The walls of this castle are crumbling down around me. The flames engulfing it are making their way ever higher. Desperate, I leap out of a miraculously convenient open window onto a roof.
“I bet the roof will start collapsing and I’ll have to run towards the camera,” I think to myself just before Nathan Drake starts doing exactly that.
Afterwards, I feel like the whole event would have been more exciting if it hadn’t been so utterly predictable.
Collapsing Castle on Fire is but one of the many action-packed scenes in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, to be released Tuesday for PlayStation 3. The latest chronicle of the adventures of so-called “everyman” Nathan Drake ups the ante on everything that made the previous game great, including its Hollywood-inspired bombast.
Those thrills, ripped straight from summer blockbusters, tend to be both Uncharted 3’s biggest strength and biggest flaw.
Drake’s Deception never lets up on the action, and it has an obsession with constantly one-upping itself. Before the end of the game, you will have escaped from a burning building, outran a massive wave of water aboard a sinking cruise ship and traversed a seemingly endless desert.
These segments are thrilling, heart-racing stuff, but predictable. You could make a drinking game out of how many times Nathan Drake jumps to a ledge and grabs it by the tips of his fingers only for it to collapse, landing him in an even more precarious situation. Do another shot when it’s followed by a sardonic one-liner.
I felt much more engaged with Uncharted 3 when it wasn’t trying to ape a popcorn flick and just let me climb and shoot on my own.
Uncharted 3 packs plenty of wide, open areas with tons of enemies to fight off. Your position relative to the enemy is often more important than your aim. The environments give you plenty of room to maneuver around your opponents, whether it’s flanking them from behind or getting the drop on them from above.
These gunfights are more thrilling than the thrill ride, mostly because they have more room for error. Being close to death, with enemies surrounding me and bullets flying past my head as I run for cover is one of the most heart-pounding gaming experiences I’ve ever had.
The climbing and platforming segments can be just as compelling. The camera angles are more cinematic, sometimes looking downwards to Drake’s head as he scales a building or zooming far out, allowing you to see the entirety of an area. When the camera pulls back dramatically at one point to show you that you’ve just traversed the entire outer side of a gigantic boat, with more to come, it is much is more suspenseful than the movie-like moments.
But as the spectacles get grander, the player’s interaction with them lessens. For example, there’s a visually astounding scene where you’re trapped on a sinking cruise ship. Rooms around you become flooded almost as soon as you enter them. But as long as you press forward and jump occasionally, you’ll make it through without a scratch.
Then there’s the desert. Playing this scene, I was convinced that Uncharted 3 had the most technically adept graphics of any game on any platform. This desert was seriously huge — endless, it seemed. And beautiful: The sand itself was sharp and richly detailed, bits of it dropping from Nathan Drake’s shoes as he walked. All I wanted to do was explore this vast wasteland.
But I couldn’t. The desert was just for show. If you moved any direction but forward, it just looped endlessly. There was nothing out there to find. So I trudged in a straight line and watched the cutscenes, and then I was out of the desert.
WIRED Gripping story, lovable characters, superlative graphics, thrilling gunfights and platform segments, jaw-dropping setpieces.
TIRED Little room for experimentation during the game’s biggest moments, predictable tropes.