After a weekend of playing through the Uncharted trilogy on the PS3, I remember being quite exhausted, but also having a great time. This led me to be on my last breath when tackling Uncharted 3 and I recalled so many elements I enjoyed from that instalment alone the very next day, despite that I did not want to hold a PS3 controller for at least a week. When I replayed the remake on the PS4 with my sister for this review, I did some research and found out that only half of the team at Naughty Dog created this game, while the rest worked on The Last of Us. Let me tell you, it does not show.
“Greatness from small beginnings”
Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan have travelled to a pub in London to meet up with Talbot, a man who is interested in purchasing Drake’s ring. Apparently, it was a keepsake of Sir Francis Drake himself. However, when the money turns out to be fake, Nate and Sullivan are caught in a fight with Talbot’s goons, ending with them being knocked down and meeting the new villain of this title, Katherine Marlowe. From this point on, there are so many events occurring, that I do not dare to accidentally spoil anything else.
The story provides an adventure that will take you across the sea and dessert, through both modern and abandoned cities, and even more diverse locations, providing a vast world to journey through. We are once again back to focus on a treasure left by Francis Drake, which is a lovely touch as it makes our adventure more connected to Nathan. This gives us a lot of historical theories yet again that are concurred by interesting facts and trivia, which are further being used for guiding our heroes on their adventure and seeking out for what might have been lost in time.
The side characters from the previous games are back and have more to offer in personality and as clear valuable team members contributing with their own strengths, with even a new British member being a highlight. He is treated as a friend they are already familiar with, and since we get to know him quickly through interactions in order to establish him, not to mention that he comes with a vast and charming personality, it is easy to welcome him with open arms. A lovely touch is how he, similarly to the other team members, contributes to the group with his own strength, which happens to be knowledge in British history. This alone makes me wish for a DLC-chapter staring this character.
This minor addition alone should indicate how amazing Uncharted 3 is at making characters important, relatable and easy to care for. All of this is thanks to how this instalment focuses on letting the characters shine as both individuals and as team members, making it easy for both newcomers and veterans to be engaged. Every character contain three dimensional personality, and clearly have their unique quirks and similarities. This also works wonders for whenever Nate is left alone, as it feels distracting and uncomfortable by being so vulnerable, making me wish for him to reunite with his friends or save them by any means necessary. The small nods to past events are also nice, and I do enjoy the minor flashback telling about Nate’s obsession with Francis Drake and his possible attention disorder.
The dialogue also deserves some praise. While it is not always as strong as the previous entries, there are a lot of hilarious lines and cute bantering between characters, providing fun showcases of the characters’ connections to each other. The story definitely includes some harsh and devastating moments, but it never goes overboard or is afraid to be funny. The villains themselves are threatening and I do enjoy that Marlow has a connection to Sullivan, though it is not explored upon as much as I wished for. There is also another villain I found very intriguing, but sadly: was there for only a couple of segments.
However, this is an action packed story as well and treated as such. There are a ton of over the top moments that packs a punch on how lucky Drake actually is when it comes to surviving, giving a lot of exciting and immersive events. Travelling through the hot dessert, climbing on wrecked ships in the middle of the ocean and more, adds to the tension and feelings of being vulnerable. There were a lot of moments when I got emotionally invested, despite that I knew what was going to happen. That is because of how much everything draws you in and makes you care, while also enjoying moments that are over the top and insane to look at. To provide this vast range of emotions, is an impressive feat for any media to accomplish.
The entire journey all comes together to provide a fantastic and entertaining ride with characters you will easily root for, and historical elements that are exciting for both newcomers and those who are well versed in Sir Francis Drakes’ travels. The villains could have been explored more upon and the ending is a bit cheesy, but it is hard to not be enthralled and have fun with Uncharted 3, while also being immersed in the intense moments.
Story Score: 9/10
A bit more than before
A lot got improved with the second instalment, so one might think Uncharted 3 would do the same. However, it instead polishes a lot of the mechanics in order to make it the most solid entry with the best flow. I will come back to the latter one later, but let’s look at the most noticeable parts about this linear action game: the combat and the platforming. The combat will future guns for the most part, with a cover mechanic that includes blind-fire, dodge-rolling, and regenerative health. It is familiar and works well here ones again. Nate can hold one handgun, such as a revolver, one other two-handed firearm like a shotgun or an AK-47, and pick up and carry upwards to four grenades.
