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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Game Review: Part I

Up to this point, Uncharted 2 is my personal favorite PS3 game.  I think it exemplified the best in action gaming and had some of the best voice acting and story scenes of any game I’ve ever played.  I love the characters, I love the levels, I just loved everything about Uncharted 2.  I picked up Uncharted 3 at its midnight launch and began playing roughly thirty minutes later.  From the very beginning of the game, Uncharted 3 stood to dethrone its predecessor as my favorite game on the PS3.  By the time I completed the single player campaign, I consider it a strong candidate for the best game of this generation.

Now, full disclosure: I’m a fanboy.  I just may be the only Uncharted fanboy but I don’t care.  I adore this franchise.  I am a huge fan of third-person action games and they always tend to be my favorites (Shadow of the Colossus is my favorite PS2 game).  Uncharted has taken the genre to a whole new level, mixing great puzzles, polished shooter gameplay and terrific and intuitive platforming.  Throw in a few amazing cutscenes featuring the best acting from any video game I’ve ever played and it’s no wonder I find this franchise to be just infallible.  So, therefore, this review may be a little slanted.  I don’t want to come off too biased but I will begin my assessment of the game by saying, in my opinion, Uncharted 3 is actually a BETTER game than Uncharted 2.

The opening cutscene blends seamlessly into the first piece of gameplay, and instead of getting a traditional action camera, we see it all take place through a very cinematic, film-like perspective, and as the action progresses, the movie-like brawl continues to display solid cinematography, and this is a freaking video game!  Uncharted 3 manages to seamlessly blend the gameplay into the cinematics, and while we’ve seen this before, it has never been done this well.  It is never disorienting and always beautiful.  The simplest moments of action are transformed into engaging film scenes.  Just picture a really good fight FMV from any game and then imagine if that scene was playable. 

Considering how well-done these moments are, I must also acknowledge the fact that this game looks amazing.  Every little touch is spectacular, the faces almost always look great (more on that in a second), the environment detail crushes just about every other game (with a few notable exceptions of course) and despite all the detail in the levels it is rare that you come across a point where you don’t know what to do as key ledges and interactive objects have a subtle glow about them, though the game doesn’t often hold your hand in navigation either.

The character models also look great, and the subtle animations during dialogue scenes add life to the actors.  The full body animations of the actors are equally impressive and convincing, and all the touches like characters reaching for the wall and other objects when they walk by give more depth to the game.  The voice acting is also sublime, and every little moment of banter is highlighted with memorable and wonderfully-executed writing.  There are only a couple of moments where certain characters reach the uncanny valley (Elena and the villainess Marlowe, in particular).  It is a good sign when the character models only get sort of weird looking about 2% of the time.

Now, where a game really counts is gameplay and fun-factor, two things Uncharted 3 excels in.  The hand-to-hand combat is exciting to the point of being something you look forward to and the gunplay is comparable to the best shooters I’ve ever played.  There were a few points where Drake didn’t snap to cover properly, or jump ledge to ledge correctly, but these moments were rare to the point of being completely negligible.  The combat scenes in this game are always intense, stacking the odds against you time again.  My only major complaint is sometimes these scenes last just a little too long, where wave after wave of baddie spills into the area, and it sometimes feels a little bit like Whack-a-Mole, but the game does keep the pace up a vast majority of the time.

Uncharted 2 threw us in to a huge set of creative and complex levels and 3 does this well too.  There are moments that are filled with excitement and you really do feel like you are playing the starring role in a really great adventure film.  A particular level that takes place partly on horseback comes to mind as a candidate to replace the train wreck from Uncharted 2 as my favorite level in the series.  It is very apparent that a lot of love and imagination went into these levels and this goes double for the puzzles.
Gone are the cookie-cutter block-pushing puzzles we’ve grown to expect from games in this genre and they are replaced with complex logic challenges that require you to examine and in-game journal for clues as to what you have to do.  These puzzles are a lot of fun as they really do require you to think, but they are not so difficult that a savvy gamer would find themselves boggled by them.  I was never stuck at these puzzles, rather, I enjoyed them and they were a nice distraction from the combat that takes up roughly half of the gameplay. 

I have devoted these last two days solely to playing through the campaign and will do a write-up on the Multiplayer in Uncharted 3 in a separate review.  Now, the single player campaign alone makes this a candidate for Game of the Year, and it really is, in my opinion, one of the best games ever made.  It is so exceptional in its execution and so fun to play that I can’t really find too much fault in it.  There were few moments where I felt lost or stuck and these did not last long at all.  This is a delightful game with lots of tension and amazing action scenes, and it is now one of my all-time favorite games.  Like I said before, I’m somewhat of a fanboy, so you can take what I say with a grain of salt, but I do say, play this game.  If you love action games, if you love puzzle/platformers, or even if you just love great stories, play Uncharted 3, it is worth it for every enjoyable moment.

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