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Uncharted 3 Day#1: Revisiting the Past

So, another long time away due to travel, work, prolonged illness, general life chaos, and frankly, boredom with Arkham City, but we’re back with a vengeance with Uncharted 3. You’ll remember what I said about Uncharted 2 in a previous post, and I had no reason to believe that 3 will be anything but the same exciting, limited-agency, roller coaster thrill romp. And what did I find? Well, it’s basically the same as before. It looks good, the voice-acting is good, the writing is witty enough, and the game is still an only quasi-player-controlled thing. I like it so far, but very very often I wonder if I’m doing anything to influence the game at all. Spoilers within.

You can always tell when you’ve been away from your console for a while. Updates galore, hardware and software. That fun ten minutes of my life gone, the game begins with a very swank Naughty Dog logo animation that leads to a simple title card of AK-47 sticking up in desert and the now familiar orchestrated music of Uncharted’s sweeping vistas. I pick campaign mode over multiplayer  and co-op(!)  at my standard normal difficulty. It’s like three clicks in confusing menus to save my data; not sure why they don’t have that interface streamlined. And then it’s a LOOOONNNGGG load. I mean, a few minutes of watching the ring in the right corner spin. I’m not sure why that hasn’t been streamlined either.

The game proper starts with a zoom in on a table covered with Indiana Jones style archeology stuff: gun, map, old things, etc., before the camera pans out to a street skyline. There’s a voiceover of Drake talking about dreams and night dreamers and day dreamers — day dreamers are dangerous because they can act out their dream. Turns out that’s a quote from Lawrence of Arabia. As we zoom over the city, we cut to a CS between two guys walking to a bar and the inside of the bar with  lots of close ups on pool players and patrons. The two enter, step up to bar briefly and then go to a back room followed by a thug. The two men are revealed to be Drake (our hero) and Sully (his mentor) as they enter back room and get searched by said thug. They walk to pool table and a guy in a suit named Talbot faces them from the other side.  Talbot brings forward a briefcase of money in exchange for an artifact that Drake got. Drake hands Talbot a silver ring from Francis Drake. Talbot wants to know how they got it, but Sully brushes the whole thing off with a dismissive gesture. Talbot verifies the ring is real, but Drake notices the money is fake. Drake says deal’s off and snatches the ring back. Talbot says they aren’t in a position to negotiate as thugs surround and… FIGHT!

The melee is the old square to hit, triangle to counter thing, but the fight scene feels more like a QTE with all of the button call outs and short CSes. It’s basically button press, button press, button press, CS involving Drake taking down a thug in a cool environmental moment. Standard Uncharted — cool to watch and experience, but not clear how much of this I’m doing or not doing. Case in point: we beat up the guys around the pool table and then a big guy comes in. There’s an interesting moment where Sully jumps on the guy’s back and then Drake CS picks up a stool. He stands there for a second but nothing happens and the guy changes forward and throws Drake through a stained glass window back into the bar below. I didn’t hit a button in that moment — did I miss an action there? Would it have changed me going through the window? I think not given what happens next. There’s a great looking shot of guys at table Drake broke looking down on him from Drake’s position and then Drake is CS thrown back into the middle of the bar. It’s Chapter 1: Another Round. I fight more with a new throw action (circle) and more cut moments. When we take out the little thugs, the big guy CS tackles me into a bathroom. It’s a VERY set-piece fight in the stalls with a couple of dodges and ends with a dodge/hit of the big guy in the face with a toilet lid. It’s a good looking fight overall, but again, not so gaming. More Drake and Sully banter as they walk into the kitchen, all pretty good if not stellar, and then we beat up more guys quickly in the kitchen on way out. They CS walk out into the alley where they notice they are surrounded by more guys. Drake is knocked down by the main thug they encountered inside right away, named Cutter. He says I’m all talk, which is funny since I just beat up like twelve guys. A car pulls up and then Talbot and an old woman with umbrella walk out. Sully recognizes the woman as Kate, and Drake knows her too. She gives some gloating villain dialogue and says that Drake gets off on cheating death. She takes the ring from Drake’s neck. Drake gets up to take the ring back, and Cuttor just shoots him and then Sully.  Didn’t see that coming. Kate is very upset that they’ve been shot, but Cutter gets a great line. “Aw, come on, they were a right pair of assholes.”   I liked that. Kate and Talbot drive off to leave Cutter looking at the bleeding bodies.

