I guess >.>

Anyway, pretty good review.
No clue how the hell you're able to churn these out so quickly, much less get all these fucking games, but not bad nonetheless.

Onyx Oblivion:

DustyDrB:
I have one thing to ask about the story: Does it make that awkward turn into the supernatural in third act? The first two games did, and I hated it both times.

Not really. I hated those, too. There story still has supernatural tinges, but you never find yourself fighting tribal beastmen or zombies.

That's great. That part of both of the first two games is my biggest criticism of each. I guess I don't play enough shooters to notice if the gunplay isn't great.

Onyx Oblivion:

I wasn't aware that "less well-recieved" translated to "bad". I enjoyed them greatly.

Sorry, it's just that I always see people saying that Jak X was a horrible game, which I highly disagree with.

Julianking93:

Casual Shinji:

Other than that I'm sorry to say that I almost completely disagree with your review. I hated this game! And it wasn't because of hype since after the brilliant Uncharted 2 I didn't expect Naughty Dog could top that so I only hoped for more of the same. But even in that it failed.

You know, I was kinda hoping this would be at least somewhat decent. Not sure why since I didn't like Uncharted 1 but... eh, I don't know. I haven't played 2 though. Is it really as good as everyone keeps saying? Keep in mind I fucking hated the first one but... that game got numerous 10/10 scores so it can't be all bad I guess >.>

It depends on what you hated about the first game. If it was the characters and the type of story it told, you're not gonna like the sequel. The gameplay remains mostly the same except heavily tweaked, but it's really the design of the environments and the pacing and balance of the gameplay that shines in Uncharted 2. Couple that with fantastic character interaction (if you don't hate them which many people do) and you have a game which is close to flawless.

Uncharted 3 is like Spider-Man 3; It tries to top the previous sequel which was close to being perfect, but ends up becoming a total mess by throwing in stuff for the sake of stuff, none of which seems to have any connection to eachother.

Casual Shinji:

Uncharted 3 is like Spider-Man 3; It tries to top the previous sequel which was close to being perfect, but ends up becoming a total mess by throwing in stuff for the sake of stuff, none of which seems to have any connection to eachother.

But you make it sounds as though Uncharted 3 is some kind of...Green Lantern...level of failure in game design. Spiderman 3 had it's problems, for sure, but was still worth a watch.

Julianking93:

Anyway, pretty good review.
No clue how the hell you're able to churn these out so quickly, much less get all these fucking games, but not bad nonetheless.

Unemployed college dropout who sold all of his old games. After Skyrim, the money-pot is empty.

Onyx Oblivion:

Casual Shinji:

Uncharted 3 is like Spider-Man 3; It tries to top the previous sequel which was close to being perfect, but ends up becoming a total mess by throwing in stuff for the sake of stuff, none of which seems to have any connection to eachother.

But you make it sounds as though Uncharted 3 is some kind of...Green Lantern...level of failure in game design. Spiderman 3 had it's problems, for sure, but was still worth a watch.

No, it's not the worst game in the world... it's just a total mess.

I've read an interview on 1Up with Naughty Dog where they stated that for the sequel the team wanted to have specific settings and scenarios, but had problems weaving them together. And it shows. In the first 2 Uncharted games the transition from environment to environment was pretty seamless and made sense, even the epic moments like Drake sitting in a traincar that's hanging off the edge of a cliff.

This entire moment was so baffling and nonsensical that it completely broke my immersion, which was already running thin because of how painfully slow the game picks up steam; I really like the characters of this series, but focussing almost half of the gameplay on their interactions and backstory was a terrible idea.

Maybe I'm being too much of a dick toward this title, but it simply didn't work for me. I'll probably replay it after finishing my replay of Uncharted 2 so I can have an accurate comparison, but if a game has given me a bad first impression it's hard for me to forgive it.

Still reading the review; so I'll edit in more as I go, but I wanted to note things as I went - before I forget, as I usually do.

So, first thing: the puzzles will eventually solve themselves - not in the sense that you can skip them, but in the sense that they show you a picture (at least on the puzzle I got stuck on) with the exact solution path on it. I don't know how long this takes; I think it was probably around 5 - 10 minutes of me mulling around, confused and frustrated, before it threw me a bone. Stupid light puzzle; just wasn't sure what to do.

Secondly: I agree; the ending did seem sudden - I think that was probably the biggest and only real problem I had with the game (everything else is really just nit-picking). I've heard that the game was probably rushed at the end - even if only a little bit; most likely because of the addition of the multiplayer. And I don't begrudge Naughty Dog for wanting good multiplayer - at all. I love the multiplayer so far (about 2.3 hours into it), and I still don't feel like the Campaign suffered very much for it. But there are certain points that feel like they cut things from the game, or that still feel a bit rough around the edges.

