This week, Zero Punctuation returns to the snarky world of treasure hunting with Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.
I've said some mean things about the Uncharted series - like how it's about a smug American cunt so massive that it could use Cleopatra's Needle as a sex aid who remorselessly commits large-scale archeological destruction without even the level-headed justification of a serial arsonist - but I have to admit I was looking forward to playing the new one. The Uncharted series can generally be relied upon for stirring adventure and impressive set pieces as well as all the racism. But as much as I've joked that Nathan Drake is a one man declaration of war by the United States upon the entire rest of humanity, I'd like to finally move past that. I'd like to, but I fucking can't, because now he's after me! From mixed skin colors in Drake's Fortune and Russians in Among Thieves, we're now on to Englishmen being mowed down by the hundreds. For fuck's sake, Naughty Dog, I want to be proven wrong on this. If you do Uncharted 4, please have him murder an American. Just one. Just for me. Or an Australian, because at least then I'll know you're deliberately trying to piss me off.
The game opens in London, with Drake walking off cobbled streets into an English pub with a motherfucking red phone box out the front where every single member of the clientele looks like Grant Mitchell from Eastenders. Now, I've always assumed that the foreign locales in previous games were at least researched to some degree, but now I'm forced to call that into question, because the equivalent of this would be walking into Central Park and seeing a load of Prohibition-era gangsters feeding the ducks by shooting bread out of tommy guns.
Drake finds a clue that starts him off on a globetrotting scavenger hunt that will end in the discovery of a lost treasure, blah de blah de dah. In one of the behind the scenes featurettes, the developers flat out admit that they think up the spectacular set pieces first and then come up with the plot around them, and by Christ does it show, because these games are getting as formulaic as a Scooby-Doo episode. Who wants to bet the lost treasure at the end will turn out to have been deliberately lost because there's some negative effect surrounding it that the bad guys want to weaponize. And that Drake will pull off the main villain's face and it'll turn out to be Old Man Withers!
But it's not just a bit formulaic. A lot of Uncharted 3 plays like a point for point rehash of Uncharted 2. It even does that same thing where they introduce a sidekick and characterize them and give them flaws and struggles and then put them on a fucking bus halfway through to bring back that one boring chick from the first game who now has a consistent pattern of getting together with Drake at the end of every game and splitting up in between them, probably after the adrenaline wears off and she realizes they have fuck all in common. Maybe it comes to a head when she wants to see Les Misérables and he wants to go the black and white minstrel show.
But while being a point for point retread of the last game, Uncharted 3 also somehow manages to simultaneously be a point for point ripoff of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, right down to the flashback of the hero as a youth first acquiring a taste for blood, the escape from a burning European castle, clues found on the graves of Crusader knights, and an ancient tribe of nomads with nothing better to do than protect the lost treasure from discovery and who all mysteriously vanish at the final confrontation. If ripping off was an Olympic event, this would get sixes across the fucking board!
The funny thing about Uncharted 3 - and Uncharted 2, to a lesser extent - is that characters keep drawing attention to plot holes and then don't bother filling them in. On three separate occasions, Drake wonders aloud why the baddies consistently prioritize killing him over their personal safety, enacting gun battles in collapsing buildings, sinking ships, dangling out the back of a plane, and on the surface of a flaming meteorite that's speeding towards a lion. This is a good question, Naughty Dog, one that probably deserves an answer at some point. And other characters frequently ask Drake how what they're doing could possibly be worth it when they've already had enough bullets fired at them to shame a Texan New Year's. This too is a good question, one might argue the question that has been hanging over this series since the beginning, and Drake never fucking gives them a satisfactory answer before booking them all flights to the next unstable political region on the list. Probably because there is no answer that would let him retain his facade of cheeky, dumbfaced lovability, but I'd respect him more if he just said: "I want to have enough money to buy a concubine for every square inch of my cock." A whole three concubines, Drake? Ha ha ha ha ha.
Gameplay hasn't changed much, 'cause why fix what isn't broke. And, indeed, why fix what you're not gonna use in the announcement trailer. This is the first time I remember noticing it, but combat can get very obnoxiously trial and error at times, especially when I'm not sure if the game is expecting me to stealth it up or not and every motherfucker in the current hemisphere figures out where I am after I give the wrong guy a surprise glomp of death. There are fights where you just have to memorize when and where the baddies are going to spawn, because while you're running around looking for cover to hide from the armored guy with the machine gun that kills you in three hits some jackoff with a grenade launcher came out onto the gantry overhead. And I'm not asking him to send up a fucking signal flare, but he could at least yell "Think fast" before his payload sends my monochrome corpse sailing broken-necked into the sea like a bootleg RealDoll falling out the back of a van. And I still seem to have problems disentangling Drake from his beloved chest-high walls when a shotgun guy spawns right behind him and is moving to blow that stupid nineties hairdo right off his douche nozzle mid-wisecrack. Bitter? Moi?
But as we've established, the set pieces are what lie at the core of Uncharted. There's an entire non sequitur ship section that adds fuck all to the plot and exists only because someone wanted to see a big ol' ocean liner get fucked up. That'll teach it! Also because they wanted Drake to run down a corridor away from inrushing water - which I think has only been used in around sixty or seventy disaster movies - and kill the player dead if they hesitate or run in the wrong direction for more than a nanosecond. Which is still better than doing it all in a cutscene, at least, but sometimes the game seems to go about set pieces the same way John Belushi went about speedball, and things can start to feel predetermined a lot of the time. How many times is something going to break off when Drake tries to climb on it, 'cause he's got no right to get surprised anymore.
All right, I guess I have to admit at some point that Uncharted 3 is still generally fun to play, but the series is already past it's prime, and as it went over the same points as always I started getting distracted and noticed its hairy buttcrack peering over the top of its jeans. Perhaps better to bow out gracefully now before ideas run dry and Drake ends up murdering Inuits for their dad's jigsaw puzzle.
A twat (see I admit it so it's okay): Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Is it me or has that blonde lady's face gotten a little bit too small for her head
Yeah it would've been an accurate depiction of London circa 1955 maybe