November 09, 2011
Wow, wow, wow. "Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception" may start slower than the previous "Uncharted 2," but man, when it picks up steam, it is a powerhouse.
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Spoiler alert: The second half of "Uncharted" includes a long mission where you infiltrate a ship harbor, then wend your way through a cruise ship that turns upside-down.
That section may have given me the most enjoyment I've had in a single-player campaign this year. It's like playing a Bruce Willis movie, The Poseidon Adventure, and, well, a classic "Uncharted" game.
Once again, you portray Nathan Drake, an Indiana Jones brand of explorer.
Nathan has discovered that author T.E. Lawrence and explorer Sir Frances Drake went looking for a lost city in the Arabian dessert.
So Nathan decides to find those guys' old clues to locate this mysterious city. Is there treasure there? Or trouble?
The story and script are the most compelling in games this year, so far. The dialogue is funny and male-bonding, delivered by the finest voice-over acting of 2011.
Even when you're just running through jungles, deserts and caves, you hear your character conversing endearingly with other characters, awesomely fleshing out the tale.
Here's the thing. "Uncharted 3" begins sort of dully with flashbacks to Nathan's childhood that are blah.
Worse still, making your character walk feels slightly sloppy. I was reminded of Jason, in the first Bourne Identity, saying his car wheels felt "splashy" before he took off on a car chase.
Similarly, Nathan's feet feel "splashy" in this game. He stumbles too much. The controls are a hindrance when I'm shimmying across building ledges by my fingertips.
But — and I know this is weird to say — I got used to the flippity-floppity motion system after a few hours, and it ended up being no big deal. But I was frustrated at first.
There are four types of entertaining games in "Uncharted 3." It's got elaborate and interesting movie scenes to watch. You do a lot of shooting, punching and stealthily sneaking up on bad guys. You solve puzzles to open secret doors. And it's a parkour game, in which you climb walls and crawl across roofs by fingertip.
It's not perfect. Headshots don't always kill an evil henchman. And the difficulty levels are uneven: The first two-thirds are forgivingly easy, so a casual gamer would be pleased, but the last third is hardcore.
Even so, most of "Uncharted 3" is very fun, often funny and has a somewhat touching, if clichéd, ending.
Above all, the artistry is gorgeous. If you've memorized the ornate interiors of Vegas' luxurious Bellagio and Encore hotels, imagine 1000 Bellagios worth of finely crafted detail crammed into one game. Seriously. This thing is pretty.
("Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception" by Sony retails for $60 for PS 3 — Plays fun. Looks incredible. Starts easy, ends challenging. Rated "T" for blood, language and violence. Four out of four stars.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at http://www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html. Twitter at VegasAnonymous.