Tag Archives: Uncharted 3

“Tomb Raider” – Lara’s Renaissance

To quote Lady Croft herself, "I can do this..."

To quote Lady Croft herself, “I can do this…”

TL;DR verdict? “Tomb Raider” is a fantastic game.  Buy with confidence.

Whether or not Lara Croft‘s latest Crystal Dynamics game is a true entry in the series or such a departure that it constitutes an adjunct spin-off is worthy of further discussion, but the title stands on its own.

It’s a little too early to start shouting about ‘game of the year’ considerations but this latest Lara adventure is a cinematic adventure of such quality that it rivals generation-defining PS3 titan “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” for sheer thrills, visual splendour and storytelling.  Given that the second Nathan Drake game is probably in my top two games of this generation, that’s no small complement.  I’d hope to see this title get it’s due come the end of the year, but I suspect that “Bioshock: Infinite” has game of 2013 all wrapped up unless the shipped product has been somehow inadvertently swapped out in the disc-pressing stage for a tie-in “Smurfs” shovelware effort.

Katniss who?

Katniss who?

Having listened to this week’s episode of the “Weekend Confirmed” podcast, I know that redoubtable host Garnett Lee will disagree in particular with my estimation of the story, and he’s entitled to feel misgivings towards it, but I really feel that this tougher survival story achieves the difficult balance of giving equal importance to character and plotting, pitching a younger Lara Croft through the proverbial mill whilst sketching out some of the elements of her persona in a way which should please long-term fans and players who’ve never picked up a “Tomb Raider” game before.

No game is perfect and often bears the hallmarks of influence . This game at least has the taste to be influenced by really good stuff. As well as the aforementioned Naughty Dog‘s awesome PS3 adventure series, you can pick out gameplay mechanics popularised by Rock Steady’s “Batman”games (Lara has a ‘detective vision’-like ‘survival instinct’ which highlights useful equipment and environmental tools), a gear and skills upgrading system which recalls latter-day “Call of Duty” multi-player perks and the foreboding dread of classic survival horror title “Resident Evil 4” as well as a scene in a charnel pit which is right out of Neil Marshall‘s magnificent horror film, “The Descent”.

The gore and combat can get a little overwrought, it’s true, and might put off some long-time fans who’ve felt that Lara is better when she’s exploring and traversing than when she’s sneaking up on some misogynist cult member and sticking arrows in his gullet but I see this as a real step forward for the character and a tantalising glimpse at what Crystal Dynamics might do with next-gen hardware – the PS3 version that I’ve been playing is utterly beautiful to behold.

Lara’s next game (and the inevitable “Uncharted 4”) might just be the reasons that I pick up a PlayStation 4.

 

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My 2011 Games of the Year.

Everybody’s doing it – why shouldn’t I?

At Number Five – Bethesda’s fantasy co-op adventure, “Hunted – The Demon’s Forge”.

Not the most polished or original title of the year, but oddly compelling nonetheless.  There was something really engaging about the low/gritty fantasy setting, the bickering and mis-matched mercenary duo posh Elven warrior E’lara and gruff barbarian Caddoc (voiced by the always reliable Graham McTavish).  This isn’t a game which will change your life but it’s certainly worth a rental and ends on quite the cliffhanger – which looks unlikely to be resolved in a future release as this title can charitably be described as having ‘flown under the radar’.

At Number Four – Epic/EA’s sci-fi shooter, “Bulletstorm”.

On the face of it, this skill-focussed shooter from Polish developer People Can Fly seemed to operate in the same territory as Epic’s other sci-fi first person action series, the always bromantic “Gears of War”, but even ten minutes spent in this colourful, gleefully profane, absurdly over the top universe was enough to reassure most players that this game really was its own, ten storey, razor-toothed beast.

There was a little forum chatter about the game’s loutish protagonist, disgraced mercenary Grayson Hunt and what a terrible, misogynistic, macho power fantasy he represented – Duke Nukem says hi – but that seemed absurdly overblown to me.  This game’s nominal hero is clearly the butt of every joke and his belligerence is always his undoing – the female lead in the game, Trishka, is clearly drawn from the same cloth as many female warriors in games (where her clothes are lacking, there’s usually an ammo belt or gun to hide her modesty) and gets to save the day and drive the plot at least much as Hunt does.

I’d be absolutely up for a sequel if the numbers justified it to EA.

At Number Three – Epic Games and Microsoft Games Studios’ “Gears of War 3”.

A surprise to me that this climactic entry in the series landed so comparatively low on my list.

It was in so many ways the most polished and well-made game in the entire series, boasted lots of new and utterly gorgeous environments and introduced characters from the wider “Gears” universe into the game for the first time – hello Jace and Bernie – but still didn’t quite click with me.  I finished it with little difficulty, didn’t look at the multi-player portion of the game and traded it.

