Bullet and stab wounds heal quicker if you make a witty remark about them. As long as you are smug and a bit charming, you are nearly indestructible. It is with this mentality that I was raised as a child, watching and daydreaming about the adventures of John McClaine and Indiana Jones.
Due to such influence (which I will be forever grateful to my parents for), it is of no surprise when I say that the Uncharted series of video games ranks as one of my favourites. Taking part in a globe trotting adventure as a fundamentally flawed, albeit charming, human being is quite literally a childhood dream come true. And with the strength of the writing, set pieces, and gameplay, I can't gush about the franchise enough.
Unfortunately, for me, all the praise is due primarily to the second installment of the franchise, 2009's Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
This game was a revelation. In terms of storytelling and connecting with characters, I hadn't felt so swept up since the days of Metal Gear Solid. Sitting through college lectures, I was reminded of my days as a child, struggling to get through the school day just so I could go home and play Mario some more. This game unlocked feelings I hadn't felt in years.
I replayed it, spent hours in the multiplayer, and eventually got the platinum trophy.
I'm a fan, to say the least.
And after spending so much time with it, one thought had me salivating at the mouth:
"When is Uncharted 3 coming out?"
I screamed like a girl when I first saw this image
I avoided rumors and press impressions for Uncharted 3 like the plague. I fought any and all urge to spoil any locations and new gameplay mechanics, in order to retain some sense of surprise. The only pre-release glimpse I had was some hands-on time with the multiplayer at E3 2011...
...then I saw video of the airplane segment.
And I lost. My. SHIT.
Without a doubt, the best set piece in any Uncharted game. Maybe even the best set piece in any video game! Then add to that the fact that IGN gave the game a perfect score! I needed the game, and I needed it now. The hype train was full steam ahead, and I was the conductor.
Due to an event we went to, my girlfriend and I ended up getting the game a week before the street release. I still remember feverishly waiting for the UPS truck to come, then getting a phone call from my girlfriend, ecstatic that she had just gotten her copy.
And hanging up on her after she yelled, "Aw, it's little Nathan Drake!" ^_^ I think I even danced when the UPS guy came.
Now...I don't know why, but I never stopped to reflect. The hype had indoctrinated me into being blind to the fact that Uncharted 3 was doomed right from the start. It was following on the heels of a video game that, in many ways, had rekindle some sort of fire. Uncharted 2 had re-awoken some deep rooted emotions I had with video games. It gave me hope for a future of non-derivatives and pure enjoyment.
How could anything follow that up?
So I played through Uncharted 3. And I played through the multiplayer. And I almost have the platinum for it as well.
And the entire time...something felt off. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but something was missing.
The multiplayer was an improvement, of that I was sure, but the single player, the main attraction, felt wrong. The magic I felt during Uncharted 2 was missing. And after going through my denials and my grief, I eventually accepted that it just wasn't as good as Uncharted 2.
After being away from that whole fallout after a while, I realized why. Having not taken part in any pre-release info, the game grew entirely in my head. And while I know that Uncharted 3 DID have some flaws in terms of gameplay (the new aiming never settled with me), storytelling (secret societies? Thanks for the cock tease), and characterization (the whole "supernatural Talbot" was handled terribly. And I hardly remember Ramses), the whole thing would have gone over smoother if I hadn't approached the release as the second coming of Christ.
I inflated the ideas present in the game to astronomically unreachable levels. I tailored the experience to my personal tastes, and essentially guaranteed the game would fall short. And I am fully to blame for that.
I learned that it's not always best to stay in the dark, where your mind can twist and taint the truth. Some exposure is needed, so as not to form conclusions that don't exist in the first place.
As the months passed, the sting faded and I am now able to view the product for what it is. Uncharted 3 is a great game, but it is the "Return" to Uncharted 2's "Empire."