I’m not sure why, but lately, I’ve been extra critical of Sony, especially after E3. Up until now, that hasn’t been a conscious thought. To be clear, I don’t have a vendetta against Sony; I still play my PS4 almost everyday and find the exclusives to be top-notch, even if I don’t necessarily play them, myself. It’s clear that most of the exclusives are well-made, and despite my opinion of some of them, deserved to be played; This includes the Uncharted series.
It’s critically acclaimed, has fantastic animations, with some of most realistically rendered character models, and a huge fan-base behind it. So, why then, do I find myself not able to get into the series? Honestly, I’m not 100% sure. There are a few things that come to mind, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly. The reason I feel so guilty is because I know it’s a great series; It’s not even a question. Not only that, but if Uncharted didn’t exist, some of my favorite games would not exist, either, like Tomb Raider (2013) and The Last of Us. Still, the thought of purchasing and playing through any of the Uncharted games hasn’t appealed to me.
For the record, I’ve played all of them; Not all the way through, but I have played bits and pieces. During the boat section of the third entry, Drake’s Deception, you do a lot of shooting to get through the level. As an avid shooter fan, I noticed something was off. Compared to something like Gears of War or other popular shooters, the gunplay in Drake’s Deception just feels…cheap. The guns have no weight to them, making the firefights feel less impactful. Many times, the enemies don’t even react to being shot – they just sort of fall over; Not every time, but enough to be noticable.
Even the shooting in A Thief’s End still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Am I crazy? What’s odd is that I don’t get this feeling when playing The Last of Us. Presumably, the engine and shooting is the same across the two, but I can’t help but notice a difference. It’s a bummer because shooting is one of the central mechanics in Uncharted.
The rest of it feels great, from the movement, to the climbing, and even the platforming. Aside from that, though, it irks me how there isn’t a sense of progression with Nathan Drake, mechanically. For example, you can’t upgrade stats or weapons throughout Drake’s journey across the games. To me, I find it hard to get invested in a combat-focused series when the character I’m playing as doesn’t evolve, mechanically.
I know the purpose is to tell a cinematic story, but there is so much combat throughout and the lack of progression is hard to overlook; Compared to something like Gone Home, where the sole focus is narrative. In Gone Home there is no combat, so the story has plenty of room to be in the forefront. In Uncharted, it feels like a mishmash of combat and narrative, with the combat feeling like an afterthought. I’m sure the developers at Naughty Dog worked hard with the gunplay and action sections, but it’s important to be critical and I just don’t think it works as well as people claim.
Another roadblock I have are with the themes of the story itself. Keep in mind, this is a personal preference issue and it’s not something that can be stated as fact. The main focus in Uncharted is to go on adventures to find treasure. I’m sure that’s a reductive way of summing up the series, but from what I’ve seen and from how it’s advertised, that notion isn’t inaccurate. That premise doesn’t grab me, especially given the problems I have with the combat. That’s not to say I won’t play a game if it’s focused on treasure hunting; Look at something like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. This is game that focuses on being a treasure hunter, but since the combat feels good and there is a solid sense of progression, it’s easier for me to get into. (Side Note: I know the climbing in Assassin’s Creed is butt, but in Black Flag you’re mostly on boats, so the climbing doesn’t impact me much). The same can be said about Mario or Zelda. Those stories are nonsense, but they feel good to play, so I can get past it.
I have a mantra that revolves around going back and giving games second, third, or even fourth tries. My liking for Fallout and Dark Souls spawned from this mantra and I think it’s important to practice it because tastes can change. The issue is that not once have I ever even remotely had the desire to give Uncharted a second try. This bothers me because as a game critic, I should be able to get past my issues and delve into one of the most beloved series of all time. But alas, time is precious and I can’t motivate myself to potentially waste my time with a less than desirable experience when there are so many more appealing games for me out there.
Still, if you think I’m wrong or have information about the series that I’m unaware of, please share. My intention is not to bash the series, but to explain why I haven’t been able to get into it, even though I want to; I really do. Let’s leave it like this – Convince me to give the series another try and I will; Because I think it’s possible I could be missing out on something special without even knowing it.