Playing the Uncharted trilogy

As I mentioned way back in my post about playing the God of War series, it hasn’t been until very recently that I’ve been able to play prominent PlayStation titles. As a result, for the first half of this year I had actually been going through a backlog of games I needed to get through before access to a PS3 was whisked away. Between April and July I managed to play through all three games in the Uncharted series, and with that now complete I will take this time to reflect upon my experience with it.

It was easy to see why this game series is considered a highlight of the last console generation, even while playing the first entry Drake’s Fortune, which hadn’t quite captured the spirit of action and adventure that it nailed more expertly in the second game Among Thieves. The games had memorable characters, engaging set pieces, great platforming, as well as decent third-person shooting.

You may notice I chose to say “decent” there, and that was quite deliberate. While I enjoyed the games very much — especially when they employed platforming, puzzles, and exploration during their progression — I actually found a lot of the shooting portions to quickly become tiresome. Though rare, in a few instances I would even describe the experience as grating.

Big, tense action sequences like running down and alley from a truck and fighting on the train in Uncharted 2, some of the vehicle sections through the jungle in Uncharted, and chasing the caravan on horseback in Uncharted 3 were moments of action that were very well delivered and made the experience more exciting. However, there were far too many large portions of each game that involved nothing but confronting almost innumerable enemies in firefights, to the point where I was actually begging to traverse another big environment or a solve a decently lengthy puzzle.

It reached its lowest point during the final boss of the first game, which I found to be so unenjoyable that I was nearly raging until I had finally gotten the whole confrontation over with. I enjoy third-person shooting in other games like Gears of War, Mass Effect 3, and Grand Theft Auto IV, but for some reason I had a very polarizing relationship with it in the Uncharted series. Sometimes it was fine, at others I was desperate for it to be over.

In terms of story, I found the games to be a bit of a mixed bag. Narratively, the first two were the best, especially the second one, but the third was a little too unfocused. Uncharted 3 had some good ideas at play and easily the most potentially interesting villains of the whole trilogy, but it never delved enough into its own ideas to go anywhere memorable, and ultimately it felt like it was going through the motions, trying to get to the next big set-piece idea they came up with.

Each game’s narrative was not all that deep to begin with, but what they delivered suited the genre perfectly. Intended to be action-packed adventure through exotic locations, I don’t feel the games need to deliver anything too complex in terms of plot, and instead they did a very good job of focusing on building strong characters. Nathan, Sully, Elena, Chloe, and many of the supporting characters were full of personality and helped to keep me invested in each game’s progression. A weaker cast would have made each campaign a lot less interesting.

All in all, I’m happy to have experienced the series after all this time. I may not revisit these games again — except for maybe Uncharted 2 — but I can definitely see that I was missing out on something significant. I can now happily look forward to the future Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End without having to reflect guiltily upon a backlog I’ve taken far too long to get to.


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