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Critical Reception: Naughty Dog's  Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Critical Reception: Naughty Dog's Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

November 2, 2011 | By Danny Cowan




This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Naughty Dog's cinematic third-person shooter Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, which reviewers describe as "narrow, focused and ultimately shallow." Uncharted 3 currently earns a score of 93 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Giant Bomb's Brad Shoemaker gives Uncharted 3 5 out of 5 stars. "Nathan Drake's new adventure doesn't rewrite the book like his last one did," he admits, "but damn if it's not a great action game anyway."

"By now, you should know if you're onboard with Nathan Drake's smirking brand of globe-trotting adventure or not," he notes. "The storytelling is certainly familiar; our hero visits numerous far-flung locales, invokes some ancient explorers, twiddles a few antique cartographer's instruments, and gets shot at with disturbing frequency on his way to rediscovering a long lost land of supernatural significance."

Shoemaker finds that Uncharted 3 skirts the cliches one might expect to find in similar games. "It's true that Uncharted presents a by-the-book action-movie milieu populated by characters who fit into tidy genre archetypes, but even in this third game it's still a little startling that they aren't all boringly one-dimensional," he praises. "The primary credit for that belongs to the dialogue and voice work, which remain as snappy and artful as they've always been."

In addition: "The basic act of playing Uncharted -- the shooting, the climbing -- hasn't changed at all, though a few things feel improved here and there. You'll see some neat touches in the hand-to-hand fighting where Drake will contextually grab nearby objects and incorporate them into the brawl. And I felt like the stealth gameplay, though entirely optional, worked a little more smoothly than in the last game."

Multiplayer has also seen a number of tweaks. "There are plenty of interesting modes here to keep you busy, and some interesting things going on within the matches, such as a random bonus that's sometimes granted to the currently losing team," Shoemaker describes. "There's plenty on the cooperative side as well. The standout is a five-chapter adventure mode that has three players fighting through a coherent storyline set in a variety of the story maps, with some light dialogue and cinematics added in for context."

"[Uncharted 2] set the bar so perilously high that it's no crime this sequel merely rises to meet it, and not surpass it," Shoemaker writes. "Both games are so impressive that it's tempting to wonder whether there's even much more to be done in this style of game on this generation of hardware. That's a question only time will answer, but today, right now, you should spend some time playing Uncharted 3."

Simon Parkin at Eurogamer scores Uncharted 3 at 8 out of 10. "Uncharted 3 is a game that has an unshakable sense of its own identity," he says. "The series has always had clear aims: an unapologetically mainstream Boy's Own romp whose primary interest is in creating unrivalled thrills through daring spectacle rather than daring design. But in this, the third outing, it has settled into the kind of assured swagger that comes from finding repeated successes in a specific creative mine."

Parkin continues: "It's a game in which the skin of your fingertips saves every rooftop leap, while each stonework puzzle solved in the belly of some inexplicably well-maintained tomb leads to another, yet more exotic continent. It's a game of button-mash punch-ups that leave neither blood nor bruise, and conundrums whose solutions pop up if you take too long to unmask them. It's a game about overcoming the odds, saving your friends, finding the treasure and getting the girl. Both of them."

"Uncharted 3 is the most exciting game in the world, but only until you deviate from the script," Parkin notes. "Even in this chase the conflict between the developer's theatrical choreography and player-controlled interactions is clear. In order to ensure each set-piece is set off correctly, the game commits the cardinal sin of insinuating you have full control of your character, but in fact tugging you towards trigger points - making sure you're in the right spot to tumble over the bonnet of that braking car, for example."

"The execution exhibits a kind of workmanship and polish way beyond the ambition of most other developers, let alone their abilities or budgets," Parkin summarizes. "As an expression of all that a video game could be, however, Uncharted 3 is narrow, focused and ultimately shallow. It is a majestic tribute to cinema, a movie game in the literal sense, and your enjoyment will be in precise step with your appreciation of that objective - and whether or not you believe it to be Drake's great deception, or Drake's great delight."

The AV Club's Scott Jones gives Uncharted 3 a C grade. "Gamers are a story-starved lot," he asserts. "Case in point: the success of 2009's Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Its zippy storyline and witty, conflicted characters proved potent enough to make gamers forgive what were, even then, outdated gameplay mechanics."

Jones continues: "In Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, the story still zips and characters are still conflicted, but targeting is as twitchy as ever, bad guys still require three or four shotgun blasts to the head before they're deterred, and the game's star, Nathan Drake, still has no clue whatsoever about how to crouch. Two years after Thieves, Uncharted's gameplay mechanics and conventions are no longer dated; they're borderline archaic."

Jones also targets the game's reliance on scripted events. "Impressive setpieces punctuate the game -- most memorably, Drake must escape from a sinking ocean liner," he recalls. "Yet these moments somehow always feel shoehorned into the experience, as if developer Naughty Dog concocted them in advance, then built the rest of the game around them."

"Uncharted 3 shows more people and more places, but tells players less," Jones concludes. "Gamers felt like they knew Nathan Drake at the end of Uncharted 2, at least a little. But by the closing moments of Uncharted 3, after spending 12 or so hours in his shoes, players somehow wind up knowing even less about him than they did at the game's beginning."


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