Friday, 1 June 2012

Uncharted 3 Review...ish

Unchartered 3: Drakes Deception
PS3 – Action/Adventure
Naughty Dog

Toolbox 24

Spoiler Warning for Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves and Drakes Deception.

Uncharted 3
Unchartered 3 is an amazing game, it really is. It’s story is in-depth, the gameplay mechanics are superb, and the graphics are truly breathtaking. However it is undoubtedly an Unchartered game.

“Obviously, it’s the 3rd in the Unchartered series.” I hear you cry. And yes, you have every right to blast me for stating the obvious. However, I’m not stating the obvious, not really. I’m kind of stating the quasi-obvious.

I’m getting ahead of myself and perhaps some readers as well. I’m not going to delve into Unchartered in the same way I have done to the Mass Effect trilogy, mainly because as good as it is, it just doesn’t hold as special a place in my heart.

Anyway, the reason I say it is undoubtedly an Unchartered game, is that it is incredibly similar to the first 2 games. So much so, that it could really be Uncharted 2.1. Now this doesn’t make it a bad game, but for me it did make it a bit stale. The storyline was good, don’t get me wrong taking you back to Drake’s youth as a vagabond in Cartagena, Columbia to the streets of London to a sinking cruise ship then to a lost city in the middle of the desert.

Drake hanging around an old abandoned French Chateau
But here it is, I suppose Naughty Dog are just sticking to a working formula, by following in the footsteps of explorers of the past (Sit Francis Drake, Marco Polo and T.E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia) who suddenly changed paths, or had no documentation of a 6 month period or whatever, where Drake finds himself in the fortuitous position of being able to not just pick up where they left off, stopped either by some supernatural ghoulies, physical barrier or spiritual obstacle he just manages to hop, skip and jump his way to the end, usually bringing a massive superstructure down around him as he goes.

It’s great gaming, and it’s a great testament to the writing and acting of the games and their characters that despite it feeling on a gaming level like a re-hash to make some wonga, cinematographically they all feel very in-depth, very accurate and incredibly compelling.

It’s a weird one for me. I love all 3 Uncharted games, in Drake’s Fortune he is looking for his apparent ancestor’s – Franis Drake’s – lost treasure. In an adventure that ultimately leads him to a small Uncharted island with a shit load of seemingly Venetian architecture oh and these freaky zombie ghoul things that protect the island from intruders. In Among Thieves, we find that he is in the search for Shambhala or Shangri-La, which Marco Polo was on the hunt for hundreds of years ago. They manage to find Shangri-La, and it’s being protected by the weird zombie, ghoul things. And on leaving Shangri-La, the whole place kind of collapsed in on itself. In Drake’s Deception, we’re treated to him being on trail of Francis Drake again, but this time throw in John Dee (the original 007 – check him out on Google!), Lawrence of Arabia, and swap zombie, ghoul things for swarms (and I mean SWARMS) of very big, squealing spiders. Lovely. They are on their hunt for the lost city – Iram of the Pillars or the City of Ubar (I can't remember, I got a little yawny), which is lost in this great big desert in Yemen.

Now something you must know about me is this. I’m pernickety, pedantic and I get easily irritated by errors that to me, seem glaring. But in all the Uncharted games, there seems to be these moments where Drake jumps and leaps and swings around old buildings, tombs and the like, hunting desperately and searching for all the hidden clues to get through the big secret doors, and then after doing it, you happen to stumble through a conveniently placed door, or crack in the wall that would have made your job easier if you found it beforehand. And with the rise of technological marvels like Google Earth, which has done miraculous things like reunite a man with his mother after getting lost as a small boy in India (LINK), it seems ridiculous that these places would ever remain hidden. Surely Drake could have just powered up his Desktop PC or heaven-forbid, his Smartphone, go to his maps and be like “Oh yeah, over these mountains/through this sandstorm is a giant city with clear open skies above it...”

Oh look, it's that huge massive hidden city that nobody has ever found...
But then, I let go of these feelings and just get sunk into the games.

I’ve gone off track quite superbly, for what started out as a review of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (U3DD from now on) for the PS3, this has turned into me rambling on for quite a few hundred characters about the other 2 games, and my general problems with them.

I must rein it back, and I will. U3DD is quite simply a superb game, that has all the cinematic moments of a Hollywood Blockbuster, with the storyline that makes The Da Vinci Code look like a Spot the Dog book, and acting from the cast that is as good as any critically acclaimed film or TV series. Another massive leap forward when it comes to Computer Games taking their rightful place at the perch of entertainment – but that’s for another psot.

Naughty Dog have perfected their little niche of Uncharted being an Indiana Jones for the 21st Century – the explorer with the heart of gold, not afraid to pull the trigger when required, with an amazing knowledge of old languages and general historic details. The Uncharted games are a definite must for any PS3 owner, and a great advert for the console, but unlike with some other games, once you’ve played it, it doesn’t really lend itself for a replay. It’s one of those games where, once you’ve played it once you kind of have to be “in the mood” to play it again. Well that’s my opinion anyway!