We fade out and cut to a bright city scene in Cartegena, Columbia. We pan down to the street to see Drake as a young teen twenty years earlier. He CS walks to Francis Drake museum. I get control inside for Chapter 2: Greatness from Small Things. The game tells me to look at my journal,  and I do to see notes on Francis Drake. I close the journal and then find a treasure on the ground (that’s a collectible — 100 things I am never going to chase.) I then start looking around at the exhibits in the museum. Drake wants to find something in particular. I go upstairs and find an exhibit case with the ring. The case is locked. Drake CS looks in his journal and takes down a code in the case. He then sees guy watching him — it’s a younger version of Sully. Drake walks back to see guy look at the display. The guy takes a quick mold of the lock  and walks away. A guard  then catches Drake and throws him out on street. Drake CS sees Sully on the street, and I get control to follow him and learn my stealth (circle) moves. I follow him through streets to a door, and press triangle to open it and continue following. Sully enters another building that I can’t enter, so I have to climb up the building instead. It’s standard Uncharted parkour, fun but not always clear what the next direction is. I successfully climb the building to CS see Sully get the key made. I have to go back down and climb around the outside of the buildings to go down to street using a big sign. Once on the ground, I follow Sully again as he meets Kate (Drake doesn’t know her yet). I follow them a little further until Drake CS steals Sully’s wallet to get the key. Drake starts to CS run away, but then the guy reappears in front of Drake and talks to him. Sully knows Drake lifted his wallet (he says Drake was broadcasting all of his moves), but Drake’s cocky and stand-offish even as a kid. They realize together that neither one of them wants to call the police. Drake eventually gives the wallet back and Sully leaves.

We cut to outside of the museum that night and Drake CS still has the key. It’s Chapter 3: Second Story Work. I die once trying to jump to interconnecting rope that I then catch the next time easily. Okay. I shimmy across to the museum and then have to find my way into the inside of exhibit. I die when I drop from too high a height and then die again- not sure how to get down off the roof. I finally find way across the roofs, and die once from a bad button push but manage to get to the second floor and enter the exhibit. Drake CS approaches the case and uses the key to open it. He takes the ring and a strange looking compass thing. Drake puts the ring on the compass, and it begins to unwind. But before it completes its unlocking, Kate and Sully enter with a team of thugs. They take the compass artifact, but Drake palms the ring. Kate hits him, and  he runs. This sets up a really nice chase scene across the roofs where I have to stay one step ahead of the guards. When I don’t know where I’m supposed to go next, I lose in a cheap way, but when I know where I’m going, it’s just awesome. At one point, Sully helps me by beating up a guard who jumps out in front of me. The scene ends with a CS of a guy with a gun approaching Drake. Drake picks up a gun from fallen thug and shakily aims it back. There’s a shot, and the thug falls, Sully standing behind him with a smoking gun. Sully helps Drake up, and we cut back to ta bar where Sully gets Drake some food and starts a conversation. Drake wants to know what Sully wants from him. Drake then reveals that the ring belongs in his family and that he thinks he’s Francis Drake’s illegitimate heir. Drake was in a boarding school before he started this quest.  Sully says it’s just a job and he’s just doing what he’s paid to do by getting the ring. Drake reveals that the compass was a decoding device. Francis Drake had five months of missing time when he was in the Indies, and Drake thinks that there are treasures that Francis has hidden there. Sully says he sees great things in their future together.