All function as before, with you being able to throw grenades in an arc or straightforward, and shot from the hip or aim down sight for less movement. A new and wonderful feature, is the ability to press the triangle button at the right time to throw back grenades. However, it needs to be done within a time limit showcased by a bar near the grenade, and you have to aim it properly in order to not have it bounce back in your face. This minor detail provides a fantastic risk vs reward system, and we are just getting started.
The guns are yet again a highlight, with a lot of varied firearms to pick up and each having specific uses. Open areas can have great use for the AK-47 to cover more ground, while a more powerful weapon might be better against armoured goons walking towards you, making you always plan on what to pick up and when to use them. This need for strategy is further extended by the enemies, as they come in great variety and their AI are more defensive, trying to flank you and take you off guard, forcing you to be on the move constantly and plan your next step. Uncharted 3 is the hardest instalment in the series, but never to the point of unfair, providing a good challenge for newcomers and veterans alike.
Another reason for this good balance, are the areas’ structures due to their diverse designs. Gunfights can take place in both small and large areas, providing quite varied forms of fights, and including interesting obstacles, such as destructible environments, sandstorm covering the view, moving boxes inside a ship and more. Because of this, the combat always provides something original that fits within the game’s mechanics and forces you to always rethink your tactical approaches.
This is even combined with the platforming, since you can use it to your advantage by cover behind signs or climb in order to get to a higher ground, for example. However, the game does not always force you to use guns. Stealth is an option to get the upper hand and Nate will automatically do so when enemies have not noticed him yet, with an attack from any area besides right in front of them, providing a quick kill. This is lovely to see return from the previous titles, as some stages can bombard you with tons of enemies. Although, you are welcomed to fight them of with firearms from the start should that be rather to your liking.
Another neat part, is the upgrades for the melee combat. While guns definitely beat fists, there are sections were you will have to fight your way out with no firearms available. This has been much more expanded upon since the last entries, with more enemies to attack and a higher up camera, making it easy to choose whom to focus your attacks on. Square punches and can be chained into combos, triangle counters, and circle grabs enemies as well as is used for escaping theirs.
It is simple and there is no variety in enemies with the exception of bigger goons that takes more beatings to knock down, but the amount of enemies makes these encounters entertaining and they do put up a decent fight by trying to attack you from multiple angles and dodge your attacks. These events are also spread out to not become dull, and rather becomes a nice change of pace. Being able to use objects such as pillars or fish for extra damage against opponents is also a fun inclusion, which happens automatically when you are near these elements. If you are unarmed in gunfights, fighting against one using firearms can lead to you stealing it from them if you are quick with your punches, which is another clever addition.
The platforming is still reserved for creating an immersive adventure by utilising realistic constructions, making you look carefully at the environment and figure out how to proceed onward. Nate will still reach out his hand towards areas you can climb to, so you never have to take a leap of fate. There is a neat aspect in the form that gunfight might occur while platforming, but other than that, it is still a nice addition for atmospheric use, similar to the previous titles.
Uncharted 3 also incorporate some puzzles similar to its predecessors. While they are not a main focus, they are usually entertaining and adds minor brainteasers with Drake’s journal being a nice addition, despite one occasion outright telling you what the answer is. In fact, Uncharted 3 has a couple of minor segments that are not a part of the game’s core mechanics. You have cinematic or atmospheric parts where you wander through a town for the sense of life while commenting or bantering with your comrades, or one time events such as throwing torches at other blazers for creating light and scare off dangerous spiders or running from falling buildings.
I am usually against this as I believe a game should expand with the concepts it presents, but it works here due to how it keeps a clear flow. Every concept only goes as far as they can to make sure they do not overstay their welcome, but still have solid structure to them. Because of this, they become small extras that gives you a break between the core mechanics of Uncharted 3. The worst offender, is fighting the brutes since they can become repetitive, but this provides still fun battles.
The cinematic moments are also well implemented and used greatly for creating immersion or to give you a break to take in the setting, which I do not mind. It is not perfect, but Uncharted 3 knows its limitations and how to make you invested, despite not always being able to go the extra mile to make itself spectacular. Yet, it is still an immersive and interactive title that gives you fun combat and engaging platforming, with minor breathers that are nice for adding some spice to the adventure.
