Well isn’t this a blast from the past! In an effort to clear out my old catalog I started and finished Uncharted 3 yesterday. This review will be somewhat light on the pictures seeing as there is basically nothing I could show that wouldn’t be a spoiler of epic proportions. However I managed to find two images that we can use, one is on the cover of the box and another is of some magic spiders that I’ll be discussing a bit. The spoilers I will be providing here are actually just to tell you what won’t be answered in the game. That is to say I’m helping you not get your hopes up. Otherwise the story will remain mostly an enigma for you after you finish reading the review.
This is a fairly old game at this point. It came out in November of 2011 and I’m sure most people have played it. But I hadn’t yet and now is better than never. The visuals of Uncharted 3 hold up today, the levels were gorgeous, the cut scenes were engaging, and I never found myself groaning at poor artistic decisions. Really this was the main reason that I played Uncharted 3 and probably the only reason I finished it. Every new locale was wonderful and I wanted to explore every little crevice of them, I wasn’t allowed to, but I wanted to.
Sully is a treat and the banter between him and Nathan is something that has yet to get old. These are characters that personally I find enjoyable and while they might not be the broken husks that we generally consider “interesting” I find their generic humor and quirks to be enough to keep me engaged. I’m also somewhat fond of “Cutter” even if he had some incredibly unbelievable scenes, not in the good way either.
The sound design is just as good as the visuals and I don’t know what to say about it beyond that. It’s not memorable but it is enjoyable. The action scenes, like the airplane scene that was revealed on all the box art was titillating and I enjoyed it a great deal. Even if it begins with one of my least favorite parts about this game: The QTE bad guy. In this game there is a lumbering bald oaf that you must fight what feels like thousands of times and each time it is exactly the same, a QTE event at the worst possible time that isn’t fun in any way. It was designed by someone who thought they knew what fun was but they missed it by a mile.
He’s terrible, always looks the same, and I hated every second he was in the game. They reskin him a couple times near the end but he’s just as terrible. Then you’ve got the “shotgun helmet” guys that are impervious to anything short of cannon fire unless you shoot them in the face with a high powered weapon or shove a couple grenades a foot up their asses. Liz watched as I unloaded an entire clip from a rifle into the face of one of these guys and they didn’t die. I get it…he’s wearing a helmet…I don’t care. That’s not how helmets work.
The normal villains aren’t as obnoxious but they run at the same speed that Drake turns his gun. This means that if you are aiming at them and they start running you’ll be reenacting that scene from every action movie ever…over…and over…and over. You shoot a trail behind them and they outrun it. I’m sure there are sensitivity options to fix this but the default shouldn’t be this, this is literally the only game I’ve ever played that does this.
The bosses are terrible. There is a scene on a boat where you fight a guy that is literally invulnerable to anything but a grenade launcher that gets dropped after a certain amount of time running from him. He’s wearing what looks like a hockey outfit and a welding mask, this doesn’t turn him into superman. If we put that outfit on literally anyone on the planet and I unloaded an AK-47 into their face they would die. Their head would be turned to dust. This was ridiculous and neither Liz nor I found it interesting. This seems to be the games idea of challenging, sponges everywhere. Instead of designing interesting or engaging villains they just took piss poor AI and strapped a million life points onto it.
I headshot my way through most of the game but it still wasn’t fun. Every new zone was less fun than the last because they’d up the sponge factor of all the enemies or add in some new even spongier villain.
Speaking of villains what the hell is up with the villains? There is a magical white guy in this game that acts like Baron Samedi from Live and Let Die. If not Samedi then certainly Scarecrow from Batman. He’s a god damn genie through the entire game and you think it’ll explain to you why by the end. But it doesn’t. You might think you have an answer to this and you might be saying it as you read this line but keep in mind that the “trick” he was using would only explain 1 out of the 4 people who witnessed him doing magic shit. It also doesn’t explain the end of the game either. When you get to the rock surfing you’ll probably see what I mean, presuming you ever finish this game.
The combat is so bad and the villains so poor that it really becomes a chore to finish the game. The game isn’t hard, not by any means, its just badly designed. There are sections where you will literally enter a checkpoint with about 2 seconds to hide before you instantly die. 2 seconds might be a bit of an understatement, at least once I was instantly grey the second the game finished loading. This is terrible and any game trying to tout itself as professionally made should not have this kind of bad presentation and balancing.
I’d also like to know why Nathan and Sully are apparently idiots. You kill dozens of people and know full well that an army of death is above you, yet you wander around laughing like fools and not checking your six? Really? Do any of the “aw shit, surprise” moments make sense? If either of these guys has seen a single movie they’d know that they were fucking up because they fall for the same cliches that have been in cinematography for a century. I found myself groaning over, and over, and over, as the characters acted entirely unbelievable. Why the hell is that guy taking that thing? Why is that dude walking with that guy? Sully you’d never do that!
I found myself shouting or saying things like that throughout the game. It’s like they designed the characters to act weird whenever it conveniences them. When the game starts I thought I was in for a treat with the writing but as it goes along it just becomes insufferably bad. There’s no weight to anything, nothing comes together and nothing is resolved. You know how people found out the answer to the spiders? By interviews with the team after the game was released. If you are introducing weird shit you should at least explain it in canon.
The treasure really seems to personify the writing. These weird vapid little things that seem to exist only because “they are supposed to”. They have no weight to them, nothing about them excites me as I collect them. I don’t see them up in some kind of imagined collection of the future nor do I hear Nathan quipping about how he’s about to be rich. Just little shimmering spots on the ground that are sometimes in inconvenient locations, exciting.
But with all this rambling that isn’t to say this game is bad. It’s not, its alright, it’s OK. I’d probably never play it again but I don’t hate it. It’s a good idea that is just handled poorly in the writing and the game design. Underneath there is some kind of gem just waiting to be discovered. Maybe Uncharted 4 will be that gem? All I know is that it’d have to try to play worse than this game does.
- What I liked.
- Stunning visuals.
- Lovely sound design.
- Sully is still a treat to me.
- Some memorable action scenes.
- What I disliked.
- First half of the game is fun, last half is terribly balanced and not fun to play.
- Treasure just doesn’t have any weight, I collect it for achievements but it is otherwise not really interesting.
- The QTE baddie always looks the same and fighting him is about as fun as punching myself in the balls.
- Shotgun helmet guy and various boss characters are all incredibly stupid.
- The writing starts out good and devolves into terrible.