Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is like the guy who’s unspeakably handsome, who enthralls you with every gesture, whose hand you just want to grab and whose face you want to touch. He talks, and you watch his mouth move, while you sigh to yourself, “He’s so pretty.” Unfortunately, everything else about him is silly and bland. He thinks he’s smarter and more interesting than he actually is, and no one will tell him because we all just want to cuddle with him and say, “Shhhh, there there, shhhh.” Liz Lemon, you know what I’m talking about.
In Uncharted 3, every level is saturated with life and vivid colors. The locales are exotic and beautiful, dripping in detail and wonder. The French castle, the London bar, the shifting desert, the plethora of hot men; it’s all very lovely. And there are moments as vivid and visceral as sex—tense, every sense and muscle engaged. You feel like you’re going to explode if it lasts much longer, but you want it to last so much longer. The team at Naughty Dog does mood and atmosphere very well, and the game ia amazing to watch—but not so amazing to play.
(This will be the vomiting bile part, so prepare.)
What the fuck is going on in this game? We have a villain whose vagina, British accent and cultured bitch-ness are supposed to be enough for us in terms of character. She has a henchman, also cultured, well-dressed and accented, who does all sorts of things to annoy you and be evil. It is never explained why they are doing any of these over-the-top and overly cruel things.
Drake and Sully, the two main protagonists, seem to have a history with her and everyone else, which they hint at, but never explained. It ends up feeling like the characters are having an insider’s conversation that you are not cool enough to understand, because you weren’t there. Every relationship in the story is played this way. Drake and his always-implied-never-shown love interest apparently got married, but we never see the marriage, and it doesn’t even matter, because they’re not together anymore, with no explanation why.
Drake and Sully infer and chuckle about previous adventures—we weren’t there, of course, but it was really great. We’ve now seen two other games with these characters, why not have them refer to those? The writers attempt to tell a lot with a little, an admirable goal, but end up telling nothing.
The combat made me want to cry. The game, which seems so realistic with its rich characters, its thick atmosphere and its pseudo history, slaps you in the face when it comes to Drake taking on fifty armed men, getting shot repeatedly, climbing for hours, walking through the desert for days with no food or water, falling from great distances, and getting beaten by very large men and then shaking it all off like a professional wrestler who just got hit with a metal chair. I was worried about Drake: “Baby, you can’t keep up like this. Take a nap. Bodies can’t take this kind of abuse.” It breaks the game for me. He doesn’t seem heroic or plucky; it just seems farcical, and events lose meaning if there are no consequences or real danger. You can’t ask me to care and worry about Drake and have him take on armies and jump off cliffs without even a sprained ankle. The controls were also not great, making combat even more of a chore.
The men just come and come, which usually I’m a fan of, but, as in the other Uncharted games, just becomes annoying. I groaned every time I defeated one wave of twelve heavily-armed men, only to have them replaced by even more. It’s also hard to care about Drake when he is murdering all these guys (and yet when the villain stands a few feet away unaware of his very armed presence, he doesn’t shoot her, because now he’s moral). I attempted to pugilize most of the enemies, even though many were armored, because I wanted the killing to end, but Drake’s fists never do any damage. I also didn’t get why these mercenaries are so dedicated to their tasks. The city is falling down, and the building is on fire, so why are you still here and trying to kill me? Why are you running into the flaming palace to kill me?
Uncharted 3 is as close to a movie as video games have come: great actors, great sets, White House-exploding moments. However, the gameplay is subpar and the combat unnecessarily frustrating and cruel. Through it all, though, I wanted to see the ancient temples and make it to the next big movie moment.
Like its protagonist Nathan Drake, the game looks delicious, and you want it to surrender itself to you and invite you in. It’s a tease, though: beautiful to look at, but nothing underneath. Plus, Drake never so much as takes his shirt off.
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Frag Dean is a podcaster on Silly Frags, available on iTunes, Sticher and sillyfrags.com.