Gameplay Score: 8.5/10
Cinematic perfection in game format
The technical aspects have become even better with this instalment, thanks to the generally more polish being given to every part of it. What caught my eyes the most, were the actual characters’ design. I love how they have been provided unique features and details, with a heavy amount of work having gone into making the facial textures and expressions pushing the system’s capabilities to its limit. Without any dialogue, it is easy to see exactly how a person feel, providing a great focus on show and not tell.
Though one of the most important parts to the Uncharted-series in terms of visuals, has been the landscapes and the over the top action scenes. Uncharted 3 does not disappoint here, and the PS4 version looks even better. You are taken on a grand and wonderful journey ones again to places like London at nighttime, a town in Yemen with plenty of people around, the hot desert creating mirages, and on the open sea with wrecked and rusty ships. All are impressive and varied, giving the game a sense of scope on how big this adventure really is. In fact, at times the game will even zoom out to make you see the entire place you are venturing through, showcasing just how small in this world you really are. I also admire the small touches, such as how collectables are actually clear designs and not just sparkles, or how Nate’s journal is different in his younger days.
When it comes to the action packed scenes, they are more consistent and enthralling than before, which makes every part of Uncharted 3 engaging. Jumping onto a moving plane, escaping a building on fire and running from tidal waves, are just a few examples of the intense sections the game provides. Though Uncharted 3 also knows how to be calm and provide a peaceful atmosphere, such as giving wonderful backgrounds when you stand at the top of the roofs in London, or witness a forgotten city in all of its glory. Cutscenes also carry over this beautiful presentation, and most uses the same engine as the in-game to make every moment immersive. The lighting is especially fantastic with great attention to shadows, making the world come to life by such subtle elements.
I only have yet again issues with the optional costumes, since they are not always available in the cutscenes. Thankfully, there are more that uses the in-game presentation, which can lead to some hilarious moments and not breaking the strange immersion you decided to go with. Lastly, people still fly all over the place with hilarious physics after being shot or knocked out, similar to an 80s action movie. You can even see the bullets being shot, which further shows how invested the developers wanted the players to be.
The voice actors consist of a stellar cast, with all providing top performances and gives all the characters a clear personality each. All have perfect direction and tone to fit the events, as well as to give each character their own tone, making everyone memorable and believable. The music is just as magnificent. Every track reflects wonderfully the area you are inn, with a huge focus on Arabic tone. Because of this, the soundtrack provides sections with more orchestrated music and oriental ones such as Mezwed. This is probably Greg Edmonson’s best work as it all feels culturally appropriate to where you are, with all the tracks being diverse and fitting both calm moments and intense scenes. Though what might be the best part about the audio, are the sounds of the guns as they pack a huge punch and every shot feels more real and devastating than ever before.
Presentation Score: 10/10
The quest for treasures continues
Back are the optional treasures, which are sprinkled in every stage. They continue to be fun to look out for, thanks to them being sparkling to give a small hint on their location, and due to how fun it is to explore the expanded and gorgeous levels. Finding them will lead to unlocking weapons, rendering modes, gallery, tweaks and costumes like before. All are great rewards, but the costumes deserves especially some extra praise as there is a much more varied and expansive selection, providing fun options for the next playthroughs. An unlockable brutal mode is also present, as well as a speedrun option. Both are fun challenges to tackle in order to test your skills, and due to the game being not too long. Besides, running through the stages as Doughnut Drake is something of a beauty in itself.
Extra Score: 8.5/10
Uncharted 3 is a strange beast that focuses on fine-tuning the last entry, while still provide an experience of its own. The best way to summarise this game, is that it has a wonderful pacing and is the most polished entry in the series that provides some interesting variety, similar to Crash Bandicoot 3. While many might say Uncharted 2 is the best one due to its upgrades from the last game, it is hard to deny the polish this entry provides. Every small moment are presented just long enough to not get dull, fights are always entertaining, the story packs in a gorgeous atmosphere and action packed scenes, and contain characters you will root for. If we ended the series with this third chapter, I would have been satisfied.