Going Backwards: Looking at Uncharted 3

Posted by in Video Games, Writing

You wake up on a train. You notice it’s not moving but neither are you. A wave of pain hits you as you try to stand. Looking down, you see blood. A lot of blood.

Your blood.

You can see outside the broken window and see that it is snowing, but something is wrong. You start to come out of your daze and sort out what you’re seeing, but suddenly, a crate and then a barrel come flying by your head toward the back of the train. As they burst through the door, revealing nothing but emptiness below, your seat begins to give way. You scramble for more solid ground, but you know you are in trouble; this train is going down with you in it.

You fall through the car, rattling around like a Plinko ball, and eventually fall through to the railing just beneath the door. You are now dangling from the rear of the train, the very end of the line at the sheer face of the cliff. The mystery of how you got there takes a backseat.

You move, but it hurts. You climb, but it’s slow. You jump, grab, and clamber about, but you are dying. You are dying, and no one is there to watch.

You are watching two men walk down a dark English street. They enter a surprisingly lively pub where there are men drinking, talking, and, by and large, looking like thugs. This is because in almost caricature-like fashion, they are thugs. English thugs in a pub drinking beer, working the thug beat to ensure an underhanded dealing goes in the favor of their employer.

This is entirely new, what you’re seeing, but it’s still very familiar: two finely dressed cohorts are lead surreptitiously by meaner-looking men to a rather dapper and well-spoken gentleman. Apologies, introductions, brass tacks: it’s all above-board in the action adventure heist genre.

In the most dramatic and fore-telling fashion, a double-cross is revealed; the fellow with the tie and the British accent is screwing these two charming fellows out of money, an ostensibly valuable ring, and their well-being. A few quips and now they’re fighting, bar-style.

Every action is game-like, just as every movement is exaggerated and almost comical; bashing a fellow’s head with a cue stick, being dragged facedown across a bar and out a window, and throwing down with three confused but equally hostile foes upon landing are almost to be expected and soon after actually happen.

There is never any real gravitas here. It’s apparent from the outset that these two men, despite one’s advancing age and the other’s cheery disposition, are more than capable of handling themselves against these pawns (and the clichéd brute). For every hit they take, they are ready to deal three more until they make their way to the back alley for their less-than-ideal escape, but not before one last encounter with the bad guy.

Some storied banter leads to two implausible deaths; implausible because these are the leads. For all their trials and labored tasks, they cannot die. Their progress is forever locked in step towards the end of this story.

You are either the hero or the spectator. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception took a step backwards from its predecessor and put you back into the role of an intervening viewer. You went from the natural reveal of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves where all your knowledge grew with Nathan’s through the game’s diegesis and the impetus of waking up on the train with a commensurate amount of confusion to simply observing another action fantasy. I’d much rather be the guy who saves the world than watch the guy who does it.

Even if I am dying.