And the skies, um….
And the angels…well….
(And really, spoilers ahead! As well as strong feelings about a relatively new game ahead! Seriously, if you really want to play Uncharted 3 and haven’t, don’t read any further. Go play the game. Or go play elsewhere on the interwebs — I hear they are very entertaining. Heck, go play outside. But do come back, some time, maybe…please?)
We aren’t the types to go crazy over new games, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get visibly excited as certain release dates approach. Late last year, we were simply buzzing as we awaited the release for four games: Arkham City, Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3, and Modern Warfare 3. When I picked up Arkham City in mid-October, I went ahead and pre-ordered the other three, each due out over the next three consecutive weeks. The whole “good things come in three’s” notion was not lost on us, and outside of Arkham City, we had convinced ourselves that we were about the get three of the greatest games of all time. When it came time to get Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011), we traded in Uncharted 2 towards the purchase. This was not without an “are we sure” discussion. We thought we were sure.
I stuck close to Arkham City for several weeks, but my husband got to the other three in quick succession. His thoughts on Uncharted 3 were muted, but I forbade him from telling me any details about the game.
“It’s…good,” was about all I’d hear until I started la-la-laing with my fingers in my ears.
I read the articles, I saw the gameplay footage, I watched every trailer that came along. Uncharted 3 was going to be awesome. I knew that it wasn’t going to be like Uncharted 2, but I still hoped, nay, I knew it was going to be a fantastic game, just like Uncharted 2.
Was I worried it wasn’t going to live up to my expectations? Sure, a little. I mean, second sequels, they can be hit or miss. Return of the Jedi was great, but it was no Empire Strikes Back. Indiana Jones was much more entertaining in the Last Crusade than he was in the Temple of Doom. Superman 3 was, well…Richard Pryor and all that. And I couldn’t even tell you what happened in Star Trek 3 because KHAAAAAAAAAAAN!!! So yes, I had my trepidations going into Uncharted 3, but I was prepared to have fun and be entertained.
Uncharted 3 told the story of Nathan Drake’s story: his background, how he met Sully, how he got into the rare-artifact-finding business, how he got his name. Drake’s primary quest revolved around his stolen ring (mentioned in Uncharted 2, stolen at the start of this game) and his quest to find a lost city, Iram of the Pillars, that was reportedly discovered by Sir Francis Drake. The core cast of characters from Uncharted 2 is back: Sully, Chloe, and Elena. And this time, another cohort joins the team, Cutter, and a different villain fills the ranks, Katherine Marlowe – she’s head of an ancient order that’s bent on world domination. In a terribly small nutshell, Marlowe steals Drake’s ring, which she needs to find Iram. Our Nathan Drake wants his ring back and kinda, sorta, wants to find this lost city as well, if only to stop Marlowe’s dastardly plans.
It sounds rather neat and tidy (but it wasn’t)…and very familiar. It was almost the exact same plot as Uncharted 2, except with a different city and different means to the same end – hero overcomes numerous obstacles to stop villain from taking over the world. Shame, shame, Naughty Dog – a little lazy don’t you think? If the whole point of the trilogy was to get to the core of who Nathan Drake was, this was a sad way to get there.
And therein lies my main problem with Uncharted 3. The controls were fine; the gunplay was fine, repetitive, but fine; the climbing and puzzles were fine. If I had never played Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3 would probably have been the best damn game I had ever played. The graphics were great – the scales of Drake’s challenges were made bigger, if more obvious. But the lack of story…no…the convoluted mess that was the story…that drew my ire. Drake, Sully, and Marlowe were the primary players in this game – Chloe and Cutter barely made any dent in anything useful, except at the very beginning; and Elena, a spitfire in Uncharted 2, she was extinguished to the role of Drake’s helper, plot setter-upper, and badly-foreshadowed reconciler.
There were flashbacks to Nathan as a child – and dear lord do I dislike being forced to play as a child in a game – that helped shed light on his relationship with Sully, and that thereby illuminated Sully and Marlowe’s past together. And all that was somewhat interesting, but none of it really mattered by the end of the story. Marlowe died, and Drake and Elena (and Sully) rode off into the sunset. The whole story of Drake’s past was never really tied up, and by that point in the game, I could have cared less, having worked through several hours of other useless
plot points that didn’t really go anywhere.
And speaking of useless…and I mean absofuckinglutely useless…hallucinations. Jesus H. Christ, the hallucinations. A good bit of several levels revolved around Drake having hallucinations, whether he was injected with something or was going delirious in the middle of a desert. In the beginning, hallucinogens bring about the flashbacks. At the end, hallucinogens (literally, something in the water) bring about bizarre and annoying fights with ridiculous smoke and fire demons, while the background sways and Drake stumbles like a drugged monkey. And between the flashbacks and the city, there was the desert. The only reason I haven’t picked up the game again to play is because of that fucking desert. Drake’s circling the middle of nowhere, finding that abandoned outpost, the boring car chase, the gunfight at night in a the goddamn sandstorm. I hated it. Oh. My. God. GRRRRR. I hate it all over again just thinking about it.
But while the thought of that makes my brain explode with anger, I can’t say that I totally hated the game. I still mostly enjoyed the puzzle-solving and the exploring. And there was plenty of suspense. I marveled at the mid-air scene with the airplane; I was truly impressed by the capsizing liner; and I was in awe of the grandeur of Iram. The play, the looks, they were all cool with me, it was just the twisty, lazy, LSD-laced story that killed my interest. I mean, of course Drake’s gonna save the world and get the girl, but I didn’t care about his past as much as I cared about his present in Uncharted 2. Drake, he and I had something in Uncharted 2. Not so much in Uncharted 3. That lack of connection made me very sad, and angry. Oh so sad and angry.
Looking back, I’m a little amazed at how many reviewers extolled Uncharted 3 to the gaming heavens. It won several Game of the Year awards and got plenty of high ratings. Like I said, it’s a decent game; but while its credits rolled, all I could think of was how much I wished we had kept Uncharted 2.