For all its spectacle and swagger, its fine-tuned action and fantastic platforming, its expert voice-acting and effortless charm, there’s something that’s just slightly off about Uncharted 3, especially when compared to 2. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what that is. Maybe it’s that some of its biggest, most death-defying events – like the plane coming apart in midair – are just a bit too linear, amounting to little more than quick time events with almost no chance of real failure.
Above: Although they still look pretty great regardless
Maybe it’s that Chloe and Elena – both of whom played huge roles in Uncharted 2 – don’t have a whole lot to do in this outing. (They’ve got their share of screen time, sure, but it never quite feels like enough.) Maybe it’s that certain key events are referenced but never really explained, or that the game’s final moments have a strangely anticlimactic feel to them.
To be clear, these are all minor complaints. More than anything, though, it feels like a case of ambition, or lack thereof. Uncharted 2 was a wildly ambitious game, taking what had previously been an impressive Tomb Raider-style adventure and shoehorning in scenes that put you inside of falling buildings, pitted you against helicopter gunships and forced you to flee from tanks (to say nothing of all the cool multiplayer additions). There was a gut-wrenching immediacy to it, which was tempered by the surprisingly human characters and story.
Uncharted 3, then, feels suspiciously like more of the same, with big spectacles delivered because they’re expected (in 3D this time!), rather than because the developers had a really cool idea that they wanted to realize in a visually arresting way. That’s not to say Uncharted 3’s big events aren’t cool; far from it. Drake’s escape from a sinking cruise ship is unforgettable, as are a solo trek through the Rub’al Khali and a creepy puzzle in which you have to line up a light with twitching statue body parts so that they make a silhouette on the wall.
However, a lot of the game’s big moments also have a strangely by-the-numbers feel to them; they’re not really unexpected or special, they’re just there because a big action sequence or obligatory fall through crumbling floorboards should go there. It makes for an experience that’s both immensely satisfying and unsatisfying at the same time, delivering just enough substance during its roughly nine-hour runtime to leave us wanting more.
All that said, Uncharted 3 really is amazing – it’s just not “omgholyshitincredible” in the way that Uncharted 2 was. At least not as far as the campaign’s concerned …
Aside from its stellar campaign, Uncharted 2 was known for delivering some of the absolute best multiplayer action on the PS3, and fans of multiplayer won’t be disappointed by what Uncharted 3 brings to the table. At its core, it’s pretty similar to what UC2 offered: team-based, cover-centric shooting across a range of varied modes, with plenty of verticality and cool things to climb on. However, Uncharted 3 also introduces a beefed-up system of weapon upgrades, ability-enhancing boosts and special ability-granting Kickbacks (which can be activated once you’ve racked up a certain number of medals for doing cools stuff), which – along with an unlockable assortment of character models and clothing – ensure that there’s always something to buy with the cash you earn in-game.
There’s also a buddy system that ensures you can spawn near a friend, stationary machinegun turrets, random timed team bonuses (like the ability to see the locations of every enemy player) and an Uncharted TV feature that broadcasts matches and developer videos for anyone keen to pay attention. There’s a new three-team deathmatch mode, and a splitscreen feature for those who want to bring a friend along into online matches.
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