I got Uncharted and beat it in about 8 hours. It was phenomenal. It was precisely what I love about games. So, when I got Uncharted 2, I had high expectations. UC2 stands as one of the best games I’ve ever played.
So, when Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception launched, the anticipation was enormous. It’s hard to follow such a huge game and while the reviews praised UC3 with near-unanimous perfect scores, it wasn’t perfect. In fact, it was inferior to UC2. Why? Well, that’s why I’m writing this now.
Elena’s character and interaction with Drake in the first game was charming, fun and light-hearted. I loved her in that game. She was rough, yet chill, the kind of girl you would want to hang out with. When Chloe was introduced in the second game, it gave the Drake/Elena relationship a new angle. It was still fun and exciting, and I wanted to see the two together at the end. The ending was great. It was fitting, silly and endearing. Perfect.
However, with UC3, their story was barely there. Now, I realize the purpose of the story was to flesh out the Sully/Drake companionship. But it lost the spark that made the first two entries so awesome. Sully is cool and all, but he’s no Elena.
UC2: Elena Rocks
I will say this though, if Naughty Dog did more of the same, they would’ve been criticized for that as well. I realize there’s no winning here. Speaking of…
2) Been There, Done That
I love, love, love games and stories that retell a tale. DoDon Pachi: Dai-Ou-Jou is essentially a remake of DoDon Pachi. GTA4 goes back to where GTA3 started it all. Homage to earlier days is fantastic. I just didn’t feel the magic in UC3. The ending sequence, where the floor is falling apart is the same thing as in UC2. It looks good, but it wasn’t as exciting because I already did the very same thing. Every time Nathan fell and hung on by one arm should’ve been WOW! and I just felt it was *Yawn*, I did this before.
That kinda sucks, because this game was exciting and well-crafted. It just didn’t excite me as much. One of the reasons…?
3) The Locales & The Treasures
The first Uncharted had me in lush environments with a deep, rich history. I was exploring areas that Sir Frances Drake visited, hundreds of years earlier! There was a WWII boat here, merging the old with the new, a strange but enchanting mix. There were green, vivid jungles, curious WWII scenes, a glorious background for a phenomenal story. What was grandiose in the first game was trumped by what may be the perfect game. A blend of jungles (once again), frozen Nepal, incredibly-detailed city streets, the monastery, each diverse and awesome. Both games made me feel I was walking into an ancient land occupied by the modern. Therefore, when I found a new treasure, it felt like it belonged there. The Mandala Thogchag actually sat there for years before I encountered it.
UC1: Such Awesome Locales
So, what’s wrong with #3? Well, the locations are diverse and all superbly detailed and well lit. There’s no question about the visuals. I just found the bar, Columbia and London’s subway system to be modern without that ancient feel. When you get to France, it’s cool, but again, loses the real mysticism. The same goes for the ship graveyard. The best stages are in Syria and the whole desert ending, but even they never quite made me feel like the first two games did. The treasures felt oddly located and out of place. Why was there an Ancient Minerva Pendant on the boat? An Ancient Gold and Coral Bracelet in a graveyard of rusting ships? I loved collecting treasures in the first two games. Now, it was a task. It wasn’t natural.
4) The Story & Cast
As with every sequel, more characters are added to keep the story moving. I usually prefer the originals, Shrek being a good example. The first is classic, quaint; this was before they added 25 characters and gave less and less time to each. UC2 was amazing though. Drake and Elena. Sully and Chloe. Perfect. The supporting cast did just enough and while the bad guy cast wasn’t super deep, Lazarevic and Flynn were fitting. I hated Flynn for betraying Nate (The subtitle Among Thieves explained right at the beginning) and was happy to see Lazarevic die at the end.
UC3? Drake’s Deception? Wait, what precisely WAS the deception again? Marlowe and Talbot were both weak characters for whom I felt completely indifferent. The outro fight with Talbot was so anticlimactic. I didn’t care! Cutter was OK. Chloe was barely there. The ending with Elena as OK but it lacked that sincerity of the second game. It all suffered from a lack of depth and passion.
UC3: Marlowe - Snore...
5) The Saving System
I REALLY hoped they’d fix this by now. I’m going to compare to the excellent Resident Evil 5 here. RE5 had one save game that kept track of which stages you’d beaten, treasures you’d collected, which difficulty you played on, how long it took, etc. Here, we’re stuck saving before we start any level, being forced to save when we leave a level (i.e. if you got the last treasure you’d needed), etc. It is all so cumbersome and totally unnecessary in 2011. It may be a small gripe, but as a gamer who wanted to go back to beat it on crushing, to collect the treasures, to relive the game, it was annoying.
6) All The Extras!!!
I understand that these were removed to keep the integrity of trophies and everything in place, but one of the best parts of the Uncharted series was lost. Level flips, no gravity, weapon select, fast/slow motion, these things really add the the replay value of a game. I may not be as die-hard a gamer as I once was; I have much less time to devote than I used to, but even I recognize the loss here. The single-player skins and movies were all awesome in the second game. I was rather disappointed to find out all this was lost.
What To Do In Uncharted 4
Listen, Uncharted 3 was great. It’s biggest downside was that Uncharted 2 was better. However, in order to make UC4 compare to the second game, it must fix a few things. Obviously the saving system must be addressed. In searching for a new, mythical story, I hope they go back to the mix of old and new as detailed above. While many may disagree, I would love for it to be a completely co-op game. Some of my favorite times with parts 2 and 3 were the co-op levels. Mat and I have sunk many hours into those modes and even they are better in 2 than 3.
And of course, extras should be added (but disable trophies). Since we know there will be an UC4, I do hope they can get back to what made 2 so great. I loved 3 but the entire time I felt it was lacking.