Aftershock: Uncharted 3 Is Half a Great Game


“Aftershock” is a recurring feature column on Game Front. We take games we’ve already reviewed and give them a sober second look once the post-launch dust has settled.

Check out Ross’ 92/100 review of Uncharted 3.

I love Uncharted 2. Just love it. Not only was it the best game of 2009, but it’s also one of the best games ever made. Its combination of epic set pieces and insane pacing has never been seen anywhere else, and its storytelling is just about as good as is possible in our chosen medium.

You don’t just travel along with Nathan Drake on this insane adventure to Shangri La; you feel every hit he takes. Despite being third person, Uncharted 2 is as immersive an experience as they come. When it came out, the game had a profound impact on me. I Picked up the game at 10 in the morning on release day and sat in front of my TV all day until I had finished it. I loved it so much.

I say this as a preface to my comments on Uncharted 3, because I want you to know where I’m coming from. I want you to know what this franchise means to me. Know that it is with a heavy heart that I call Uncharted 3 a supreme disappointment.

It starts off so well. The first half of the game is a great mixture of exploration, puzzles, climbing, chases and shooting. It’s all balanced so well, and for a while I was ready to call it the game of the year. The chases in particular were a nice addition to the series. They were fun and tense and exciting and everything you want out of this game. And the puzzles were a great improvement from the previous games’; they were actually kind of challenging, yet still fun.

It also features a playable flashback that shows how Nate met his partner Sully, and it’s a great sequence that is full of wonderful sentiment and really gets to the heart of why we love these characters.

And then the second half happens. Uncharted 3 trades in its chases and puzzles for shooting and shooting and more shooting. And it features some bizarre difficulty spikes, where you’ll face wave after wave of snipers and armored enemies, and you’ll die over and over again. These sections ruin the game’s heretofore brisk pace.

An example: one of the Uncharted 3′s epic set pieces takes place on a sinking ship. You’ll blow a hole in the side of the hull of the ship, and tons of enemies start pouring out of the woodwork, including the aforementioned snipers and armored enemies.

In, say, Resistance 3, sections like this are exciting. While at first they seem overwhelming, they really aren’t. You are capable of winning every fight, thanks in no small part to your impressive arsenal of future weapons.

In Uncharted 3, fights like the one I have just detailed feel overwhelming, and they are overwhelming. There’s a sense of urgency to it, because water is flooding in through the hole you made in the ship, and so the goal is to seemingly hurry through it as quickly as you can. But you can’t do that. You must take this battle slowly, and even doing so will probably result in your death several times. The game had been moving at a rapid pace, but during fights like these that pace grinds to a halt.

And the second half of the game is full of fights like these. You’ll fight, and you’ll die, and the game will stop being fun.

To add insult to that injury, the story absolutely falls apart in the second half. Like in the previous games, everyone’s goal initially seems to be to find some lost treasure, but it’s eventually revealed that there is some dastardly plot at hand.

What that plot is we’ll never know. We are given vague descriptions of what the bad guys’ ultimate goals are, and we’re told that what they’re looking for in the Atlantis of the Sands is a threat of some kind, but that threat is never detailed, and we never get to see it in action.

Who are these bad guys and why are they the bad guys, anyway? They’re just assholes, I guess, and as far as the story is concerned that’s enough of a reason to hate them. I guess they have some grand evil scheme for the world, but we’ll never know what it is.

So not only does the game fail to be fun in its second half, it also fails to tell a satisfying story. Uncharted 3 at first seems to hold so much promise, and then said promise is dashed. This game is a step back for Naughty Dog, certainly, and, thus, it becomes the year’s greatest letdown.

It’s a shame I have to say that, but that’s the way it is — Uncharted 3 is Drake’s Disappointment.

Follow Phil on Twitter: @philrowen

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11 Comments on Aftershock: Uncharted 3 Is Half a Great Game

Darkraidor

On November 16, 2011 at 11:59 pm

D:

forgotten_alcoholic_android

On November 17, 2011 at 10:55 am

I agree with your assessment of Uncharted 3. There was a lot that seemed to have happened plot-wise in between the second game and the third that is heavily implied but never explained. They introduce characters in the first part of the game that you think will be returning at some point but never do. Being a huge fan of the Uncharted series I was very disappointed by Uncharted 3. It felt like an unfinished game.

chad

On November 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Whatever guy. Being a lesser known gaming site, your just trying to go against the grain in some attempt to get your name out there. Shut up and stop being an idiot. You might get noticed, but you don’t want it to be for stupidity do you? If its attention your seeking, go bite your moms butt and let her slap you around for a while. This game is great. I can’t wait to read some more of your reviews so I can see what kind of sucky stuff you do like. In yo face.

Phil Owen

On November 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Good new, Chad! You don’t have to wait to read other reviews of mine, because there are tons of them on this site!

forgotten_alcoholic_android

On November 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Chad, I believe you might get noticed more for your stupidity than you realize.