We cut back to the alley with Cutter. We look at the bodies for a beat and then CS Drake and Sully get up. They faked the shots, and Cutter is working with them. Drake says Cutter didn’t need to be so rough, and that becomes a running joke for the scene. Drake gave them a fake ring, and it turns out the whole thing was a set-up to draw Kate out to find the decoder. They need to get moving before the cops arrive, and that’s the start of Chapter 4: Run to Ground. I get control to start running with Sully and Cutter. We run and climb for a while, along the way learning that  Cutter is claustrophobic when we try to crawl through a tight alley. We then reach another climbing part, but as I start to climb, Cutter just muscles his way through the door I’m avoiding  — nice irony there. We get to a rendezvous point where there’s a van waiting, and surprise surprise Chloe (from the previous game) is here. Huh, what happened to the blond that Drake ended up with last game? Anyway, there’s some witty banter about beating up Drake before Chloe reveals that she saw the building that Kate drove into. They are going to sneak in to get decoder, but they arm up with guns anyway. Drake wants to be stealthy, but Cutter and Chloe don’t want to take chances. I get control to walk down the alley with the crew. Drake’s head tracking as we walk down the alley is annoying — he keeps looking around, making me think I’m missing something on the ground when there’s nothing there. The team doesn’t want to go in blazing, so Drake volunteers to go in first to check it out. I get control to start climbing – monkey that I am. Halfway up the pipe, it comes loose and I have to make a jump to another pipe, and I die once going up because the game doesn’t register my command. I get inside the building from an open window and it’s completely empty. I die from a drop when I don’t know where to go to get back to the ground floor, but then I do it successfully. I open the garage door to let the team in and they CS start looking around to figure out where the car went. I get control to search and I find some pressure spots on the ground  near a wall. It turns out there are four pressure points (one for each tire) and Drake has everyone stand on one. Nothing happens and I get control back to figure out what we have to do. Regaining control, I shine my flashlight and see a glimmer on the wall. It turns out we have to shine our flashlights on the light sensors on wall, and when we CS do it, it opens a fake wall to reveal a large tunnel. The team CS confers and they decide that Chloe is going back to get the van as the rest  go in.

I get control to run through the tunnel. We eventually find a locked door which I get to shoot the lock off of. We enter into a narrow room, and there’s a weird moment where Drake says they have to slip through a narrow passage, but I’m not sure what to do. I try every button until I  push forward and that leads Drake and company to slowly make their way through the passage. As they go, the three guys make a Macduff joke where Sully gets the quote wrong and Drake doesn’t even know who he is — interesting moment of establishing their characters. We wander around more tunnels and shoot four guys who appear in front of us. We then climb down long shaft, jumping from pipe to pipe and finding another treasure. When we get to the bottom, we enter another corridor and shoot a couple of guys. I’m kind of crapping up this shooting (L1 to aim and R1 to fire) but I’m getting better as we go.  We climb up the inside of dome to open a passageway, and  wander the passageway to a dead end. We double back to enter earthen tunnel and start Chapter 5: London Underground. The earthen tunnel leads to some old underground room. The gate is shut on a door out, but the counterweight is stuck. Drake has to climb to loosen it. I climb around the room to do so and get to the weight.  They lift the gate and go through as I climb over the gate and start running along the rafters in the giant stone room we enter next. As I do, Drake sees guards and shouts down a warning to Cutter and Sully. They take the guards out as I continue to move forward. Rounding a corner on the rafters, Drake sees the car and Cutter says no more guns. I jump across some chandeliers and start climbing down as a guard spots Sully and Cutter coming up on the ground. I stealth behind the guard and take him out with a stealth attack (circle) move. We’re now in some kind of Francis Drake tribute room. We stealth take out a couple of guards and enter a tutor era room. At this point, they now asked who these people are about fifty times. I get it guys; the tunnels are weird. We then go up some stairs to a set of archeological displays. The game cuts to a CS of them looking down on Kate and Talbot talking in a huge library. Kate puts the ring in the decoder and realizes it’s a fake. They figure out that Drake switched the ring and that Cutter is a traitor. Kate says to find them and get the ring, and the group scatters. I get control to stealth take out the two remaining guards. In CS, Drake, Sully, and Cutter approach the table with the decoder. Drake goes through a journal of Lawrence of Arabia on the desk. Cutter and Drake argue about how Lawrence died before Sully reminds Drake he’s been waiting twenty years to find the decoder again. Drake puts the ring in decoder and decodes the message. The message is”long hidden” which is an anagram for the Golden Hind, Francis Drake’s ship. Drake realizes that they have to search room for the ship exhibit to find the next clue, but that’s enough for me and I call it a night.

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