maanantai 30. tammikuuta 2012

REVIEW - Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (2011)

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: October 2011
DEVELOPER(S): Naughty Dog
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment

The way I see it nowadays, receiving a perfect first sequel to an excellent game ain't so surprising, but the third game can go both ways. Of course, that's not the way game developers see it. They make the game all full of themselves, driven by the first sequel's success, striving to make everything about the third game even better, flashier and more epic. Stumbling is not a possibility in their omnipotent world. Naughty Dog was in quite a predicament when they announced Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, even if they didn't realize it. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves raised the bar to unbelievable heights, and while the most optimistic critics were at the game's side throughout its quick development, realists knew from pure experience that all the hype would turn against the game by at least some degree. Drake's Deception was released in October 2011, and the initial reviews of the highest profile bore no reservations at all; perfect tens floated around the net freely. Later reviews of the game were a little bit more reserved, and finally, even the most positive critics began to second-guess their own takes on the game. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is undoubtedly a great game with some huge cinematic climaxes that shame the hell out of its predecessors, but in my honest overall opinion, it's the weakest game in the ultra-strong franchise thus far.

Hardly the last crusade, look at the numbers

Drake, Sully and their trusted team are after Sir Francis Drake's best-kept secret, clues to which are chronicled in T.E. Lawrence's (a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia) secret notebook - now in the possession of Drake and Sully's long-time arch nemesis, the devious Katherine Marlowe. In Drake's most dangerous and potentially deadly adventure yet, his and Sully's 20-year friendship is put to a true test.

Ooh, yoo gonna geddit nao.
I, for one, believed in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, one hundred per cent. I believed it would leave Uncharted 2: Among Thieves dead on its tracks, as perfect in its own category as the previous game was. Then came the tens. Tens are never good, that's why I don't use them, or at least I don't hand them out like critics handed them out to Uncharted 3. Despite having huge reservations towards the game, I swear I almost fainted a couple of times during the game's first 20 minutes - the game starts out better than I ever could've imagined. The intro sequence demonstrates how melee combat has been improved and made a more important part of the gameplay, with Naughty Dog borrowing some bits from Batman's playbook politely enough. As scripted as the whole sequence seems to be, hot spots work. You can push a guy against a bar counter and break a beer bottle on his head, if one happens to be within arm's reach. The fight against "supermuscle" in the john crowns the whole thing.

We don't rightly know why he does everything
the hard way, but we still like it.
Then, the game smacks us with a bombshell of a plot turn that will leave fans of the franchise sweating and almost breaking down. Then, we go to a little flashback sequence that tells us how Nate and Sully found each other. It's obvious that this is going to be kind of like a buddy movie, and that's fine by me, since Sully was so underutilized in the second game. What's not fine by me, is that this indeed is more of a buddy MOVIE than a buddy GAME, and as if that wasn't enough, its scripted sequences (such as Drake's infamous, desperate hike over the desert, hinted at by many of the game's promotional trailers) last way too long, make that double since you cannot run, and as much as Naughty Dog invested in a real captivating story... that real captivating story hits a brick wall. The best single word to describe Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is "incomplete". Its length? Well, the first four chapters out of the total of 22 are over in under 30 minutes, before the actual game has even begun - what can you gather?

The story is indeed very good, the most solid stand-alone story in the series thus far - although calling it "stand-alone" is politically incorrect, since you'd have to play the first two games to understand Nate's occasionally uneasy relationships with his cohorts. The exchange between Nate (Nolan North) and Sully (Richard McGonagle) is just fantastic; I must honestly say it's the best voice acting I've ever heard. Chloe (Claudia Black) and Elena (Emily Rose) return to give Nate some feminine hell, and the newcomer Charlie Cutter (Graham McTavish, who played the lead villain Lazarevic in the last game) is a striking addition to the team. As if all of these guys weren't enough to create one great ensemble cast, we have perhaps the greatest female villain of all time in the snobby, grade A bitch Katherine Marlowe (Rosalind Ayres).

Never felt this seasick due to a video game.
The level design is magnificent - but, after Uncharted 2, it falls short on true surprises. While it's fun and exciting to ride a horse in a desert storm and do battle with heavily armed guys on trucks, escape guys in suits in the sneakers of a clumsy, 14-year old Nathan Drake across Colombian rooftops, trying to maintain some degree of sanity in several hallucinative states, and be caught in the melee fight of your life in a falling plane of all settings, the shock value of all these situations and the rest ain't so high or lasting anymore. Generally, the game might just be the best-looking game on the PlayStation 3. Great acclaim to sand and water effects has definitely been invested in the right spot - they look ridiculously awesome, and the characters' faces have had yet another fancy makeover.