JosephPS3

On November 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I finished UC3 three times now and its strange how some things I thought were good initially now I think are not and vice versa:

Story- I agree with Phil. Maybe the first time I played I was just so blown away by the visuals and set pieces that the wow factor blinded me from the weak story but now I really do notice how weak the story is and the numerous holes in it.

Fighting- I found it frustrating too but after several playthroughs I treated the fighting sequence like a puzzle. If you take out certain guys first and move to the right positions and take out some key guys then the fights are a breeze even on hard setting. What was really difficult and frustrating the first time around is now easy and more like trying to beat my last best time in getting through the fighting sequence. I replay the same fighting sequence trying for perfection because its so dynamic.

eddy raja

On November 22, 2011 at 1:47 am

absolutely agree with you, the story just doesn’t make sense, what’s inside the coffin will never be seen, that was suck. the final boss? it was the worst final boss i’ve ever played. no monster at all. no helicopter fight, no tank fight, what the hell. Uncharted 2 is the best…

Austin

On December 3, 2011 at 4:47 am

Absolutely agree with you; the story was pretty poor.

Many major events happen merely because of co-incidence, a large portion of the game serves absolutely no purpose to the plot, there are numerous plot holes, the villains are underdeveloped, the best characters are abruptly taken away from the plot and all the cutscenes of Drake’s buddies questioning “is it worth it?” end up having no purpose in the plot.

I was incredibly disappointed. How it got a 10.0 on IGN I will never know.

Frank

On December 10, 2011 at 11:24 am

I actually agree 100%. I was REALLY looking forward to Uncharted 3 and when I picked it up my wife wanted to watch me play because she loved Uncharted 2 so much. The cinematic style the fights are framed really makes the series a great game for spectators too, but in Uncharted 3 it really falls apart.

The best thing about the series has always been that cinematic flair and the adventuring/climbing around, but for some reason Naughty Dog decided to make the second half of the game enormous shoot out after enormous shoot out and threw an absurd amount of heavily armored guys that are a complete chore to deal with. It’s frustrating for me and it’s even more frustrating for my wife because when I’m fighting I’m not advancing the story at all because they just like to keep throwing waves and waves of enemies at me. I just got to the Atlantis of the Sands and I must’ve already killed the combined armies of every Middle Eastern country on the planet.

The set pieces and locations in Uncharted 3 are amazing, and the graphics are absolutely ridiculous, but the pacing really makes the game a huge disappointment after Uncharted 2.

Ailodierap

On December 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm

SPOILER ALERT!!!

I don’t feel that the game was a disappointment. Here’s why:

Story – A lot of people are saying that there are many plotholes in the story, but really there aren’t any. Before you start raging calling me a biased fanboy, what I’m saying is that the answers ARE there, they’re just harder to find, which I think makes the story even deeper than the last two games.

Also, it’s ridiculous how many people are saying that Chloe and Cutter “disappeared with no explanation”. There was clearly an explanation: Cutter broke his leg and clearly couldn’t continue the adventure, and Chloe realized that the adventure wasn’t worth risking their lives over. Just like in Uncharted 2, when she tried to talk Nate and Elena out of going after Lazarevic in Shangri-La, she doesn’t feel that treasure is worth risking her life over. Because of this, she dropped out to take care of Cutter. THERE’S YOUR EXPLANATION.

Gameplay – Similar to what you said, up until around the end of the cruise ship saga, I thought the game was beautifully paced. The puzzles were challenging but fun, and ND clearly added more puzzles this time around. The new melee system is fun to use (in my opinion) and even now I’m discovering stylish new moves Nate can use (e.g. vaulting over cover and kicking an enemy in the face while doing so). The setpieces are stunningly beautiful and well-executed. The burning chateau and the cruise ship are some of the best action sequences I’ve ever experienced. I do agree that the firefights become tedious towards the end of the game, but that’s happened in EVERY Uncharted game, am I wrong? However, I did feel that the game was DEFINITELY paced better in Uncharted 2.

One thing that I did find disappointing was the lack of single-player unlockables e.g. character skins, weapons, etc. and the initial lack of a cutscene viewer. Luckily, ND added in a cutscene viewer with the newest patch but I’m very disappointed that there are no single-player medals or unlockables – it reduces the single-player mode’s replayability a lot. Then again, with what is, in my opinion, the most fun multiplayer experience out there right now in the same game, this is less of an issue.

Harlequinvalentine

On October 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I certainly DO NOT agree. Uncharted 3 is one of the best games I have ever played and I personally think that the Uncharted series gets better and better. There is no first half anf second half. Every single moment in the game, wheter in young Drake or old Drake’s view, its phenomenal and it tugs more on the emotional part of the gamer. Maybe you just cannot handle the Fights and the shooting. Try to change your game difficulty level to easy. Then maybe you won’t criticize too much.