My backlog consists of four Elder Scrolls games, seven Final Fantasy titles, five handheld Zeldas, and I haven’t even started on Kingdom Hearts yet. Welcome to my nightmare.
So. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. This is it. Well, this was it, until Naughty Dog decided to live up to their moniker and pulled a Capcom, like they did with Onimusha and announced a fourth game in the “trilogy”. Go play the Onimusha series if you haven’t already, it’s more fun than playing Mario Kart with a child who doesn’t know what a “Mario Kart” is, exactly. But anyway – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves gave me hope that the rest of this series wasn’t going to be some shiny turd-esque bastard knock-off of Tomb Raider, so I can’t be faulted for expecting something as spectacular in the series’ third outing.
The story this time around is a tad more intricate as opposed to “man looks for treasure and gets screwed over by supposed cohorts”. Mass murderer and divine enforcer of Jingoist terrorism Nathan Drake and his top m8 Victor Sullivan go to London to meet some prick called Talbot who looks a lot like that Saif Ali Khan, with the intention of selling his ring which belongs to his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. However, after Talbot presents what appears to be counterfeit money, Drake and Sulley engage in a bout of fisticuffs with Talbot’s cohort Jason Statham Charlie Cutter, until Talbot’s client Helen Mirren Katherine Marlowe finally arrives on the scene. After some pretty cool playable flashbacks to Drake’s youth which encompasses his original run-ins with both the Dame and Sully, the game returns to the modern day where shots are fired and shit happens. Long story short: Jason Statham is actually friends with Drake and the whole thing was a setup to dupe Helen Mirren and retrieve T.E. Lawrence’s notebook, along with a map of Francis Drake’s voyage to the Middle East, where the FORBIDDEN TREASURE of the lost city of Ubar lies. Work out the details and there’s your plot. Jeez.
So what’s different about the game? Aside from the plot and the game’s areas, has anything else really changed since last time? Well, you’d be surprised at how much has actually changed. I personally found that while puzzles were most definitely present, there were a lot more “special events” to marvel at, and more events means more firefights. Great(!) Well, it wasn’t as bad as the first game (NOTHING in the sequels is as bad as the first game), especially considering that combat had been considerably altered. Gone are the days where you’d be caught hopelessly fapping behind a wall of cover when an enemy grenade would land between your legs and leave you a dead eunuch, because you can now toss them back to your enemies and give them a taste of their own. While dual-wielding weapons returns, the game employs new ways to take down enemies, with a mixture of both melee action and simply pumping them full of lead. Stealth got kicked up a notch too, with new ways to take down enemies without having to resort to mass murder, and instead resort to murdering like a dirty spy. I don’t even have to talk about Drake’s kill count, that bastard should be in jail. I suppose it’s like telling Luis Suarez to stop biting people.
I really should have expected this, though. I mean, it was, at the time, the final game in the series, so Naughty Dog would naturally have to pull out all the stops and make this one epic, triple-A Hollywood title. Hell, this had to be bigger than Huell Babineaux’s gravitational pull, and fair enough, the game doesn’t disappoint. The game takes you to London, France, still somewhat-hospitable Syria, 15 Yemen Road, Yemen, the freakin’ Rub’ al Khali desert, and finally culminating in the lost city of Ubar. And by the love of Chin-Chin, I cannot deny how beautiful this game looks. The skyline of London looked gorgeous, like a futuristic citadel balancing on a shimmering lake; the dusty and ragged streets of Syria, with buildings like sandcastles over the dunes, and the glorious spires of Ubar, appearing as a grand, sandy monument to the city of Atlantis. Then, there’s the desert.
Yeah, there’s a whole new paragraph for this. Well, what is there to say about a vast, desolate desert? I mean, hell, this isn’t Journey we’re talking about. First things first: we have already extensively acknowledged that Drake is a lucky sunnovabitch. He can escape burning buildings, collapsing cities, giant flesh-eating spiders, and probably has diplomatic immunity for some godforsaken reason. Now, there is a particular segment in the game where Drake has to stow away on board a plane that is passing over the possible location of the lost city of Ubar, but things never work the way they should, and Drake pretty much free falls into the lap of the desert in what is nothing short of a brilliant sequence. Drake is now stranded in the desert. STRANDED. IN THE DESERT. This man has been cast out to die in a sea of scorching beige, filled with a granule for every living thing Drake has killed throughout his entire life. He wanders this wasteland for days on end, being tricked by mirages during the day and being cursed by the harsh cold of the night, like some kind of divine punishment.
Finally, he manages to stumble across an abandoned city out of nowhere and happens upon a dried well, which houses what is quite literally a puddle of water. Seemingly rejuvenated, he climbs out of this well Assassin’s Creed-style, and finds himself surrounded by a battalion of soldiers. He then proceeds to murder everything and escape on horseback. Now this series has been known to really push the boundaries of crazy, but what is this bullshit? Do NOT tell me that a man who has not eaten for days has managed to survive the horrors of being stranded in a desert, only to take on a small settlement of fully-armed soldiers. Hell, even the Doctor knew not to hang around too long in a bloody desert in Planet of the Dead. I know this game is supposed to be as over-the-top as it can, but this is more ludicrous than the demands of a Nigerian prince sending you emails from his AOL account.
I think it’s fair to say that this game is flawed. Yes, it looks brilliant, and it sounds just like a movie out of Steven Spielberg’s catalogue (I don’t think we need to go into sound in any more detail than I did in the previous diaries). But there is a problem with the long-term plot. Remember our good old friend Jason Statham? Well, he, along with Chloe Frazer – who is also in this game but doesn’t appear nearly enough to warrant a proper mention – just drop out of the story midway through the game. This mystery was resolved after Jason’s voice actor, Graham McTavish, landed a role within The Hobbit, and so had his leg broken in-game, with Chloe there to nurse him better, but still. There was also chapter 13, which had you infiltrate a dockyard and find your way onto a ship. You eventually get caught by the bad guys, and ultimately escape the ship by blowing it to hell, but there is something fundamentally wrong with this: this entire segment adds NOTHING to the plot. It is a complete waste of time and effort and would not make an ounce of difference if it were cut from the game. Worse yet is the ending; in Ubar, Helen Mirren finds the treasure, which is actually an ancient vessel that has hallucinogenic properties, which she obviously intends to use for great evil. Drake, however, destroys the winch that was lifting the vessel, and the artefact is lost forever. Oh, and the entire city implodes and everything sinks into the sand apart from our heroes. That’s it. Apart from a short hallucinogenic episode in Ubar, there is no grand battle to defeat the evil Helen Mirren and save the world.
All in all, it seemed quite underwhelming in the end; sure, the locations were lovely, and the story was compelling for the most part, but the large number of firefights as opposed to puzzles is a dampener somewhat, though I feel most disappointed with the lack of a real payoff at the end. I mean, you spend about 20 minutes in Ubar, tops. Oh, and remember when IGN gave the game 10/10? Lol.
But hey, here we are. I managed to clock all three games in two weeks. There were some goofs, some gaffs, some laughs, etc. But despite the terrible first game, and the over-hyped third outing, the successes of the second game has given me something to look forward to in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
Hopefully Naughty Dog won’t end up regretting having created a quadrilogy.