Before I even say anything else, YES I AM INCREDIBLY LATE TO THE PARTY ON UNCHARTED 3. I guess that’s just what happens when you can’t afford to buy all of the major Christmas titles at the same time.
To be honest I also just wasn’t that exited for Uncharted 3. I loved Uncharted 2 but saw the third installment as being more of the same. Platform, solve puzzles, shoot and cover, lose a friend, get back with Elena and so on. Still fun, great story, amazing set pieces, cinematic visual quality, but nothing I couldn’t wait to spend money on. Hell, one of the main features they advertised was realistic sand! Big whoop.
Now that I’ve gone through Arkham City and the other games I deemed more important, I can say that Uncharted 3 made one major stride in gaming that other big developers should pay attention to. Boss fights, specifically end bosses, are no longer necessary.
Just about every action game since the beginning of time has ended every level with a boss fight. Mario had to fight Bowser, Batman takes on someone from his rogues gallery, and even Nathan Drake in Uncharted 2 went against a helicopter, a beefy dude that for some reason is impervious to bullets, and in the end a superpowered mega-boss. In the old days when everything was about platforming a boss fight was necessary to provide a fitting end to a level. However in today’s ultra realistic, 3-D rendered, next gen era, the major boss fight doesn’t always need to be there. Everyone loved Arkham Asylum, but everyone hated that after going through the gauntlet of villains and getting sucked into an accurate portrayal of the Bat-universe, only to end with a Batman vs Super Joker end boss that a) would never happen, b) felt tacked on, and c) did not play well. If the game would have ended with the previous mass thug fight and lead to a final cut scene hitting essentially the same points they hit but without an actual Joker fight, it would have made much more sense and there would be a lot less complaining. Arkham City still ended with a big boss but it was having Clayface do the dirty work, which makes much more sense.
Uncharted 3 lets the situations direct the action and not try to shoehorn boss fights into a loaded story. When Drake is trying to escape a burning building filled with enemies, you do have to take care of everyone in the room before you can advance, but that’s only because they are trying to kill you. There isn’t a 7 foot tall man in a flame resistant suit at the front door keeping you from getting out. It actually makes sense. In today’s gaming world not every stage has to end with you being locked in a room with an seemingly unbeatable foe. If you’re in a burning building, sinking ship or crumbling city, why shoot the bad guys? Get out of there and let them burn!
The end of the game really showcases this. After spending 20 minutes clumsily shooting blue exploding trees at the end of Uncharted 2, I fully expected a flying old lady with laser eyes to fight at the end of Uncharted 3. However after going through a demon filled dream sequence (slightly frustrated) and a baddie filled bridge, I watched the master plan be foiled via cut scene (a little annoyed I wasn’t able to take the shots), and watched the main villain die without having to lift a finger. After that it was one fist fight (hardly a boss), one shot, one great escape and roll credits. The closest thing to a real boss fight during the whole final stage was the dream sequence where heavy artillery was needed to take down the demons. Did I feel cheated? Hell no! It was a thrilling end to a thrilling game and I’ll be playing it again to relive it.
God of War 3 took the first step toward this with the final big fight only being a part of the overall ending, sending you through Kratos’ own subconscious before wrapping everything up. Uncharted 3 goes one step further. When an entire level is so entertaining and challenging, why throw in a boss fight just because that’s what we all expect? When video games are capable of such impressive cinematic experiences to go along with great game play, story matters. Thankfully Naughty Dog didn’t let old video game staples get in the way of that with Uncharted 3. Now if we can just do something about the Liquid Ocelot fight at the end of MGS4.