The added extras from the previous games are very nice little examples of polishing games, with simple things like Drakes running his hand along a wall he is walking close to, to being able to melee combat with people even while being choked.

The graphics in the game are quite simply some of the most beautiful in-game graphics I’ve ever seen in a computer game, and you can feel yourself just taking it all in sometimes. It’s as if when you’re in the damp London back-streets, you’re feeling the drizzle beat down on your back, and when you’re in the heat-drenched desert of Yemen you feel yourself getting hot to the core, dry and even exhausted. It’s quite a feat that a game can make you feel all these things, when they’re really a peripheral experience compared to the plot and main gameplay mechanics.

The story of the game starts you off in good ol’ Lahn-dan taan. With Drake and his father figure (they sure do ram that home in this game) Sully entering a back-street pub, where the locals don’t look like Londoners, but more like 1930’s Yorkshire Coal Miners, enjoying a pint before going home to punch the wife. Apart from the obligatory "hoodie" or 2. 

Whilst in, said pub, Drake and Sully go to a back room, where a shady looking deal is about to take place involving Drake giving up his ring to a bunch of surly men…hang on…I should clarify. Drake doesn’t get gang raped in Old London Town. Throughout the games he is seen wearing a ring round his neck that once belonged to Sir Francis Drake – the deal in the pub is for said ring. Not his arsehole.

Anyways, the deal goes down, then it doesn’t and some bad shit happens – cue flashback to 15 year old Drake in Cartagena. This basically shows how certain people are involved in the current game, and also how Drake and Sully first met. Cue the first of many, many “father-son” type scenes.

Basically, you find yourself looking for clues as to a treasure that Francis Drake and later Lawrence of Arabia was after hundreds and dozens of years ago in a hidden French Chateau, a museum type castle in the Middle East, then through the streets of a town in Yemen.

The story of the game was decent enough, but it didn’t grip me like the first 2. Yes some of the cinematics were amazing, and yes some of the action sequences were among the best I’ve ever played (the River Cruise Ship especially, not to mention the plane scene) however there were long periods of the game that I found myself truly bored out of my skull – going through the scrap shipyard bored me to tears, and the French Chateau didn’t float my boat like I’d hoped. And the storyline just didn’t grip me like the first, and especially the second game did.

Drake's wander through the ship wasn't as leisurely as he'd hoped...
This game did seem like it was just an attempt to cash in on the mega-success of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The end sequence of U3DD was like they copied the ending to U2AT and tweaked it here and there. Oh look, there’s a fucking enormous city out in the open, that has apparently never been seen by planes or satellites or Richard Branson in his balloon. Oh look that city is almost impossible to get to. Oh look when you get to the city, through the treacherous obstacles, and crappy weather (either snow or sandstorms) it’s like a wonderfully glorious summers day all the time! Oh look once you get inside there are these weird ghouly monsters. Oh look once you’ve completed your mission, the whole place starts to collapse. Oh look you get out by the skin of your cock. I’m sorry, but if you didn’t see how much Uncharted 3’s ending was so similar – but not as well done, or long – as Uncharted 2’s ending, then you’re some kind of cretin. Fuck off now. Right now. Go on you absolute bastard. Leave my blog and never return.

Actually no, you can stay. But no more of that shit right.

In essence, although some of the gameplay mechanics have been tweaked for a slightly smoother performance, the overall experience of the game left me feeling slightly hollow and thinking – “oh…that’s it then. Erm ok.” Which isn’t the best advert for the ending of a game, but then I think I was spoilt by Uncharted 2 being an absolute tour de force. Any game that was good enough to pip Mass Effect 2 to the BAFTA Game of the Year 2010 (I know, I know another Mass Effect reference) was always going to be an absolute world beater. However I think maybe Naughty Dog played their hand a little early. If Uncharted 2 had been the end, then brilliant. However by stretching to this 3rd game, it looks and feels like a money spinner.

This game is definitely worth a place in my games cabinet, but unfortunately for Drake’s Deception it is currently sitting in the shadow of it’s predecessor Uncharted 2 Among Thieves. A good game, that could have been seen as great, if Uncharted 2 hadn’t set the bar so unreachably high.

7/10 – Definitely worth buying, definitely worth playing, but given the choice – go for Among Thieves instead. 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA I'm like Indiana Jones!
Last note - apparently (as with most awesome video game franchises these days) an Uncharted film is meant to be in development, with rumours that Mark Wahlberg will be Nathan Drake and with parts written for Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. I could see De Niro being a good Sully, but who the fuck would Joe Pesci be? I dunno, but I have no doubt that with Wahlberg tipped to play the'll be shit.