Drake’s Disappointment – Uncharted 3 Reviewed

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves begins with a bloody and bruised Nathan Drake escaping from a wrecked train dangling off a cliff somewhere in the high passes of the Himalayas.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception begins with a bar fight in an English pub.

If that disparity in scale and ambition doesn’t bother you, you may want to stop reading now.

It would be unreasonable to expect Drake’s Deception to fill its predecessor’s Raiders of the Lost Ark-sized shoes, but the fact that the game is such a mess is surprising.

For a franchise renowned for its handling of story and character development, there is precious little of either on display here. Drake and his chums, who conveniently drop in and out of the story with little to no explanation, are following in the footsteps of the 16th Century explorer Sir Francis Drake on a quest to find Iram, the city of pillars, lost centuries ago in the sands of the Arabian Penninsula. They must get there in order to stop an old woman and a smarmy Englishman from getting…something. The game never really explained what the villains were after or why it was important they not get what they were after.

Let’s hope the next game in the series is called Drake’s Apology.

In fact, the game is a little fuzzy on a lot of details. Even the title is unclear – if either of the Drakes were deceiving anyone, I completely missed it.

Drake’s Deception certainly looks good, but it takes a long time before the settings inspire the jaw to drop. The sequences in the desert and the lost city of Iram are gorgeous, but they are in the last act. By then, you’ve already spent the majority of the game slogging through pedestrian sewers, caverns and ruins.

In one scenario, Drake has to escape the clutches of a pirate by picking his way through the rusting hulks of a ship graveyard. It should be a novel environment, but thanks to the level design it becomes particularly tedious – a feeling that grows exponentially after it becomes apparent that the entire chapter has nothing to do with the main plot.

Meanwhile, much has been made of the time and energy developers Naughty Dog spent expanding the multiplayer portion of the game. I am not much for multiplayer, but it is my understanding that good multiplayer is dependent on rock-solid controls, something the Uncharted series has never had. In this, Drake’s Deception is no exception.

To say the gameplay is loose is an understatement. The most difficult thing in the game isn’t the puzzles or tactical combat – it’s simply getting Drake to do what you want him to. I lost count of the number of times he would leap to the center of a group of gun-toting enemies when I was desperately trying to get him to snap to cover. The only saving grace is that combat was so forgiving that it actually takes a concerted effort to die.

Drake’s Deception isn’t a bad game, but it isn’t an amazing game either – a sad state of affairs in light of the fact that it is the follow-up to one of the most impressive titles of the current generation. It would be one thing if the game was really swinging for the fences but everything about the experience feels uninspired and safe. That’s just depressing.

I’d still like to see more Uncharted, but not if it is going to be strictly by the numbers like this.

Let’s hope the next game in the series is called Drake’s Apology.

Rating: Three out of Five Pies
(a word about our ratings)

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Stu will be seeking out high adventure elsewhere for the time being. Follow him on Twitter @StuHorvath. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, from Sony Computer Entertainment, is available exclusively on PlayStation 3.

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