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The first Uncharted takes players on a fun adventure but Uncharted 2 is where the series really hit its stride. The mechanics are refined, the action is fun, and as far as I’m concerned, it defines what an Uncharted game should be. It’s bigger, it’s better, and is one of the best games in the series. It was followed up by Uncharted 3 which takes players on a new adventure and introduces some new mechanics. Developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was released for PlayStation 3 in November, 2011. It was remastered along with the previous two games and released on PlayStation 4 as part of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection. For this review, I played the remastered version on a PlayStation 5. This is the only campaign in the collection I’ve beaten once. And it was the original game. Even when I got the collection back when it came out, I skipped this game for some reason. It’s not that I didn’t like it. I remember it being similar to Uncharted 2… But different. I guess it just didn’t stick with me for some reason. So I was excited to jump into it for a second time for this review.
Set after the events of the previous game, the story in Uncharted 3 follows Nathan Drake and his friend Victor “Sully” Sullivan as they set out on a quest to find the lost city of Ubar. The duo and their friends frequently have to contend with the leader of a mysterious secret order, Katherine Marlowe and her henchmen who are also in search of the lost city. The plot also digs into part of Nate’s teenage years, specifically when he met Sully. Uncharted 3 does retain the cinematic qualities the series is known for which is backed up by solid writing and phenomenal voice performances.
Much like the previous game in this collection, the multiplayer component was removed so all you get is the campaign. It did take me almost seven hours to beat on the Normal difficulty. Uncharted 3 does have a decent amount of replay value thanks to the numerous difficulty levels and rewards. As you progress through the campaign and collect treasure, you’ll unlock rewards like skins, weapons, render modes, art galleries, and tweaks and certain rewards can only be unlocked by playing on harder difficulties.
Like the previous games, Uncharted 3 is a linear story-driven action adventure title and third-person shooter. You’ll be jumping, swinging, climbing, and running and gunning to progress the story. The campaign is filled with set pieces, scripted sequences, and a lot of action. Uncharted 3 does expand the melee mechanics which is cool but I do feel the game focuses on it a little too much. There are multiple encounters peppered throughout the campaign that are simply brawls and the melee has never been amazing in this series as far as I’m concerned. Enemies can now grab you, you can grab and throw them, and brawls typically have you tapping the attack button and countering and mashing buttons when prompted. It’s not very difficult or exciting. It’s just a lot of button mashing.
If you do decide to engage enemies in melee combat, you can trigger some cool scripted kills. I particularly enjoy the one where Nate pulls the pin on a grenade attached to an enemy and then watching them panic before they blow up. Stealth returns and silently taking down enemies can force them drop additional ammo. You can drop onto enemies from above and even dive underwater to get around obstacles and avoid gunfire. My favorite new addition is being able to throw back grenades. This means you don’t always have to move out of cover whenever an enemy throws a grenade directly at your feet. Although, they can sometimes be grenade happy which can get annoying.
Unfortunately, the pacing is a bit inconsistent and, from a gameplay perspective, I feel the second half of the game is more enjoyable than the first half. When you get to chapter 12, that’s when the excitement starts to really pick up. I’ve always considered these games to be third-person shooters before anything else. I enjoy the firefights and action-packed set pieces. I don’t mind the action slowing down here and there for major story beats or to climb around and solve puzzles but I feel it’s the action that makes the gameplay shine. So when the action stops for long stretches and nothing interesting or exciting happens along the linear path, things can become boring. And that’s kind of the problem with the first half of Uncharted 3.
There are some cool encounters in the first half like the firefights at the chateau in France and the fort in Syria but in between are some lengthy stretches of walking around and puzzle solving. And as you may or may not know, the puzzles in these games have never been very challenging and you can once again reference a journal that gives you the solutions. However, I will say the puzzles in Uncharted 3 are easily the most clever puzzles in the series up to this point. I actually had to think a little bit to solve some of them.
Being in a linear game, it’s always obvious what direction you need to go and what Nate can jump to or grab onto and the jumping can sometimes be finicky which can result in some frustration. You follow the paths and jump, climb, and swing when necessary. The only reasons to actually go out of your way to look around are to find weapons, ammo, and treasure which acts as a form of collectible. And when you’re not climbing or shooting, you’ll most likely be participating in a scripted sequence and I have to point out that some of the set pieces and scripted events in this game aren’t as fun as the developers might think they are.
There’s one thing that Uncharted 3 does, along with some other games like it, that really grate on me after a while and that’s force you to do things that are not particularly enjoyable. Think of it as padding. It’s usually things that are more-or-less narrative devices that could just as easily be conveyed in a cut scene. For example, there’s a sequence in the game where Nate has to walk through the desert. You’re just pushing the stick in the direction he needs to go and that’s it. There’s no point to this sequence other than to show that he’s hot and dehydrated and running out of energy. There’s another sequence where Nate is hallucinating and you’re forced to make him run around until you trigger the next cut scene.
