This is an industry with a media that seems built on hyperbole, and the embarrassment of riches that the last month has brought us has taken it to new heights. Arkham City was one example, even inspiring some hacks to further undermine review scores with hyperbolic trash like this, but I found it hard to get too riled up when the game turned out to actually be bloody amazing.
When it came to Uncharted 3, though, I just don’t see it. Perhaps the urge to come out against it is a reaction to the utter insanity provoked within the community by some very reasonable criticism of an apparent sacred cow, or maybe I’m right, thanks to having the unusual ability to look beyond the phenomenally pretty graphics and be put off by PS2-era design issues that have no business being in such a supposedly polished, modern game.
Opinions, eh? Yeah, fair enough, but I’d love someone to argue in favour of Uncharted’s pathetic enemy AI. I thought that old trick of all enemies suddenly gaining omniscience as to your position as soon as one of them is alerted had died out around the time of Metal Gear Solid, but it apparently stowed away on the trip from the 90s when Naughty Dog was dragging Indiana Jones into the present. Otherwise quite competent stealth sequences take a nosedive if you’re spotted, as laser sights converge on your hiding place after someone caught a glimpse of you 20 feet from your current hiding place. Dive under water and swim away, climbing up on the far side of a boat where no one can see you should help, right? Nope. They all know where you’ve gone.
But, hey, if the fight descends into carnage you can always just shoot them. Oh, wait. The gunplay is shit too thanks to inconsistent aiming and enemies who seem to shrug off headshots before dying from a bullet to the arm. The janky aiming has been acknowledged by Naughty Dog and will supposedly be changed to something more like Uncharted 2 – I’ve never been a fan of the shooting in these games, mind – in a patch, but how does it even make it into the final game? What wasn’t great has been broken.
One other complaint is one that’s more endemic to the game, though. Uncharted 3 is extremely linear, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing because I love a rollercoaster ride of a game as much as anyone, it does a terrible job of hiding the tracks along the way. It’s inconsistent in corralling you onto the right route, making what looks like a viable path – or evenslightly to the left or right of the one true path – result in a quick trip back to the last checkpoint. I’ve even had bits where an attempt to drop an entirely safe distance to the ground results in instant death, while scripted falls from much higher are taken in Drake’s stride. I’ve always treated Uncharted as a bit like the post-2003 Prince of Persia games, being great platformers once you get past the annoyance of substandard combat, but I felt like Uncharted 3 wasn’t nearly as solid in that respect as its predecessors.
My last complaint is a spoiler, so I’ll keep it brief and advise anyone who hasn’t finished the game to stop reading.
Besides the fact that fighting Ghost Rider is frustrating as hell when piled on top of the issues with the game’s combat, am I the only one who thought the game’s final act was Uncharted 2’s all over again? Swap the train ride for the admittedly awesome horseback chase; throw in another the lost city that’s somehow never been spotted from the air despite sitting in the middle of a perpetual sandstorm – an able substitute for Uncharted 2’s blizzards – full of annoying, apparently supernatural enemies; and then the escape by the skin of your teeth as it collapses around you with all of its treasures. Haven’t we been here before?
I didn’t hate Uncharted 3, as much as I might seem down on it; maybe it was inevitably going to disappoint after such staggering highs as Uncharted 2. I can’t escape the feeling that this was somewhat rushed, perhaps with Naughty Dog working on its new project, which, based on its existing pattern, will surely be Unkarted.