I can’t say that it was a bad game at all, just one which left me ultimately a bit cold.

At Number Two – THQ and Relic Entertainment’s “Warhammer 40K: Space Marine”.

This game really managed to scratch the third person action itch that “Gears 3” failed to do.  A great and long-established sci-fi universe rendered brilliantly by a developer with lots of experience making PC titles in that world, making their first console action game and getting the awesome Mark Strong to voice the lead and then finding that their publisher released it a couple of weeks before the 800 pound gorilla that is the game at number three on this chart – this game had a lot to recommend it and then was undone by insane marketing decisions.

This game focussed on an admittedly linear game design and compelled the player to play in a specific way which may have annoyed some but I stuck with it and loved the whole campaign.  Even delved into the multi-player a bit.  Get me, venturing online to have myself struck down by random strangers.

At Number One…

Naughty Dog and Sony Computer Entertainment’s “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception”.

I whined a lot about the shooting, complained some more about the enemy artificial intelligence – standing there to present an easy target one second, moments later developing ninja stealth skills by some happenstance to flank you and mercilessly shoot you into the middle of next week – and generally threw my toys out of the pram in response to flaws that I felt made the game artificially difficult and borderline broken in some sections.

A patch did away with the shooting issues in the campaign and the rest of the game was so damned good that it didn’t matter that one aspect of the title needed to be worked on post-release, with the assistance of the community and by a developer who acknowledged that the fixes needed to be made (Hi there, Bethesda and “Skyrim”).

This game did everything that the landmark second entry delivered so successfully – great storytelling, massive action on a cinematic scale, a gloriously beautiful game world rendered in eye-popping, budget not spared style and technology underpinning everything that you’d give your wisdom teeth to see employed by other devs – and somehow managed to eke a bit more out of the PS3’s architecture to make the system’s definitive title a cut above the rest.

“Gears 3” on the Xbox 360 approached the beauty of “Uncharted 2” on the PS3 – “Uncharted 3” leaps frogs both platform’s new and existing high points and delivers truly beautiful moments and cities that are a pleasure to put the pad down to just look/gasp slack-jawed at for thirty seconds at a time.

It’s easy to be blase about Naughty Dog have done with this series – when game two is a massive leap forward from the already accomplished first title, the pressure becomes that bit greater for the developer to move the paradigm on and deliver an interactive entertainment experience which doesn’t only improve on their own previous work but which also lives up to the claims that fans have made for it.

I’ve told people who don’t play games that this is a series which underlines why I frequently now go to PS3 and Xbox titles for the thrills that in years gone by I might have found in a Spielberg or Cameron film.  Naughty Dog, to me, are the equal of those established film-making icons and regularly deliver titles which surpass any big-budget Hollywood studio film in terms of entertainment and excitement.

I don’t believe that this franchise necessarily needs the pseudo validation that a film adaptation allegedly bestows, even though it’s apparently going to get one, helmed by the director of this year’s “Limitless” – its already more inventive, exhilarating and witty than any comparable film series is and it’s the film community which needs to up it’s game to catch up with Nathan Drake and co.

 

 

 

 

 

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2011 – a completionist’s tale

Yep, that's me that they're shooting. Fun times...

“Gears of War 3”, “Uncharted 3”, “Warhammer 40K: Space Marine”, “Singularity”, “Bulletstorm” – campaigns done and dusted, multiplayer mostly left untouched (still making progress through “Uncharted 3”, really should try out some more “Space Marine”).

What have you finished this year – and is finishing games important to you?  If you’re not enjoying something, do you just put it down or persist with it in the hope that it gets better?

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“Uncharted 3” patch out – adds aim fix, multi-player tweaks, de-whines community…

"Sully, think this patch will shut up NeoGaf for five minutes?"

Remember when we were all up in arms about “Uncharted 3” and the changes that Naughty Dog had made to controls?

Shooting was tougher, which made sections of the game teeth-grindingly frustrating.  Motion blur was apparently missing from the single-player campaign (who knew?) and a movie cut-scene viewer was missing from the same mode.  There’s a full list of fixes and updates over at Eurogamer’s story.

As nice as it would have been for much of this stuff to be addressed in the shipped, boxed title, it says a lot for Naughty Dog that they are prepared to work with the games fans and Sony to ensure that this flagship title gets prompt support which fixes issues.

And it isn’t as though the shooting controls update removes the original scheme – there’s a choice of the two options for players to use.  I’ve been making slow, steady progress through multi-player and can confirm that the controls take a lot of getting  used to.   I’ve sprayed a clip’s worth of Uzi bullets into another player at point-blank range and hit nothing more than scenery, so something (latency?) has to be going on.

