The onslaught of video games this past fall caused me to put my recently acquired PS3 on the shelf for a stretch that has only ended recently. Though titles like Battlefield, Modern Warfare and Skyrim were available on both systems, years of loyalty and comfort with my Xbox 360 caused me to buy all cross-platform games for it rather than Playstation.
Now, I’ve finished with most of them (I’ll get around to you eventually I suppose, Assassin’s Creed Revelations), and I’m able to catch up with the one PS-exclusive title out this fall that I cared about missing, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.
If you’ve missed my thoughts on the previous two Uncharted games, you can find them here and here. It’s a series I hadn’t been able to play for years, but I’m happy I finally managed to catch up with it at last. And now with Naughty Dog’s next project being the mysterious apocalypse thriller “The Last of Us” rather than another Drake adventure, I think we might have seen the last of him for quite some time.
Finally he’ll have enough time to heal all those injuries. Dude really is the most kicked around video game hero in history.
The problem with referring you to my last two reviews of these games is that you could copy a great deal of them and repaste it here as a review of this final chapter. The reason being is that despite being a fundamentally good game that excels in many areas, Uncharted 3 suffers because of that 3 on the end, as do many popular franchises as time goes on.
This is a widespread plague in the industry now. Great original titles gather fanbases and result in huge sales, but the subsequent sequels by definition lose almost all of their originality. The games are forced to try and make things bigger (and hopefully better) and introduce new game mechanics that add to, but don’t break the game.
The evidence of this is everywhere. It’s why enthusiasm for titles like Gears of War 3, Modern Warfare 3, Saints Row 3, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, God of War 3 and an endless amount of other such sequels is dampened. Had we experienced each in a vacuum, we would have likely been blown away, but after playing an exceptionally similar game two or three or six times already, the wow-factor is largely missing.
“Whoops, sorry I burned down your priceless ancient mansion.”
Few games do sequels right. I would cite Portal 2 and Assassin’s Creed 2 as two titles who took great original concepts and really expanded them in meaningful ways. Despite the fundamental gameplay being the same, they expanded it in vast and creative new ways.
On a sequel innovation scale, I would put Uncharted somewhere in the middle. Each subsequent game expands only in one major area, environments, while everything else, from story to gameplay remains absolutely untouched, for better or worse.
Uncharted 3 has Nathan Drake chasing down another legendary tale from his alleged ancestor Sir Francis Drake (like the first game) which has him attempting to locate a lost city which holds a powerful, but dangerous secret (like the second game). He circles the globe, solves puzzles, then watches as a rival contingent of treasure hunters take advantage of his clue finding and riddle solving abilities and waltz right into the place he’s trying to locate (like every game).
“STOP FOLLOWING ME.”
Uncharted has always been described as the most “cinematic” video game series out there, and in one sense, I agree with that. The action is usually a seamless blend of scripted events (normally a no-no in games) and actual player controlled action, and the pulse pounding action sequences are more intense than almost any movie as it’s YOU who are in control.
But these games have always failed “cinematically” for me on a story level. Each plot is relatively the same as previous ones, and they’re ALL very similar to the basic Indiana Jones structure of cursed treasure. Despite a bit of backstory here involving Drake’s childhood in this go-round, the characters have always felt one-dimensional, even if they are well animated and voice acted. The script is often just a loose collection of sarcastic one-liners and adventure movie tropes, and would never pass mustard as an actual film in Hollywood.
Rather, the game’s strength is in its gameplay and visuals, but “for a video game” it must be acknowledged its stories are pretty okay. Though still, we must demand better.