Also, Greg Edmonson's score keeps getting better, and more and more memorable. I think I already said all there is to say about the voice acting, it's the one quality in this game worth a perfect 10. There's simply no sign of "acting" here, it feels like the actors are that completely devoted to their characters - even the new fish in the bowl. North's ad-libbing makes the dialogue sound even more spontaneous, real and altogether spot-on. I just can't praise the cast enough. A special mention and thanks go to Billy Unger, the 16-year old actor who does the voice of young Nathan Drake; this kid totally nails the spirit of his more mature counterpart.

You guys belong together, think it's time to
face it already?
I've bashed some aspects of the game, praised some of them - let's take the tween road then, and shift over to the core gameplay. On a more positive note, general controls are better. In the ever-changing environments this game throws at you at a rapid pace, missed steps and jumps are still very likely to occur often, but on the other hand, the checkpoints make more sense. On a less positive note, there are not enough changes for the better to draw a line between the game and the previous ones. The only real new trick in the book besides improved and way more essential melee is being able to do a return-to-sender on an enemy grenade - which is a very cool trick, at that, as you no longer have to jump out of cover and run around like a retard every time you're greeted with a live grenade. As good as another adventure of the same flesh as Uncharted 2 looks on paper, I expected more of almost every truly important element of the game.

Like the previous game, Uncharted 3 sees Drake take most of the challenges on together with a friend or a few of them. The A.I. of your companions, not to mention their aim, is better, and there are a few virtual co-op sequences - you no longer have to go clean up an area and get your buddy when the coast is clear. They're right behind you most of the time, and if they are unable to perform the stunts needed to make progress, you can help them out on the spot with an alternative solution, instead of searching for that alternative solution the usual "Drake way". That of course means climbing up a wall, then sideways, then falling down, climbing up again, swinging on a few thin poles and making it back to your friend from the other direction about 20 minutes later. Oh, but there'll be a lot of climbing, though - make no mistake about it. What was it Drake said in Uncharted 2? "I'm sick and tired of climbing shit!" Not apparently.

Red Dead Redemption 2: Arabian Outlaws?
The treasures are still there for the explorers to search and find, no more or no less than in Uncharted 2, but the in-game awards are completely flushed, which means there's not a whole lot of unlockables, either. Some random, completely optional nonsense which served as criteria for some of Uncharted 2's in-game awards has been moved over to the Trophies, which are generally the same as they ever were - most of them are based on using different weapons and finding hidden treasures. I've always enjoyed purchasing unlockables, even if I didn't have any use for them at all. Just being able to purchase them is a reward in itself, and Uncharted 3 completely misses out on that reward. The game has no real boss fights as you've learned to know them; some choice sequences near the end of the game could be categorized as pseudo-boss fights, though. While I certainly didn't want Katherine Marlowe to suddenly turn into some bulletproof mutant like Lazarevic was in the end of Uncharted 2, the bitch met an embarrassing end unworthy of her awesome malice.

Some call Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Naughty Dog's counterpart to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - which kind of rings true in the sense that Sully and Drake are much like father and son, and of course, this is the third game in the series. But, I'd say Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is more like Naughty Dog's counterpart to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - a great game just like the rest of 'em, no doubt, but one that is missing a decisive spark and perhaps even a little bit of that true spirit.

- Nathan Drake, Nathan Drake, Nathan Drake, and a tasty dose of Victor "God Damn!" Sullivan
- The audiovisuals of the franchise just keep getting better by several steps, as unbelievable as it is
- The best story and cast of characters in the series thus far
- Melee combat is fun
- The grenade trick is even more fun
- It's full of nasty predicaments and explosions... 

- ...The thing is avid players of Uncharted 2 are difficult to truly surprise
- The game feels incomplete, all the way from the gameplay refinement to the otherwise stellar story; there are interesting plot threads that are left wide open
- LONG, purely cinematic sequences, that will drive everyone except for the blindest fan out of their minds
- Some exceptionally enfuriating combat scenes that feel endless to boot
- No in-game awards, very few unlockable items

< 8.7 >

1 kommentti:

  1. This game has the mix of action, humor and romance that previous games had with strong emphasis on emotion in some key scenes (and for those concerned I felt Elena and Chloe's respective returns were well handled and logical continuations). I did get my first opportunity to see this game in person at a co-worker’s house from DISH yesterday and noticed one thing’s for sure; you won't find a better looking game out there right now. Yes, Uncharted 2 is pretty but the level of detail on Uncharted 3 just takes the game to a completely different level. I don’t have the money to buy Uncharted 3 right now, so I added it to my Blockbuster@Home queue. Blockbuster makes it affordable for anyone to play and rent games for a flat monthly fee. It’ll be in my mailbox soon and I can’t wait to blow stuff up in the comfort of my own house.