The uncomfortable truth about “Uncharted 3″ (updated – I’ve beaten the game)

I am a fan of Nathan Drake.  Despite his confusing, almost binary, bisected personality – half-charming modern-day Indiana Jones adventure hero, half-terrifying serial killer - I genuinely look forward to each instalment of his PS3 adventures.

His games – from the hugely gifted developer Naughty Dog – are single-player cinematic adventures which knock most latter-day action-adventure movies for six and reward multiple play-through sessions.  The “Uncharted” series has blistering set-piece action, genuinely funny character dynamics, glorious game environments and a difficulty curve which allows you to gradually pick up skills, apply them and progress smoothly through the game.  If you’re not great at shooting, you can usually blag your way through the carnage to get to a puzzle section or some energetic platform sequence which stops you from feeling the game’s design is actively working against you.

The same is unfortunately not so of the latest game in the franchise – “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception”.

A frustrating blemish on an otherwise splendid game.

Games forums are positively awash with anguished forum threads about the third game’s perceived shortcomings – mostly centred around what feels like an unaccountably broken aiming and combat system which makes every gunfight on normal difficulty or above into a patience-sapping, fury-inducing ordeal which only appears to end sometimes when the game realises that you’ve been stuck in the same combat arena for an hour and show no sign of being able to emerge and progress in the story.

Yes, I too am finding the mechanics of “Uncharted 3″ shooting sections to be unrewarding, infuriating and apparently designed to extend the life of the game in your PS3 tray by making it so fricking impossible to finish that every completed gun fight is beaten only by bloody-minded, focussed attrition.

It’s gotten so bad that on Sunday, after trying to beat the second part of the (SPOILERS) airfield battle (SPOILERS END) for something like ninety minutes, I dropped the difficulty down from normal to easy.  For reasons of gamer ego and trophy/achievement-hunting I have never had to do that before.  The only reason that I did is because this section was preventing Mrs Rolling Eyeballs and I from enjoying the game’s story – which is a key reason that we love the series.

If you’re spending an hour and more trying to beat a section because the antagonists can – no word of a lie – take 96 bullets from an AK-47 at point-blank range and STILL NOT DIE, I would submit that the game may have fundamental issues relating to its shooting mechanic.

Naughty Dog‘s community manager has been proactive in responding to this internet disquiet – indeed ND held an event at their California HQ last Friday, attended in part by some NeoGaf members, which worked with gamers to see if aiming could be tweaked for an apparently imminent patch – but it really would have been nice for the game to work well in the first place.

I don’t consider myself a hardcore gamer, nor am I a n00b – I’m somebody who plays a lot of games but doesn’t have preternaturally lethal FPS reactions – and I’m really quite disenchanted by “Uncharted 3″ to date.  The good points – the story, some of the set-pieces, the characters – are presently outweighed by the teeth-grinding, hair-tearing shortcomings of the gunplay.

UPDATED!

After an hour or three of pushing through the campaign on ‘Easy’ difficulty, it turned out that I was a punch, a jump and a volley of pistol fire away from beating the game entirely.

Now that I’ve done that, I think that I’m able to say with some certainty that I really enjoyed the game overall – pain-in-the-butt difficulty spikes and combat difficulty notwithstanding.

The set-piece which finishes the game was a hell of a lot better than the ones which finished the first two games in the series – if Naughty Dog are going to continue the series, they could do a lot worse than to follow this model for concluding stories in future “Uncharted” games.

I really enjoyed the concluding cut-scene and found it cheered me up so much that I then decided to go back to my saved game and try to complete the game ‘normal’ difficulty from the point at which I abandoned it – and do you know what?  I managed to get through the gun battle by using different tactics, concentrating like an S.O.B. on the shooting and using a (SPOILER) silenced pistol (SPOILERS END) on the bad guys.  I’m now going to keep going until I beat the game with a view to going back and trying to beat it on ‘Hard’, because I’m a glutton for masochistic, illogical punishment.

Wish me luck.

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