A few years ago, before I joined PS4Daily, I had my own Uncharted-focused YouTube channel where I made tons of Uncharted 3 videos, leading up to the game’s launch. Not long after, I tried my hand at my first video game review which was (you guessed it) for Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. I ended up giving it a perfect score. While I don’t necessarily believe that perfect scores are indicative of a perfect game but rather a game where the flaws aren’t so heavy that they take away from the experience, I do believe that the game didn’t warrant such a high mark. In the weeks following my review, I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling in the back of my head that I gave the game too high a score. Little by little the game’s faults started to sink in and I regretted it a lot. With Uncharted 3 released again on the PS4, I figured what better way to cap off our Uncharted Collection review blitz and lead up to Uncharted 4’s launch than by re-reviewing Uncharted 3? Is it as bad as I think it was? Let’s find out.
Where Uncharted 1 & 2 focused on Elena, and then Elena and Chloe respectively, Sully gets the limelight this time. No longer is Drake’s old mentor a forgotten antique, forced to wait until the finale to pop up again. Uncharted 3 is about business that Drake and Sully started years ago and as such, it’s their job to end it. Of course, the friends the two have made throughout the previous two games do join them for a short period of time, but only a short period of time. You won’t be sharing much time with the ladies of Uncharted in this game.
In that regard, I was kind of disappointed playing Uncharted 3. I won’t say that the game being a Drake and Sully tale is bad, because it’s not. The old man needed some time with Drake after being teased in Uncharted 1 and snubbed for the sequel. Their on-screen chemistry works just as well as anybody else in the cast, too. But, my issue is that Chloe and Cutter help the duo for a few chapters, and then are never heard from again. They just disappear from the story entirely. No proper sendoff is given for them, just a very short argument between Drake and Chloe before the game transitions into the next chapter. At least Sully was present for the ending of Uncharted 2 so it didn’t seem like he didn’t care about what happened. After the climactic conclusion, Chloe and Cutter can’t even be bothered with a phone call.
Like any Uncharted game, new villains are introduced. This time around, we move from a hammy, evil villain to a cunning woman, Marlowe, and her devout henchman, Talbot. The relationship that Marlowe has with Drake and Sully spans years, running all the way back to Drake’s adolescent years. Marlowe herself is a pretty good villain who prefers to get into her adversaries’ heads, rather than trade blows with them. As someone who prefers psychological warfare to physical altercations, this made me happy. Marlowe is the type of villain who would rather dig up dirt on you and use that to her advantage. She won’t get her hands dirty herself because she has people for that, but you don’t want to get on her bad side. However, Talbot I had a problem with.
Throughout the game, Talbot butts heads with Drake and his friends on multiple occasions. On one of these occasions, Drake chases Talbot through a scene that was far too long, and at the end, Talbot completely disappears. Of course, the player is left to wonder if the supernatural element for this entry in the series is magic and they’d be hard pressed not to find evidence that backs up this assumption, but it’s not. Talbot just disappears and takes bullets like a champ with no explanation what-so-ever. It’s this nonsensical, misleading story element that bugged me the most. I could never figure out what was going on with Talbot and what he got out of his arrangement (whatever that may be) with Marlowe. He’s one thing in this game that doesn’t really feel like it has a purpose. It’s almost as if he was a leftover element from a time when Uncharted 3 had a focus in a different direction, but when things changed, he stayed the same.
Villains aside, Uncharted 3 does some good character building for Nathan Drake. This game deals with a subject that had been brought up in previous Uncharted games, but never really addressed too much. That subject is Drake’s obsession with finding the next big treasure. Everyone from Chloe to Sully and Elena questions Drake and tries to reel him in before he gets someone killed. Chloe was very vocal about this in Uncharted 2 and even more so in Uncharted 3. This was probably my favorite part of the story and where I felt like it shone. I enjoyed seeing how Drake’s obsessions were finally catching up to him and how they had taken a toll on his life.
In Uncharted 3, Naughty Dog went back to the drawing board and reworked the melee system, combining the multi-button combos of Uncharted 1 with the stealth of Uncharted 2 while also introducing a new grappling feature unique to Uncharted 3. The time and effort put into the system shows as it works well. In fact, Naughty Dog was so confident in it that the introduction to the game is a bar brawl between Drake, Sully, and some grunts. Here, players are introduced to the new combos and are encouraged to give the new grappling mechanic a whirl. By pressing O, players can hold onto an opponent and either continue to attack them in that position, throw them around, or ram them into a table and use an object like a glass bottle to finish them off.
Instead of dodging and offering a window of opportunity to counter like in Uncharted 2, the triangle button serves as the counterattack button. This slightly simplifies the hand-to-hand combat as the game no longer needs to slow time down to wait for the player to dodge. Now it displays the triangle button, the player dodges to deliver a quick punch that sets up a combo and gameplay continues from there.
