Game of the Week: Uncharted 3

Raiders of the lost art.

A new friend and fellow games writer paid me a great compliment recently: he said that he liked this column because Game of the Week marked the point at which we could stop talking about the reviews, and start talking about the actual games.

That's partly why we're trying it out in this new Saturday morning slot, to distance it from the hubbub of the week - and because many of you will have been playing the games in question on Friday night. You might have noticed that I no longer mention the scores here either, choosing to pick illuminating or fun quotes from the reviews instead.

We've noticed that when we publish articles about a game after its release, the tone of the discussion around them completely changes. Everyone's had a chance to form their own opinions and anecdotes, and everyone seems to enjoy sharing their experiences and their passion for games. So we're looking to do more of this in future.

With all that in mind, I'm not going to get into last week's brouhaha over our Uncharted 3 review here. Suffice to say that David Jaffe already said it better than I could - and I don't think Simon's review needs defending any more than Uncharted 3 itself does.

In the wake of all that drama and Battlefield 3's typhoon of hype, it was a weirdly quiet week. It also demonstrated pretty effectively the awkward fate of the middle-ranking boxed game in 2011.

Sonic Generations and GoldenEye Reloaded aren't bad games: Sonic's got charm to spare and GoldenEye doesn't disgrace its gilded heritage. But, caught between the lavish specifications of the modern blockbuster and the single-minded purpose of download gaming, they struggle to make a case for your cash.

Just look at this week's impressive PSN slate. Overkill Software, the developers of Payday: The Heist (previously available in the US, and on PC) may have had limited means, evident in the game's rough edges. But because they had no box to list things on the back of, they could forget about single-player storytelling and offering a suite of multiplayer modes and instead concentrate on delivering a single, great idea - co-op bank robbery - to its fullest potential.

Meanwhile, PSN Plus subscribers were treated to the wonderful Mini, Where Is My Heart?, which goes on general release later in the month. Here, Bernie Schulenberg of Die Gute Fabrik (which sounds like a utilitarian Bauhaus splinter group, but is in fact a talented German indie) was funded by Sony to explore family and spatial relationships in a brilliant, mind-bending puzzle platformer. Other corporations invest in art to hang on their walls or keep in vaults; fair play to Sony for investing in art we can all download and play. (And what does it say about Christian that, although the game is actually about a mother, father and son, in his review he assumed the weird characters were brothers?)

And of course - pausing briefly to note that with the release of DoDonPachi Resurrection, Xbox 360 is now incontestably, and very strangely, the best console ever for hardcore shmup fans - we're staying on a Sony theme for our game of the week.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Uncharted's debt to the Indiana Jones films is obvious - and now bears the seal of the man himself. So it was nice to go to the pictures last week to see Tintin, and note that Steven Spielberg isn't above paying tribute to the adventurers who went before, either.

Indy - or is it Han? - passes the baton.

Indiana Jones was conceived in homage to movie matinee serials, not Hergé's comics, but they all draw from the same deep well of adventure. Treasure hunts, globe-trotting, intrigue, heroes who pack a mean right-hook as well as a gun. (In fact, Nathan Drake's willingness to mow down villains with an AK47 is the one sense in which he's not worthy of this illustrious company.)

Perhaps that's why - despite being technologically cutting-edge, and the height of fashion in its slick design and direction - there's something curiously and appealingly old-fashioned about Uncharted 3. The setting's modern-day and the characters and context are adult, but this sort of boyish derring-do can't help but have a nostalgic tint. They are, at their core, the adventures we had in our heads when we were young.

"It's a game in which the skin of your fingertips saves every rooftop leap, while each stonework puzzle solved in the belly of some inexplicably well-maintained tomb leads to another, yet more exotic continent," Simon wrote. "It's a game of button-mash punch-ups that leave neither blood nor bruise, and conundrums whose solutions pop up if you take too long to unmask them. It's a game about overcoming the odds, saving your friends, finding the treasure and getting the girl. Both of them."

Having picked ourselves up off the floor after being bowled over by Uncharted 2, it is easier to see the joins this time around, and to perceive the sleight-of-hand at play in Naughty Dog's grand showmanship. But you have to love the studio for bringing such artistry and such overwhelming force to bear on fulfilling some of our deepest, oldest daydreams.

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