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PlayBack: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

His name's Nathan Drake. His bones can't break.

After six months, we’ve finally reached the finale of our Uncharted PlayBacks. Back in March, we explored Drake’s Fortune with Jim, and then in June I delved into Among Thieves. Jim said that the series’ debut was “one of the best titles available on PlayStation”, and I added that its sequel was “a solid game that will keep you absorbed from beginning to end”.

The second game of the series, Among Thieves, was a marked improvement on its predecessor. It took every aspect of the first game: the climbing mechanics (and their flaws), the level design, the characters, and it built on them to create an experience that still rivals releases today. Unfortunately, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception did not improve on the series to the same degree. The third instalment tweaked with some of Among Thieves’ issues, but ultimately delivered an adventure that did little to deviate from its acclaimed predecessor.


TSA_Uncharted3_3

BEST BIT

Some of the key selling points of Uncharted 3 were the set pieces. Whether it was after hiking to a mountain’s summit, or while running over a city’s rooftops, the chance to view your surroundings in full was worth the trails of corpses that Nate would leave in his stead. The vast areas would also allow for multiple combat strategies, keeping fights engaging as long as the player puts in the time to calculate their moves. Even in more subdued sections, such as the desert in the later portion of the game, panning the camera could give the player more than just a chance to gaze in awe at the landscape; the flatter environments and better use of viewpoints allowed set pieces to be used to their full capacity; adding to the feeling of hope, or desperation, or whatever mood the scene necessitated.

The mood in Drake’s Deception as a whole was more involving than the series’ previous instalments. Uncharted 3 is no longer just a story of adrenaline, teamwork and betrayal. It takes the usual plot elements and uses them to make us question the motivations behind what why we’re doing. The villain, Marlowe, sows the first seeds of this doubt, building on it as the game progresses. Where Lazarevic was nothing more than a meaty obstacle for Nate to overcome, Marlowe plays the role of the insidious villain. Her character eschews the expectations of a typical big-bad in an action game, focussing less on fighting, more on Nate’s past, and adding to the overarching plot. She ties perfectly into the Uncharted storyline, and is (arguably) the main redeeming feature in what can at times be a gruelling journey.


TSA_Uncharted3_2

WORST BIT

I wasn’t sure whether to describe the upgraded melee mechanics as an improvement or a failure. They’re a huge step up from the previous games, and no longer lock you into a one-on-one fight to the death. Group fighting plays a larger part in Uncharted 3 (as emphasised by the bar fight in the game’s introduction), but melee combat remains clumsy and can be slow to cancel out of. Placing a poorly timed punch can result in Nate being shredded by bullets before you can say “Sir Francis”.

There were a lot of ways Uncharted 3 failed to improve on the series. Although the plot was more involved, it felt like a template of the previous two games had been filled with scraps from the cutting room floor. There were some splashes of new ideas and ingenuity, but the game’s progression is disappointingly reminiscent of the last two instalments, especially in the final act. In an effort to make itself stand out, Uncharted 3 wanders into the realms of the ridiculous. Some scenes are so unbelievable, even within the realms of the game-world, that they require the suspension of disbelief. Surviving a shipwreck, a plane crash, and ploughing through terrorists after two days without food or water – if moments like this were rare it would be more bearable, but the impossible occurs time and time again. Oddly, the game ends on a more ambiguous tone than those before it, making these farcical moments all the more confusing.


The small steps Uncharted 3 takes to improve the series are minuscule compared to the leap between the first and second instalments, but it remains a great game in its own right. It has all the ingredients for the perfect game, yet it fails to live up to expectations. Its plot explores new realms in the dynamic between protagonist and antagonist. We learn more about why Nate chases after the story’s macguffin, giving the search for treasure meaning, rather than being another meaningless rat race. Its combat irons out many of the issues in melee fights, and its use of set pieces goes to show just how grand a game it is.

