First of all, big news I’ve recently come into possession of a PlayStation 3! Although you could have guessed that given the title of this review, which means that my next few reviews throughout the year are likely to be PS3 games. But fear not I haven’t forgotten my 3DS or PC, so hopefully there will be some non-PS3 game reviews. This year I’ll also been attempting more smaller articles, but I can’t promise anything at the moment as I’m rather busy with other things.
Secondly I’ve elected to combine all 3 Uncharted games into a single review, from a gameplay perspective the 3 are not radically different and it gives me the freedom to discuss the series as a whole.
The Uncharted series follows Nathan Drake, history buff turned treasure hunter, think of him as Indiana Jones minus the hat and whip or a male Lara Croft. The plots of the 3 games are relatively similar with Drake searching for a different treasure each time. Apart from some allies of Nate’s who return in the 2nd and 3rd games, the games are relatively self-contained; while I urge you to play all 3 games, it’s not the end of the world if you can only get a copy of Uncharted 2 or 3 and you haven’t played the first game.
The gameplay of the series has a few interesting quirks. First let me talk about platforming in games, fundamentally there are two types, the Super Metroid style: miss your jump by a single pixel and you’re dead. Conversely there’s Uncharted’s style: leap in the general direction of a platform and your nigh-on guaranteed to land on it. Now this is going to divide people, some will argue that it makes the game too easy. However I feel this style of platforming fits the theme of the games, as I was playing them I got the sensation this could very easily be a film, it’s no surprise then that a film adaptation is set for release in 2016. In order to keep this cinematic style the game needs to be rather fast paced, furthermore I feel if the developers had used Super Metroid platforming, then sections of platforming that take 5-10 minutes could take 20-30 minutes and the whole flow of the game will be ruined. The cinematic feeling of the game is reinforced through the major action scenes, they almost feel like they should be in James Bond films, in a scene reminiscent of ‘Skyfall’ Drake must battle enemies on a moving train during Uncharted 2.
The AI in this game deserves a quick mention, not the enemy AI but the AI of your allies. During particular chapters when you have someone working with you, they don’t just passively follow you but actually shoot and the bullets aren’t for show, your allies can kill enemies for you. I admit it’s not revolutionary, but it simple makes a nice change to the normal useless, passive friendly AI in games.
Moving on to the combat system, at any one time Drake can carry 2 weapons, a pistol and a larger gun, that may be a rifle or even an RPG, along with a maximum of 4 grenades. When it comes to Uncharted cover is the name of the game, you won’t succeed by charging directly at the enemy, you have to think tactically, giving yourself time for your health to recharge. Cover systems can be done badly, but I feel Uncharted has found a good balance. On the other hand the melee combat system could do with some improvement; you can at any time defeat an enemy using hand-to-hand combat. My issue, it’s just too simplistic, in the first two games, you simply pressed square to attack and triangle to counter, and it was absurdly clear when enemies were about to attack making countering in no way difficult. During Uncharted 3 they did try to expand the melee combat, you could now throw your enemies in any direction and when applicable use objects such as bottles in your attacks. While I’m happy the developers tried to improve things in the third game, I think there’s still room for improvement and that’s what I think a lot of fans are hoping for in the upcoming Uncharted 4 on PlayStation 4. While I’m personally not a fan of it, I know many people are, so I felt I should mention you can play Uncharted stealthy if you wish. Creeping up behind enemies undetected not only stops others flocking to your position but also gives you the added bonus of picking up double ammo from that enemy. There are times when stealth may be the superior tactic, but thankfully there are very few occasions when stealth has to be used in order to progress, in fact I believe it’s only required in a single chapter of Uncharted 2. I don’t mind games having stealth options in them, but it has always annoyed me when games force you to be stealthy, I’m surely not the only gamer out there who isn’t a fan of stealth.
Now I’ve seen the series attract criticism for the games being too similar to one another, sticking to the same formula and not trying anything new. Frankly I see nothing wrong with that, a game series can be ruined when after a successful first game the developers go in a completely new direction for the second so that it feels in no way related to the first. Naughty Dog realised they hit upon something good with the first Uncharted and continued using that blueprint just with minor changes for the sequels and I’m glad they did.
I should warn you, this next section is entirely my own opinion. I feel Uncharted 3 is the weakest of the three. It doesn’t have huge flaws it’s just little things coupled with the fact the first two set the bar so high. My main complaints are at times it feels like enemies were coming out of nowhere and attacking, I found this a pain and I was only playing on Normal difficulty I can only imagine what it must be like on Crushing difficulty. Secondly (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) there are some sections where Nate has be drugged, all you have to do is get from point A to point B but the fact that everything is deliberately blurry makes these small sections a tad annoying
Overall I loved the Uncharted series, yes they are quite short and yes there’s not much replay value. But for that brief period I had a fantastic gaming experience, one of the best I’ve ever had, it reminded me what gaming is all about.