Praise for this generation’s Indiana Jones.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Uncharted franchise, there is not a whole lot to digest. Simply take an Indiana-Jones-treasure-hunting-lost-city-searching premise, insert a heartthrob charmer with the likes of Nathan Fillion, a Michael Caine-like father-figure, Zelda-esque puzzles, Metal Gear Solid style stealth-action, and sprinkle a bit of romance in the mix and you’ve got yourself an Uncharted game. Some may argue that the breathtaking visuals and life-like animations make Uncharted the genre defining game it has come to be known for, knowing and growing with the characters is the primary appeal of the franchise.
Nathan Drake, the game’s protagonist, is once again undergoing a search for the lost city of Ubar, which eventually becomes a race to the finish-line for “treasure” against the primary villain, Katherine Marlowe, and her team. Along the way, Nathan’s adventures will take the gamer through bar-fights, the jungles of eastern France, a Syrian citadel, a sinking cruise ship, a fist fight on the edge of an open cargo plane, and a solitary journey through the desert while solving simple puzzles along the way. The lush environments and intense, cinematic gameplay will keep the gamer wrapped up in the action of Uncharted and provide the “I-never-want-to-put-down-the-controller” desire that most gamers crave.
One treat that is provided early on is the origin story of Nate and Sully’s relationship. The gamer gets a chance to experience the world through the eyes of an early-teens Nathan Drake and delve into how the two met and filled each other’s voids; Sully as a father and Nate as a son. This dynamic holds the primary arc of the story from start to finish; Sully and Nate’s love for each other and the idea that one cannot live without the other.
Where Uncharted 2 seemed to be leaps and bounds ahead of it’s predecessor in terms of mechanics, Uncharted 3 still shows signs of unpolished work with the engine. At times, climbing is hindered when Drake can’t seem to reach for the right ledge or jumps that should be made easily fall short. In terms of storytelling and character development, Uncharted 2 comes off as more immersive, easier to follow, and better developed in terms of relationships. It’s not say that the relationships in Uncharted 3 are bland, it’s just that Uncharted 3’s focus on the relationship between Nate and Sully is not quite as grabbing as Nate’s love life as highlighted in Uncharted 2. The role of Nathan’s lover, Elena, does provide a great romantic twist, however it’s simply not enough to provide the stakes that a true romance can serve.
While one of Uncharted biggest strengths is how developer Naughty Dog’s engine is able to create lifelike, cinematic gameplay and environments, tricking audiences into believing they’re just watching an extended cutscene can act as a hinderance. In comparison to Uncharted 2, which seemed to balance gameplay and cinematic events in the favor of the gamer, Naughty Dog has nearly overloaded Uncharted 3 with cut-scenes and Dragon Lair-esque quicktime events. While its great to digest the story, be swooned by Nathan Drake’s wit, or be in awe at the over-the-top action sequences, a lot of times, one will find themselves starved for the true immersion that gameplay gives them. I am not the biggest fan of open-world games but I found that the strict rails of the Uncharted series have begun to weigh down on my enjoyment of the franchise.
While it is easy to harp on the imperfections, it’s not as easy to let the small stuff get in the way of a fantastic game. Uncharted 3 still provides unparalleled gameplay, story, and character development with surprises at every turn and moments that will take your breath away. Uncharted 3 is a crowning achievement of the world of gaming today.