31 October 2012

Post thoughts: Uncharted trilogy

And now for something with less anger...

I loved Uncharted 2 (Among Thieves). I played it through twice in a row, getting the achievements and goals for each level like I had done and thoroughly enjoyed with the three Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider games. I recently was able to play the first Uncharted (Drake's Fortune) due to their re-releasing it as a low-cost title (which I was very pleased about) and I had also gotten the third instalment (Drake's Deception) of the series to play through as well.

I have to wonder where it all went wrong.

For me, the series was at its zenith with Uncharted 2. Uncharted 1 introduced the characters, the general plot and mechanics. It was enjoyable but a bit ham-fisted in many ways from the manner in which pre-determined action sequences played out and with regards to the story. Not to mention that the puzzles were a welcome break from the action when they did happen to come along. By comparison, Uncharted 2 was a masterpiece: it built on everything in the original and made it better, more refined. The story flowed well and the character jibed and joked with one another in a pretty script. Pre-determined set-pieces flowed well and were believable and, not to mention the structure of the story itself was laid out in a nice, interesting fashion compared to the straight-laced front-to-back Uncharted style. The controls were also improved (although to be fair, in the re-release of Uncharted the option to use 2's grenade motionless controls was also implemented) and the encounters and environments of those encounters were more interesting to play in. Finally, the puzzles were more frequent, more inventive and more spectacular - in the vein of a lot of Tomb Raider-esque pieces.

Uncharted 3 threw a lot of this out of the window.

The story flows in such a hackneyed manner and jumps around with barely a loose thread to connect it all and you barely stop for breath before the next pseudo deus ex machina plot point comes along and whisks you off to the far side of the planet (or Europe as the case may be). Furthermore, the puzzles are lacklustre, unimaginative and virtually non-existent in this game with combat being more of a Call of Duty "push forward until the enemy waves stop" affair (I know it's not exactly but that's how the arenas tend to be set up) than the free-for-all open combat arenas of the second.

The combat itself is pretty uninteresting and also brutal. I find myself brought into an arena from a corridor and immediately presented with foes that surround me and I have no or virtually no cover or space to operate in. It's not fun and it's not dynamic. There's no choice involved. Compare this to the many times in Uncharted 2 when you would enter an arena, discover something and then have to defend the arena until the something was ready... you could decide where to hide or hit or make your stand, you could retreat and backtrack. That even happens in Uncharted 1 at least once. I'm struggling to remember a single instance in the 3/4 of Uncharted 3 that I've played: You always enter from one point, the corridor widens and people attack, then you push forward through them, and then the corridor closes again until the next encounter. It's repetitive and boring.

Maybe Uncharted 2 was a fluke? Maybe it presented the incorrect idea of what the series was about and, because I played it first, I was let down by the last entry in the series that was returning to more of Drake's Fortune's intended roots... Either way, I have yet to finish Uncharted 3 whereas I can see myself returning to Uncharted 2 for a third time and Uncharted 1 for a second.