If Drake’s Deception managed to blend action and adventure more smoothly, rather than relying on clear-cut fighting and platforming sections; if it didn’t juxtapose extreme, impossible scenes with a predictable and unsatisfying closing act; if it were possible to play without comparing it to the games that came before it… Then it would be perfect.

When it came out, we scored Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception a whopping 10/10 and, although it may not be the best game of all time, or even in its franchise, it’s still as unmissable as ever.

20 Comments
  1. wonkey-willy
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Correct me if I’m wrong., but isn’t this the one with the guys that dissappear in a ball of fire and then pop out of nowhere towards the end of the game?

    Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 13:11.
    • JR.
      Member
      Since: Apr 2013

      Yes they were very annoying on crushing.

      Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 19:03.
      • stueeeee
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        Yeah when Nate was hallucinating so unlike the other games they actually aren’t meant to be real.

        Just shoot them until they burst into fire twice then they go down!

        Comment posted on 17/10/2014 at 11:34.
  2. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Very much enjoyed it but felt like it should have changed its tone (and mood) a lot more than the previous games. I wanted to feel that evolution of the franchise (and the characters) but it felt a little safe for my liking. Still top-drawer entertainment regardless. Oooo… the horse riding. That was NOT good! Looked very badly animated and designed.

    Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 13:37.
    • double-o-dave
      Member
      Since: Nov 2008

      Thats weird, I can’t remotely remember anything about horse riding in Uncharted 3. Not even that picture at the top of the article rings any bells.

      Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 15:39.
    • stueeeee
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      Yeah I remember the horse riding. I quite liked it. Seemed to be a bit of variety to change it up a bit, although the convoy reminded me of the 2nd games convoy bit.

      Comment posted on 17/10/2014 at 11:35.
  3. JR.
    Member
    Since: Apr 2013

    My main issue with Uncharted 3 was that it felt as though the story had been built around various locations/set pieces/ideas rather than having a strong story to start with and fitting the bits and pieces in afterwards. The cruise liner levels for example felt unnecessary and the flashback at the beginning of the game gave us more questions than answers (”your name isn’t Drake…” Oh…???). I’m not a big fan of Helen Mirram and her role as the villain in U3 didn’t change that. She was about as intimidating as well, Helen Mirram and had very little presence at all really. Her disappointing demise was just plain lazy, like they didn’t really know what to do with her. I didn’t like how supporting characters were abandoned half way through the game and never seen again (Chloe) or how enemies would keep on fighting when the house you’re in is engulfed with flames or the ship is sinking in a storm etc. I didn’t like how enemies would walk towards you in the middle of a shootout with no regard for their own lives in a lame attempt to force you out of cover. These hired guns must be on really good money.

    Overall I enjoyed U3 but it felt like they were trying to outdo everything they did in U2 rather than letting U3 be it’s own thing. The individual levels were great but taken as a whole, I got the impression that they had tried to do too much and couldn’t hold it all together.

    Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 14:14.
    • Avenger
      Member
      Since: Oct 2012

      Exactly this. I played it during the summer and had similar impressions about the story. It never held together very well.

      The gameplay also was completely ruined by the altered melee system, CoD style AI (100% accurate and seemingly psychic) and the fact that the average enemy took more than a full clip to kill. The balance was completely ruined. The first hour or two of the game was just looking around and climbing as well. The only thing that I considered good about the game was the graphics which blows TLoU out of the water with near photo-realistic graphics. In fact, it feels like they put so much detail into the graphics that they forgot to make an actual game.

      I’ve enjoyed all other Uncharted games, but this one was horrible. I won’t be sitting on the edge of my seat for Uncharted 4 as the series is getting a little tiresome anyway.

      Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 14:24.
      • JR.
        Member
        Since: Apr 2013

        This psychic AI really bothered me in Far Cry 3 too. You’re hiding in a bush, a couple hundred yards away from a base, sniper rifle at the ready… you headshot a lone guard with a silencer and every other guard in the base starts firing directly at you. So annoying.

