Uncharted is one of those very rare game series that I, and my small group of gaming friends, all very much enjoy. I must stress how rare this is: I cannot think of any other game, let alone a series of games, that we aren’t all deeply divided on. M’colleague over there is part of that group, and I’m sure he’ll be writing about why Uncharted is so entertaining.
I’d like to first take a look at the recent controversy over a handful of seemingly ‘negative’ reviews for Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. A quick trip to Metacritic paints Uncharted 3 easily as a unanimous game of the year contender. But hang on: stop the press! An eight?! From Eurogamer?! How dare they besmirch the holy grail that is Uncharted! How dare they pick apart Drake’s flaws! How dare they provide reasoned and well-written arguments, completely backing up their review score? It’s an outrage! Clearly they are shoddy reviewers, just keen on creating controversy with their entirely valid criticisms!
How dare they provide reasoned and well-written arguments, completely backing up their review score?
The response to these small number of reviews has completely blown me away. The sheer malice and bile being directed at these reviews is nothing short of incredulous. Many gaming websites have picked up on the reaction to these reviews, offering up reasons why fans react in such a manner, with my personal pick resting upon Patrick Klepek’s (of Giant Bomb) insight. He posits that ‘individuals seek out information favoring their already established opinion’. For a revered series like Uncharted, any points of contention (of which there are certainly a few) that are highlighted are taken like a personal insult.
While I lack the word count and professional credentials to look deeply into gaming psychology, I will say that reactions like these are one of a good handful of habits that damage the reputation that video games have. We already have to contend with outlets like Fox News jumping on the ‘games cause violence’ train: let’s not give them any more ammunition, shall we?
But onto the game! The formula from Uncharted 2 to 3 has not changed as much as Uncharted 1 to 2, but it doesn’t matter: Uncharted 3 takes everything that worked brilliantly in Uncharted 2 and raises them to new levels of story, gameplay and character maturity.
This is a perfect pulp adventure.
Everything about Uncharted revolves around a theory (that I made up, but is possibly floating around elsewhere) that story is king. Every stylistic choice, every set, every shot has been meticulously created to benefit the story.
This is a perfect pulp adventure, taking the very best of what cinema has been delivering for years and also ensuring there’s a competent game attached as well. It doesn’t break new ground in the realm of third-person action shooters, but it does what it sets out to achieve incredibly well. It’s a pure thrill to watch Drake and co. on their journey: it’s been quite a while since a game really grabbed my attention in such a way.
If you talk to me about games for any period of time, you’ll soon realise that I am a fan of the Uncharted series. If you ask me why, however, you might not get a straight answer. For me, when it comes to games or movies (possibly other types of creative media as well), I usually cannot quantify exactly why I like or dislike it. It’s more of a feeling in my gut that I cannot explain. But, I’m here to talk about Uncharted 3 and I want to encourage you to play it – so I’ll have a go at it and see how it turns out.
So, why do I think Uncharted is so great? One of the most obvious reasons is that it’s different. It’s not just a standard platformer, it’s not a Gears of War style third person shooter, and it’s certainly not another generic cinematic war shooter. Uncharted does take elements from all three – cinematics, platforming, shooting, and so on – but it combines them in a way that no other game series has managed to do previously.
It’s a bit sad that it’s rare to see games that actually do something different – the game industry is in a slump, with the big corporations ‘playing it safe’ and simply creating clones, sequels and remakes of other games. The Uncharted games are diamonds in the rough that shine as a beacon of hope for anyone wanting games as a medium to mature and grow. That’s not to say that all games should be the same as Uncharted – rather, that all games should be more creative, combining new ideas as well as elements from other games in unique and interesting ways.
It’s a bit sad that it’s rare to see games that actually do something different
Of course, the games themselves need to be mentioned – they are executed superbly. The characters are well designed and interesting, and the plot draws you in and makes you want to keep playing long after you should have stopped for a break. The music, while not something that I’d put on my iPod, is extremely well composed, and fits the mood and theme of the games perfectly. The graphics are crisp and clean, the animation is amazing, the levels are well detailed, and the game engine is an impressive piece of technology. The gameplay is finely tuned and well-paced – combat arenas, dramatic cinematic sequences, and slower-paced puzzle sections are all combined to make the games very satisfying to play.
But all that combined equals a good game, not a great game. Everyone has different opinions on what makes a great game, but in this case, for me, it’s Uncharted’s camera work. In some areas, the camera moves way out and shows the whole area where your character is – like when you’re climbing up a huge stone wall or the hull of a wrecked ship. Uncharted 3 has a particularly memorable one during a scene in the desert. All the while, you still have full control of your character, even if he’s a tiny dot in the environment.
It’s something that can never be done in a first-person game, and it’s a type of cinematic that is not seen in any other game to date that I can recall. It shows an amazing sense of scale and perspective, and it speaks to me in a way that I cannot explain. The camera work in Uncharted combines movie cinematics with game cinematics to form a result that is far better than the sum of the individual parts.