I’m going to jump back on today and see how this patch affects game play in campaign and online modes – I’m sure that my Kill to Death ratio will leap exponentially as a result.  Yeah, right…

 

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“Uncharted 3” controls get a patch.

water, shade - an action hero doesn't require such frippery...

Great news everyone – “Uncharted 3” is getting a patch for its most divisive new feature, the re-designed aiming mechanic.  Naughty Dog are sticking with the new control scheme but offering gamers the chance to play using controls modelled on those which debuted in the second game.

You can’t argue with Naughty Dog for sticking with a control scheme that they believe in, but it’s nice to hear them listen to the community and give people the choice – especially when the redesign is stopping people from completing the game (an anecdotal response that I picked up in the NeoGaf thread discussing the issue).

There’s a news story at Eurogamer, if you want to know more…

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Hmmm…

Warhammer 40K author Aaron Dembski-Bowden nicely sums up what’s happening on my PSN/Xbox friends list at the moment.

Although people who check out my PSN ID will notice that I’m always playing Free-For-All mode in “Uncharted 3” multi-player, which I’m sure is every bit as annoying for them.

It’s an online multiplayer mode that I stand a chance in – even with the slightly iffy gunplay in “UC3”

Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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Your weekend gaming Quick Hits…

It’s the weekend and you don’t have time to read blogs – you want links to cool stuff and you want them now.  Who am I to argue?

The Gamecube's controller is my favourite console controller - fact!

Nintendo World Report celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Gamecube…

…Whilst Joystiq ponders the 10 greatest GameCube exclusives (Not an exclusive, but where, pray tell, is the love for ZooCube?)

The console is literally the size of a small child. Possibly.

It’s not all Ninty goodness, of course – Microsoft’s Xbox platform had its tenth birthday this week as and in a suite of anniversary features, US Official Xbox magazine laments the loss of the pioneering interactive gameshow, “1 vs 100”  – still the only 360 game I have all the achievements for.

Yahtzee's fair and balanced review of "Uncharted 3" awaits

Meanwhile, over The Escapist, lovely Yahtzee reviews “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Decision”.  It gets a bit rough…

Finally, PCMag.com has a list of things that you might want to try in “Skyrim”.

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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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“Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception” getting great reviews.

In some respects, this is a crap time of year to be a gamer.

Every week from now until the end of November, and into the beginning of December, sees two or three huge games franchises on release, with so many titles jostling for not enough space in the hearts of games fans that it comes as no surprise when some major series or a high-profile new IP fails to get its moment in the sun.

I’m slightly worried that this fate might yet befall “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception” when it comes out next week.

How can you resist the awesome? You can't!

Sure the reviews will help  the game’s cause, but it’s a PS3 platform exclusive, so it doesn’t benefit from any 360 or PC sales to bolster the Sony’s sales in this quarter of the year.  It’s out the week after “Battlefield 3”, and has a very limited amount of time before “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” comes out, and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” crashing through the window and stealing the hearts and minds of most gamers until some time next spring.

Where does this leave games like “Uncharted 3” or the new “Need for Speed: The Run” in the run-up to the festive season?

Logically, I feel sure that the PS3 massive is going to be out in force to support this game, but there’s a part of me that worries that the same treatment which befell the apparently awesome “Resistance 3” might affect this game.

I’ve pre-ordered it – have you?

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“Uncharted 3” gets a short film…directed by Ed Zwick

Ed Zwick is a proper director.  He made waves on television in the 1980’s with “Thirtysomething” and graduated to film thereafter.  There’s a chance that you’ve seen his work – his catalogue includes “Glory”, “Courage Under Fire”, “The Last Samurai” and this year’s “Love & Other Drugs”.

So, it is with some surprise today that I read on Empire Online that Zwick has made a short film to help promote Sony’s upcoming PS3 action sequel “Uncharted 3”.

Not because it’s the kind of thing that he should be above – Neil LaBute also did something similar when “Heavy Rain” came out in 2010 – but it is an interesting example of the ways that entertainment is mixing, melding and coming together in intriguing ways.

A darker, more sombre outing for Nathan Drake?

There’s some commentary in the piece about EbertGate – the venerable film critic Roger Ebert had issues with games being perceived as Art and got a volley of righteous internet rage for his troubles – and Zwick is appropriately circumspect in dealing with the issue of gaming – he doesn’t – and games as art – why not?  As he points out, there were misguided souls who used to think of animation as an illegitimate art form and look how misguided that line of thinking looks like now.

So, what are we taking away from this?  Games are attracting interesting people from outside the culture inside to talk about them, Sony have deep pockets (or great relationships with film makers) and “Uncharted 3” is going to rock my proverbial socks off.

Sweet.

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