        I’m still looking forward to U4 despite the flaws in U3. I’ve been quite hard on U3 but I still enjoyed it. I only played the game twice compared to U2 which I played over and over again but it’s still worth at least one play through.

        Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 22:58.
    • stueeeee
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      I believe in the bonus features they actually say that they had the ideas for levels/set pieces first and even built some before coming up with the story for it. Like they had one of the chase scenes done before they knew who you Nate was actually chasing.

      I agree with some of your points but did enjoy the boat level and flashbacks but it did try to delve into stuff without any follow ups or closure. Although whenever things were being destroyed and enemies were still fighting I did notice Nate mentioned it a couple of times. I was annoyed about leaving Chloe and the massive brutes that would turn up in each set piece toward the end.

      On the whole though I did enjoy it and thought a lot of it was pretty amazing Althoygh the first couple hours dragged a bit whereas UC2 just didn’t. Looking forward to 4.

      Comment posted on 17/10/2014 at 12:28.
  4. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    Worst bits for me were the running away across the rooftop bit and the final section with the burning skull enemies and drugged Nate.
    Also didn’t really feel like the story was as good as previous games, more that they were just building around the successful template of UC2.

    Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 14:36.
    • wonkey-willy
      Member
      Since: Jan 2010

      That’s the dudes I was thinking of.. Bloody nightmare

      Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 15:46.
    • JR.
      Member
      Since: Apr 2013

      I hated those hallucinating parts in U3 and just hallucinations in games in general. I’d rather they just show it in a cutscene rather than just hold forward whilst the screen wobbles and spins all over the place. Yawn. Then there was stumbling around in the desert for half an hour part. Sure, the sand effects were amazing and they did a good job of making you feel like you were actually wondering around a desert for several hours (i’ll give them that) but I could live a long and happy life if I never saw sand again after that ordeal.

      Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 19:44.
  5. double-o-dave
    Member
    Since: Nov 2008

    I didn’t enjoy this as much as the first two. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it seemed to lack the same atmosphere I got from the previous games. I can’t even remember a lot about the game to be honest apart from not really enjoying wading through the building which was on fire and getting bored wandering around a museum and streets. I do recall it looking pretty damn good though.
    Saying that, it was still a good game but I just can’t remember getting that drawn into the story. I was quite glad when it ended but I didn’t want 1 and 2 to finish.
    Was there less ancient buildings or mystical old surroundings in this one? That could be why – lost a bit of its magic.

    Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 15:48.
  6. dave87fez
    Member
    Since: May 2011

    Correction: this IS the best game of all time ;o)

    Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 16:36.
    • Forrest_01
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      Lol. It really isn’t though is it? I think I was a bit bored with it 10 or so minutes in! Still haven’t finished it.

      It’s especially poor when compared to the previous two incarnations as has been done.

      Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 16:43.
    • Starman
      Member
      Since: Jul 2011

      I think you meant to post this in the Warhawk playback!

      Comment posted on 27/09/2014 at 13:53.
  7. freezebug2
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    To echo the summaries of others, I found UC3 to be more of a Game Video rather than Video Game. Lush looking but eff all content to pique possible future interest….plot lost.
    My game library says it all with UC1 and UC2 intact and shelved but no sign of UC3….ultimately a complete then trade immediately jobbie!

    Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 16:54.
  8. Andrewww
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    I actually really enjoyed playing it, especially the shipyard and the chapter on the ship (quite hated the spiders, though…). In my view it was just struggling with unrealistic expectations, given the first two were brilliant.

    Comment posted on 26/09/2014 at 20:51.
  9. Eldaveo
    Member
    Since: Oct 2013

    Really did not care for Uncharted 3. Less of a game, more of a “look what pretty graphics we can pull off using the PS3 hardware” tech demo. If Uncharted 4 is more of the same I doubt I will bother picking it up as The Last of Us has proven Naughty Dog are capable of so much better.

    Comment posted on 27/09/2014 at 09:24.