Such as the language deciphering astrolabe type of device from the beginning. Through-out the game Drake uses it a couple of times, and I realize it is of major significance to the story; but it feels like it was originally going to be a mini-game. I feel this way because Drake doesn't use it off-camera, or even in cut-scenes. He brings it up in-game, and goes through the process of deciphering words. It doesn't seem necessary - at all - unless we were originally going to have to do it ourselves.

Also, the light puzzle involving the various body parts on sticks. I thought I understood what I was supposed to do (something involving the shadows of the body parts on the mural on the wall), but then it seemed like the shadows didn't really work that well. And then I managed to climb onto one of the legs closer to the ground, and so I figured I was expected to do something involving platforming. I realize this is not a great example, because it's not a very wide-spread or common problem, but it was just enough to make me stumble around, trying to climb everything in sight for a good 10 minutes before the puzzle finally took pity on me, and let me know that I had been correct the first time - I needed to manipulate shadows. And even then, the precision of the lighting seemed a bit touchy.

JochemDude:
I always found Uncharted a little bit 'meh' mostly in gameplay, which is what matters to me.

Dialogue is like always superb.

uncharted wasnt great TBH but apart from SF2 Uncharted 2 did the most amazing U-Turn in history game wise on improving on the prequel (IMO Obviously) I havent had the pleasure to play Uncharted 3 yet but the review seems pretty fair oh but I disagree with the mild insinuation that CTR was not as well received if I remember right it did go platinum and is really the only serious contender to marios karting throne (plus it is one of the best games ever made FACT, sorry you naysayers are wrong *slight tongue in cheek remark*)

Yeah anyway I do like Uncharted mainstream it may be but that dosent make it bad and Amy Hennig does seem to know how to tell a good yarn even if there are loopholes oh and kudos to the rest of the team as well the graphics art and gameplay in UN2 were spot on.

Julianking93:
You know, I was kinda hoping this would be at least somewhat decent. Not sure why since I didn't like Uncharted 1 but... eh, I don't know. I haven't played 2 though. Is it really as good as everyone keeps saying? Keep in mind I fucking hated the first one but... that game got numerous 10/10 scores so it can't be all bad I guess >.>

I'm someone that thinks Uncharted 1 is excruciatingly average at best. I didn't HATE it, but the gameplay wasn't anything remotely good. The gunplay was bad as the pistol was all you needed, assault rifles did as much damage as a BB gun; headshots were the only way to kill outside of the power weapons, which you only got here and there. The level design was uninspired, the shooting areas and non-shooting areas you could spot a mile away. The platforming is fine but it's that auto-platforming of this gen. The puzzles were extremely simple and easy as the solutions were in your journal. The game had basically no set-pieces and the jet ski segments were horrid. The only good parts were the characters, story, and graphics. I totally don't understand any review that gives Uncharted 1 anything more than a 7/10 (the most I'd give it is a 6 on a good day), the game is more of a tech demo than a game.

Now, with ALL that said, Uncharted 2 is just plain awesome sauce. The gunplay is much much better (not close to being the best in the business but it's more than competent), and those set-pieces are just awesome. The level design is greatly improved and the game doesn't throw extra waves of enemies at you to artificially lengthen an already short game. The only real negative is the villain is pretty lame. I'm hoping part 3 has a good villain for once as I have yet to play Uncharted 3. If you at all like the characters from Uncharted 1, you owe yourself to give Uncharted 2 a shot, it's got to be real cheap now.

Phoenixmgs:
. The only real negative is the villain is pretty lame.

You won't be disappointed.

Marlowe and Talbot aren't TERRIFIC, but in comparison to UC1 and 2...They are far superior villains.

Onyx Oblivion:

Phoenixmgs:
The only real negative is the villain is pretty lame.

You won't be disappointed.

Marlowe and Talbot aren't TERRIFIC, but in comparison to UC1 and 2...They are far superior villains.

I'm looking forward to it. I'm waiting for Kmart to run Uncharted 3 for $40-$45 so I could get it for $10-$15 since I got a $30 coupon for buying Batman (just started new game+). And, I'm waiting on the patch for Uncharted 3 as well.

Solid review but I have to disagree about the story the focus shift from the Elana and Chloe to Sully made the narrative stronger because of Drake and Sully playing off each other.

This review pretty much sums up my thoughts on Uncharted 3 a lot more eloquently than I ever could. I do have a few of my own observations and comments to make:

 

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