Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Review
There’s just one issue. It greatly pains me to admit this, but despite Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception’s many excellent successes, the story isn’t as strong as Among Thieves. That isn’t to say it doesn’t come close. It flirts with brilliance. But it ends up defaulting to spectacle in a way that hurts the story itself.
The acting is excellent of course, the characterizations rich and entirely in keeping with the previously established canon. There is a lot of genuinely funny dialogue and the characters remain as likable as ever. The premise is also deftly handled. Uncharted 3 draws blatant inspiration from some of the greatest mainstream blockbusters of the last 30 years. There are some very specific references to the Timothy Dalton Bond film The Living Daylights, and to the Bourne Trilogy that, rather than being cloying, only provide a kind of context that for people who get the references makes things that much more enjoyable.
The game draws most especially from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. That means we get a sweet Middle-Eastern setting and Biblical – well, Qu’ranical – mythos. Nate is searching for the mythical Iram of the Pillars, basically the Arabian/Islamic version of Soddom and Gommorah. It’s part of his obsession with the legacy of his ‘ancestor’ Sir Francis Drake. That obsession is explored via a visit to Nate’s teenage years (20 years earlier) that gives the viewer/gamer some insight into his relationship with Sully and to the legacy of Sir Francis.
Ultimately, the title refers to Nathan’s willingness to sacrifice everything to his obsessions, including those who mean the most to him (meaning Sully and Elena, but also Chloe, and new character Charlie Cutter, who should be played by Jason Statham in the movie). His inability to understand that until it’s almost too late is handled well. Nate’s anguish, when the apparent consequences of all that are revealed, is touching. At the same time, in-jokes abound, including the hilarious re-usage of a miniboss character model that never varies regardless of context of race. There’s also the return of gallows humor involving the death of annoying enemies, even great lines like “this is why we can’t have nice things” in response to [REDACTED, SPOILER].
It’s just that despite these strengths, Uncharted 3′s suffers, like the best blockbuster films, from various plot threads that don’t quite congeal into a coherent whole. There are elements that are introduced only to be discarded for no reason and never fully explained, particularly with Nate’s personal life. The game’s villains are never fully explored, leading to more than one WTF moment, especially near the end when a full understanding of their motives might have made the eventual outcome more meaningful. Certain characters are used and then removed from the plot for no reason, leaving the player to wonder why they were included in the first place. It also doesn’t help that the climax, in many ways, mirrors the end of Among Thieves.
More annoyingly, related to Nate’s personal life, it feels like an entire subplot was cut from the game. The ending is very touching, but without additional information the player is robbed of catharsis, mostly due to confusion, that could easily have been resolved with 5 more minutes of screen time for a certain character who I won’t name.
Ultimately, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is an excellent, almost great game that falls short of the standard established by Among Thieves. It’s too bad that it couldn’t be as good as it kept promising to be, but then again, that’s kind of like Nathan Drake himself, so no hard feelings. Just do better next time.
* Excellent fight/melee mechanics
* Beautiful graphics
* Great acting, writing, score
* Challenging levels
* Well designed, varied, challenging multiplayer
* Under-developed story
* Fake difficulty (invincible enemies rather than challenging AI
* Easy puzzles
* Story threads left undeveloped, characters abandoned
Final Score: 92/100
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