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Oh Shit! The Cruise Ship is Sinking!

So, I was wondering around Asda just before Christmas and, a usual, I drifted to the computer and electronics section. The surprise was Uncharted 3 for 24 GBP (as well as Batman: Arkham City for 27 GBP). That is was cheap even by online standards and it’s gone back up to nearly 40 GBP since they re-stocked. Uncharted 3 is one of the games on ‘the list’, a selection of games that is either being released in 2012 and / or needs to be played in 2012.

I now have to complete Uncharted 3 before the very beginning of March as that’s when Mass Effect 3 is released. The degree to which I’m looking forward to Mass Effect 3 cannot be underestimated.

The beginning is a bit of a disappointment. Well, in truth, it’s not really disappointment, it’s just you start the game with the awesome beginning of Uncharted 2 in your mind and compared to that it feels very…underwhelming. No epic train crash, just a visit to a pub and a fist fight followed by a flashback. Still, it’s obvious from the beginning that a key narrative theme of the plot will be the relation between Nate and Sully and the fact Nate never knows when to give in. I can’t help but feel the logical conclusion to this will be the death of Sully.

The best sequence so far has undoubtedly been the one in the shipyard and the ocean liner from chapter twelve through to fifteen. The awesome, and then ever more awesome, extended action sequences are one of the key selling points of Uncharted. The experience of playing out a gun battle across a series of fast moving boats in a rough sea was amazingly well done, the motion of the sea being particularly impressive. It manages to put across the continual feeling of ‘oh shit’ with an ever increasing sense of escalation. If it was a traditional, FATE role-playing campaign, Nate would be earning and burning fate points at a fast pace. It all goes a bit Poseidon Adventure at the end of the sequence with action sequences taking place in a sinking ship turned on its side.

The puzzles are worth noting as well, as they actually work. Key to this is the use of Nate’s notebook. This is similar to the diary that Indiana Jones has from his father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, full of scribbled notes about the quest ahead and the possible challenges. When a puzzle section comes up you often have information on it in your notebook, which doesn’t tell you how to do it, but gives an indicative direction. It makes the puzzle interesting and integrates it into the narrative. They are a vast improvement on the puzzles in the game’s closest ancestor: Tomb Raider. I normally get irritated with the puzzles, but they really work in Uncharted, feeling like they have scale while not being too complicated or anal.

The main concern at the moment is the length of the game. I’ve not checked my actual play time, but I suspect it’s not in double figures yet and I’m at the beginning of chapter sixteen of twenty-two, so I’m well over halfway through and there has only really been one impressive, better than on film, extended action sequence. Will have to see how this pans out. At least it doesn’t look like it’s going to be an issue finishing it before March even taking into account my sporadic play rates.

Like Uncharted 2 it continues to be an excellent model for a contemporary action role-playing campaign. Primarily in the ways it structures action sequences, links them together and takes moments between the action to allow character-driven moments. Basically, like I’ve always believed, role-playing and action should almost be one and the same in a role-playing game, not necessarily something that happens completely separately.

About Ian O'Rourke

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