The Uncharted series has always been a firm favourite of mine, from as far back as 2007 when Drake’s Fortune burst onto the scene. I had never been a fan of third-person shoot-and-cover games, but I really liked platformers and action adventure games. So what changed my mind?
Drake’s Fortune delivered the complete package for me: amazing graphics, an atmospheric musical score, a great storyline, likeable, believable and lifelike characters that you really cared about, and at it’s heart- absolutely rock-solid gameplay.
2009 marked the year that most of the world woke up to the realisation that the Uncharted series of games was something special. Naughty Dog took everything that they’d learnt from Drake’s Fortune and made the game more action-packed and cinematic with some amazing levels and a wider range of enemy classes.
Adding to this heady mix was groundbreaking technology that enabled the player to carry on with gameplay whilst inside a collapsing building and having a shoot-out on a moving train. The scale of those achievements alone, should not be underestimated.
With Uncharted 2: Among Thieves the bar was raised by the release of a highly cinematic game, but with the core gameplay that we all knew and loved from Drake’s Fortune remaining intact. Let’s go for a hat-trick then, shall we?
Make no mistake, this game is a masterpiece. What has been achieved by the Naughty Dog team has surpassed my wildest expectations. The game is even more cinematic than ever: from the burning inferno of a château, to a cruise ship on stormy seas and a fight-out on a cargo plane- this game has it all. At a cost, which I’ll get to.
Before I start to pick holes in the game, I’d like to share with you what the Naughty Dog team developed for the cruise ship level. Buried away on the game disc is a documentary piece that explained that originally they were going to ‘cheat’ to simulate the effect of the cruise ship on stormy seas…
Instead, some genius made it possible to simulate the real thing. The result? An entire level floating on a fully simulated ocean with dynamic waves that meant the cruise ship never moved the same way twice on playthroughs. The player is also able to walk on the ship’s walls when it capsizes. That’s just staggering.
You’re looking sharp
What hits you when you’re paying through Drake’s Deception is the quality of the graphics. Apparently they’re not much of a step-up from the sequel, as opposed to the graphical jump from the first game to the second one. You could have fooled me. In some levels the graphics are verging on the photo-realistic, but a game of this complexity means that slight tearing of the graphics occurs frequently.
The hand-to-hand combat has been fleshed out and feels satisfying solid. Yet a number of things have happened to the gameplay. First up, the shooting mechanic has been tweaked somehow. I can’t put my finger on what Naughty Dog have done, but they’ve fiddled with it. They have also disabled the ability to switch the over-the-shoulder view when shooting by default- a feature which is essential on higher difficulty playthroughs.
A more serious charge that can be levied at the game though, is the sacrifice of gameplay for added cinematic effect. You have multiple levels in Colombia, Yemen, and the desert for example where you can’t go where you want. The game forces you to turn around and carry on the pre-scripted path. The Uncharted series has always been linear at its heart, but never has an Uncharted game ever felt so linear! It suffocates the player, and it acted as a straight jacket on my enjoyment of the game.
Somehow, somehow, they broke parts of the game. In a few instances (too many to mention), Drake is left without a gun, and you have to acquire one before tackling the enemies. I can’t stress this enough: facing several enemies without a gun on the hard and crushing difficulty levels was not a pleasant experience. I can’t tell you the amount of times I died running to pick up a gun off the floor, or trying to snatch a gun off an enemy in hand-to-hand combat whilst his friends were peppering me with bullets. You couldn’t make this up!
I also went off the game’s pre-scripted path in Colombia looking for one of the games 100 hidden treasures scattered throughout the levels. I led the young Drake up a set of steps and just as I reached the top (and the treasure) Drake fell out of the level. In all my time playing the Uncharted series of games, that has never happened to me before.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a great game, but not the best one out of the Uncharted series. Looking back on my Uncharted 2 review, I was perhaps a bit too harsh on what was a sublime game. So here’s my final thoughts for the entire series as it stands:
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception: 4 out of 5 STARS
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: 5 out of 5 STARS
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune: 4 out of 5 STARS
So that means Uncharted 2 is the best out of the series so far, with the original and Uncharted 3 in joint second place. Controversial? Very! But that’s my opinion. I’d be very interested in anyone else’s point of view.