Adventuring through my backlog of games, one game at a time.
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: October 2015 (Originally Nov. 2011 on PS3)
Played On: PlayStation 4
We come to the last game in the original PlayStation 3 trilogy. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception builds upon all the successful story beats and action moments from the sequel and crafts an even more enjoyable cinematic action-blockbuster, easily creating my favorite Uncharted game (so far).
The third game takes full advantage of its larger, established cast of Sully, Elena, and Chloe, and even throws in a new character, the Guy Ritchie-esque British gangster Cutter. While the story may have lacked the opening flash-forward of the train escape in the second game, I loved the alley brawls and underground tunnel excursions in London, leading us to our new villains in Marlowe and Talbot.
This time around Drake and company are back to investigating Nathan’s namesake, Sir Francis Drake, and the lost City of Iram of the Pillars. If you’re thinking this is very much like finding the lost city of Shambhala last game, you’re correct. A running theme here is that it apes much from the last game, but frankly does everything a bit better.
Early on we’re treated to a brief but neat 20-year flashback with a teenage Nathan Drake meeting Sully for the first time, as well as introducing a younger Katherine Marlowe.
Unfortunately while the story does an excellent job utilizing its varied cast of heroes, the villains aren’t given quite the same treatment. Marlowe has very little to do and we rarely even see her.
Her main henchman Talbot has a few neat segments, including chasing after him in the streets of Yemen that make him an interesting anti-Drake, but the focus is always on our heroes, especially the heart-warming surrogate father-son relationship between Sully and Drake.
The story struggles a bit with balancing its cast. It’s awesome when they all come together, like the castle sequence in Syria, providing huge battles, explosions, witty banter, and allies saving each other. But then after all that Cutter breaks his leg, and both he and Chloe completely bow out of the story at about the halfway point, never to return (similar to Sully in the second game).
Also as in the second one, Drake reunites with Elena about halfway through. They are always fun together but their on-again, off-again relationship is getting a little ridiculous. How many times can they lovingly embrace at the end of one game only to end up separated in the next one? And apparently they had gotten married between Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3!
Where the story really excels is the incredible action-packed moments of destruction. At multiple avenues Drake has to flee a collapsing, burning building, or a crashing airplane, or a sinking cruise ship.
The finale is basically one big egress from Iram as it sinks into the sands, and it’s exciting and epic in all the right ways. All of these segments are well-balanced and intuitively designed to provide maximum tension with minimum failure.
The game is still challenging. The latter chapters in particular throw in some incredibly tough supernatural enemies that can teleport around you and take dozens of bullets to kill.
Having a tough final area is par for the course for the series, but once again the third one is an improvement over the second, with the emphasis on smaller skirmishes rather than frustrating large-scale battles. And, most importantly, no horrendously awful final boss fight.
The gunplay also feels much better as well, mainly because they finally added a lot of new guns! The guns in Uncharted 2 were nearly identical to the first game. Here we have lots of new ones, including multiple Uzis, shotguns, assault rifles, sub-machine guns, and even a scoped pistol.
The enemies are largely unchanged but there seemed to be less of the super-awful full body-armor shotgun wielders, which is good. A few mini-bosses are included which are just big dudes with machine guns.
Uncharted 3 is also very proud of its expanded melee system. It’s not exactly a Batman Arkham game but Drake can successfully throw down with half a dozen melee attackers with a few button presses. It’s used just enough to break up the action but not too much to be annoying.
Stealth was also improved upon, though this is still not a stealth game. At several moments throughout the story you’re given a room full of enemies who haven’t noticed you, and the chance to sneak up and take a few of them out.
The game doesn’t really help you much with stealth. You lack the tools to see your opponents properly, and aside from the rarely seen Silenced Pistol, you’re left with the auto-kill melee attack from behind. If anyone spots you (or a dead body), combat begins and you have no chance to return to stealth.
I appreciated the chance to try to stealth a few times. In many of the larger combat areas I would die several times, but I could try different approaches and tactics each time. And more guns meant more options overall.
I enjoyed Uncharted 3 so much better than the last game that I’m honestly confused why the second game is considered the superior entry. Yes, Uncharted 3 liberally borrows much of its design from the last game, but that’s kind of the point of a sequel. The story retains its charm and fun cast while diving further into the Drake-Sully relationship, and the Arabian Nights-themed plot and setting is so much more fun than snowy mountains and yetis, not to mention the improved melee, stealth, and gunplay.
- Effectively uses the full cast of characters – but especially the enjoyable Sully-Drake relationship that was lacking in the last game.
- The desert theme in the latter half is way more enjoyable and interesting than the snowy mountains of Uncharted 2.
- The big action set pieces are breathtakingly fun, varied, and exciting.
- Added lots of fun new guns, as well as melee combat and improved stealth opportunities.
- Pure story-driven sequences, like Drake wandering the desert, are clever and effective, and nicely break up the big action sequences.
- No awful final boss fight!
- Nearly half the cast, Chloe and Cutter, leave the story halfway through and never return.
- Iram, the final area, is a bit too difficult, and the Djinn-enemies ability to teleport and seemingly absorb bullets is just a pain to fight.