I found myself vastly preferring a melee kill over the typical cover and shoot method whenever possible. Getting into a fight with a couple of grunts and roughing them up before delivering the finishing blow just feels too good.
Because of this new focus on melee combat, there isn’t a boss battle like there was in Uncharted 1 or 2. Gun matches with foes like Lazarevic have been tossed aside for fisticuffs with mid-bosses who are stronger than your average grunt, take a little bit of thinking and quick fingers to beat, and come every so often. While I do prefer traditional boss battles, the way these encounters are handled makes finishing them very satisfying as Drake clearly struggles with these more brutal enemies.
Gunplay in Uncharted 3 feels weird. When I was shooting with the standard pistol, it was almost as if I couldn’t get it quite right. My shots didn’t feel natural and enemies didn’t really react much when shot at. Instead, it was like they were soaking up the damage until the last minute and then they keel over and die. This made the game’s shootouts less exciting as I couldn’t tell very well if I was well on my way to defeating an enemy or if I had somehow missed every shot.
Speaking of things that don’t feel natural, Drake himself appears to move a mile a minute. When rolling, there’s no wind up, Drake just rolls incredibly fast like he’s trying to get somewhere in a hurry. It’s odd considering how good rolling felt in Uncharted 2. Drake just feels weightless in this game.
Coming off the heels of the impressive set pieces in Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog sought to create even more jaw-dropping set pieces with Uncharted 3. The set pieces are great, but they create far too many close calls for Drake and his team. One instance, which sees players fighting enemies while trying to escape a burning Chateau, is rife with close calls around the corner and about halfway through the set piece, I just wanted it to end. I was tired of moving every few feet just to be stopped so I could watch Drake almost fall into a sea of fire. I was tired of having to stop again so I could kill a few enemies. And I was tired of how the story just seems to stop to fit in these set pieces. Don’t get me wrong, I loved trying to get off the sinking cruise liner and that remains one of my personal high points for the series, but it doesn’t make sense in the context of the story. I feel like the game was built with the set pieces first and then Naughty Dog addressed the story second.
When you’re not shooting enemies, you’ll be solving puzzles. I found the puzzles in this game to be harder than those in Uncharted 2. Some of the puzzles led me to the internet because I couldn’t figure them out, while others presented me with the option to reveal the solution because I was taking so long.
Surprisingly enough, this game is filled with glitches. When I was in a firefight in Syria, Drake would teleport into cover and Cutter would get stock on a step for a few seconds, before finally moving properly. Music would also be absent where there would normally be a track playing to get me pumped up. It’s odd that out of the three games in the Nathan Drake Collection, this is the only one where I had such major problems.
Uncharted 3 looks gorgeous running at 1080p and 60fps. Animations are smooth, when they’re not being glitchy, the colors of the environment are very vibrant and so are the clothes the characters wear. Where Uncharted 2’s big thing was snow, Uncharted 3’s big natural element is sand. Sandstorms pour in, leaving visibility incredibly low and mandating that you take a more cautious approach to combat. Instead of firing on the first enemy I saw, I found myself being far more stealthy than normal to lower the chance of an enemy I couldn’t see from killing me.
A New Way To Play
There’s not much to say about the new control methods that I haven’t said in my previous Uncharted Collection reviews. The control scheme works well, and none of the new mechanics clash with the setup that Bluepoint Games devised for the DualShock 4.
Uncharted 3 didn’t deserve that perfect score that I gave it. Nathan Drake’s final PS3 adventure feels like an experiment of sorts in a series that didn’t need to do a whole lot of experimenting to begin with. Experimenting gave us Uncharted 1, while perfecting those mechanics or removing them entirely gave us Uncharted 2. There weren’t many improvements to be made going from 2 to 3, so seeing the game take a step back for the sake of innovation is both understandable and disheartening. Uncharted 3 could have been a superb follow-up had it been Uncharted 2 with prettier graphics and essentially more of the same. But it’s not.
The game is a massive step down from Uncharted 2 but certainly a step above Uncharted 1, so it sits in an awkward place between the two in a franchise that should improve with each subsequent release. Uncharted 3 is marred by problems with the gameplay, characters disappearing, and plot threads that are forgotten or just don’t make sense at all. That said the game isn’t without its redeeming qualities like the hilarious Charlie Cutter, the fantastic humor during some of the moment-to-moment gameplay, and even some of the stellar set pieces. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Remastered is decent. Nothing more, nothing less.
+ Great chemistry between characters
+ Great backstory for Nathan Drake
+ Melee is delightfully fluid and a riot to use
+ Fighting larger enemies feels challenging
– Characters disappear from the story
– Nonsensical villain creates dead-end plot threads
– Story feels like it was built around the set pieces
– Lack of enemy reactions to being shot makes gunplay feel off
– Drake rolls awkwardly and feels weightless
– Quite a few glitches