The problem with sequences like these are that they’re part of the gameplay. These are things you have to do to progress the story. It’s more of a problem on subsequent playthroughs because it’s not like I yearn to do them again. There’s nothing very exciting or fun about them. All they do is slow things down. There’s another segment early in the game that puts you in the shoes of Nate as a teenager and you have to simply make your way around the streets of Cartagena to advance the plot. Nothing exciting really happens until the end chase sequence. But because this segment is set early in the game, it can at least be excused as the game’s way of showing you some of the mechanics.
On a positive note, the gunplay in Uncharted 3 is excellent and I would say it’s better than that of Uncharted 2 mainly because of the audio work. Gunfire sounds very powerful and shots will often echo. You’ll get your hands on a good variety of weapons that can be used to blow away a decent variety of enemy types. You got your typical goons and thugs that wield different weapons. You want to aim for the head and prioritize certain targets over others like guys with rocket and grenade launchers, snipers, and armored foes.
In typical Uncharted fashion, Uncharted 3 does include supernatural enemies which appear towards the end of the game and these guys are known as the Djinn. However, I’m happy to say they’re not as bad as the Descendants in the first game or the Guardians in Uncharted 2. But they’re not that fun to engage, either. The Djinn can imitate henchmen and after they take enough damage, they transform into demon-like beings. These enemies are spongey so it’s wise to use some of the deadlier firepower like explosive weapons. Luckily, they only appear for a brief time.
Much like Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3 takes you to a good variety of locations and puts Nate in a lot of exciting situations. The campaign will take you to Colombia, London, Yemen, France, and Syria among some other locations. Nate will have to scale structures while engaging enemies, jump onto a moving plane, escape from a burning building and sinking ship, and even get into firefights on horseback. You’ll get to move through the London Underground, shoot your way around an airport, and engage enemies in the middle of a sandstorm.
The environments are linear and it would be hard to get lost but there are several areas that are more open-ended than any of the areas we’ve seen in the previous games. Bigger firefights are often set in the more open areas with plenty of ways to get around and objects to use as cover. There’s a good mix of firefights set in open, tight, and more vertical spaces. There’s a cool encounter that allows you to freely jump between boats and platforms and swim around. Open-ended areas like these give you multiple options when it comes to how you want to approach situations. It also means enemies can come at you from multiple directions and they often will so you always need to be alert and aware of your surroundings.
Visually, Uncharted 3 is a great looking game on PlayStation 3 and the remaster looks better and is presented at 1080p. It also comes with a photo mode. The environments are diverse and extremely well detailed and the action is accompanied by some great visual effects and lighting. I do think Uncharted 3 showcases some of the best audio work up to this point. The soundtrack is great and fits the action and as mentioned before, the sounds of weapons fire is loud and powerful. This remaster is also a solid performer. The frame rate was consistently smooth and I did not encounter any major bugs or issues.
I had fun with Uncharted 3 but I don’t think it’s as good as Uncharted 2. When the action gets going, it’s a lot of fun and exciting. But when it slows down, it often slows down for a little too long. Maybe Uncharted 2 raised the bar too high. That’s not to say Uncharted 3 is a bad or even average game. Overall, I think it’s a great action adventure title and I do welcome the new and expanded mechanics. The gunplay is excellent, many set pieces are exciting and the more open-ended areas allow for experimentation. Despite the new melee mechanics, I think the bigger emphasis on melee combat is unnecessary because it doesn’t really add anything to the overall experience.
Much like Uncharted 2, the game really shines when you’re put into exciting combat situations. When you’re scaling structures and using objects as cover to avoid gunfire from enemies shooting down at you. When you’re on horseback behind a convoy, picking off enemies and jumping to different vehicles. When you’re moving through a burning building, shooting bad guys as the floors, ceilings and walls around you burn away and collapse. It’s situations like these that I love and are the reasons why I enjoy this series. It’s certainly not because I get to carry a torch that keeps a horde of spiders at bay or slowly trek through the desert or run around aimlessly as a result of a hallucination.
The previous titles have a good overall balance of action and let’s call the rest adventure. Firefights were often broken up by set pieces, scripted events, climbing around and some puzzles here and there but then the action would pick up again. This kind of balance only seems present in the second half of Uncharted 3. The first half suffers from too much downtime and underwhelming moments in my opinion.
I would recommend Uncharted 3. It doesn’t reach the same highs as its predecessor but it’s still a good action adventure title worthy of your time. It tells a good story, takes you to a lot of diverse environments and showcases impressive production values. It is a shame the multiplayer was removed from this remaster but I do think this is the definitive way to experience the campaign. Definitely check it out.