GAME NAME: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
DEVELOPER(S): Naughty Dog
Let me open with a statement I’m not entirely proud of – Uncharted 3 cost me $700, and I get very sad whenever I play the game.
Not because I spent $700; the new TV and sound system to go along with the game was well worth it – more on that later. I’m sad because I can never be Nate Drake, never live his adventures, and never have his great hair. Uncharted 3 is pure escapism. It’s pretending you’re the hero in the most pornographic sense. The game doesn’t even let you project yourself onto the Nathan Drake canvas – you are watching Nate Drake, or you’re playing a different game. Nolan North’s voice, Drake’s chiseled but still realistic features, the brilliant writing and pacing – none of these ever let you forget that you are YOU, and not the coolest treasure hunter in the world. I mean, come on! Nate Drake knows Victor “Sully” Sullivan, a cigar-chomping, womanizing, hawaiian-shirt wearing cool old dude. He hangs with Cutter, a pre-Transporter Jason Statham; you know, when he was in all those cool British movies. Nate stumbles down sand dunes, shakes off the effects of dehydration, and kills 30 guys with a pistol. Nate makes snarky quips while fending off dozens of enemies. Even a close-call grenade elicits a wry quip as you guide Nate effortlessly out of danger. These tasks are fun, but terribly saddening, because you’ll never be a part of them. Uncharted 3 holds you at arms’ length, making sure you know that you’re just guiding Nate, you don’t get to be him.
Even in the multiplayer mode you’re reminded that you are just some schlub. The custom character looks like a dumpy homeless idiot in a trucker hat, unless you become a villian and don a face-covering bandana. Otherwise you can choose to be Nate or one of the other in-game characters, which inevitably leads to a team full of Nates and Elenas, creating some sort of existential 10-way love crisis. The multiplayer modes are standard fare, but everything runs so smoothly and looks so good that the blandness of the gameplay can be pretty easily overlooked. CTF, deathmatch, team deathmatch, and a pretty easy co-op mode round out the options. These are combined with the post-Modern Warfare obligatory levelling and perks systems, so if you see Sully explode into a ball of spiders, just, ya know, roll with it. Voicechat is clear and crisp, and the ease of communication with the party system lets you set up games and then call the shots without much hassle.
But you’re still you, and Nate Drake is still being awesome in his universe. Although the visuals are outstanding with some of the best vistas of the series, the sound and voice is pitch-perfect, and the controls are spot on (remember throwing a grenade in the first one?), everything in this game makes you remember you’re not in it. Step off the predetermined path, the screen goes grey and someone yells “Naaaate!” Get shot and the baddies will yell “We got him,” never “we got YOU.” Also, can we stop with goofy third-act supernatural monsters? Nazi zombies in the first, blue gorillapeople in the second, and now genies in the third?
Not to say this isn’t a great game. The platforming has improved with each successive Uncharted, and the third outing is phenomenal. The shooting is always fun, with a standard but meaty weapon variety. The close combat stuff borrows heavily from Arkham City, but isn’t implemented nearly as well as in AC. However, it still works fine, especially since it now incorporates background objects. Watching Nate Drake hit bad guys with frozen fish and barstools really doesn’t get old. The puzzles pop up occasionally to break up the shooty bits nicely, resulting in a solid pacing that works throughout the game.
Stunning set pieces, sand that behaves realistically, gorgeous water, perfect sound, and maddeningly linear. It’s a brilliant adventure that Nate gets to go on – he just never lets you think you’re there with him. Even when you buy a Samsung and a Bose system, stand in line at a Houston Gamestop at 11pm on a Monday, and buy all the DLC, Nate doesn’t want you anywhere near him. He’s like the awesome older brother with a motorcycle and a hot girlfriend. And you’re just you – sitting on the couch with your video games. For as great as this game is, it’s a damn shame it’s not more immersive.