That Uncharted 3 Review Everyone's Talking About

I've noticed a bit of an internet scuffle breaking out over Simon Parkin's 8/10 review of Uncharted 3 for Eurogamer. "Uncharted 3 is the most exciting game in the world," he writes, "but only until you deviate from the script."

Parkin's criticisms focus mainly on his opinion that the Uncharted games are overly cinema-focused and remove player-control too often. That as well-made as they are, the experience suffers for it. It's a criticism I've heard before, but Simon articulates it clearly and his review is damned well-written to boot.

But after the review went up, the Eurogamer comments section lit up like a christmas tree, and somehow the review became something of a point of contention. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call it controversial (hence all the scare-quotes I've seen today around the word), but it's certainly been a topic for discussion.

Giant Bomb's Patrick Klepek wrote a well put-together op-ed this morning:

I'd rather read a thousand words about why someone didn't like Uncharted 3, so long as the author's building a proper case, rather than trolling fans. In Parkin's review, he outlines a grand critique against the Uncharted series as a whole, written through the lens of its latest release, and makes a credible argument for why Uncharted's highest highs naturally create unavoidable lows. It's a feeling that's been with me since the beginning of Drake's journey, but especially so in Uncharted 2, when players may miss the directorial cue from the game, such as a timed jump, and have to repeat it over and over again.

This raises the question (once more) of the "point" of game reviews. Are they buying guides for fans? Are they standalone criticism? Do writers and readers have any mutual ground? Klepek points out that the disconnect between writers and their audience isn't unique to games:

The technical term for the phenomenon is confirmation bias, where individuals seek out information favouring their already established opinion. Confirmation bias is a massive problem in today's politics, as evidenced by the existence of deliberately liberal and conservative leaning networks like Fox News and MSNBC, and there's reason to believe today's highly personalised marketing by the video game industry has trained an audience to seek intense validation for their expensive purchases.

Twisted Metal maestro David Jaffe weighed in on the issue on his own blog, saying that "Eurogamer's 'controversial' review of Uncharted 3 reminds me of why I love that site's reviews." Here's Jaffe:

Eurogamer's conclusion/criticism about games that are super heavy on the 'experience' at the expense of the 'play' (like they claim Uncharted 3 is and like- by my own admission- GOD OF WAR 1 is***) is wonderfully thought out and presented and the only reason it's been labelled 'controversial' has nothing to do with the review itself and everything to do with the sad state of game consumers who have been so effectively conditioned by a number of the gaming press/gaming PR machines that these gamers leap to a title's defense-not that this gem of a game needs defending- without even being open to the reviewer's criticism (be it valid or not). That's tragic. What's even more tragic is I would argue the games medium itself has been damaged by this practice. Irrevocably? No. But it has taken its toll for sure.

Personally, I think that we need more reviews like Simon's—well-written, well-argued opinions that I might not agree with, but which take the time to articulate something about I may not have noticed. I haven't played Uncharted 3 yet, but many times, I've read criticism of games that I love, criticisms that have led me to acknowledge flaws that I hadn't previously noticed. Those flaws don't diminish my enjoyment of the game; if anything, they enhanced my understanding of it. In fact, this very thing happened to me with Uncharted 2, with a similar argument that Simon made about Uncharted 3. And of course, other times I've read thoughtful writing about a game that I didn't like and decided to give the game a second shot as a result (and been glad I did).

It's one thing to needlessly troll readers with deliberately contrarian arguments and criticism. But it's another thing entirely to cleanly articulate and support an honest opinion, whether or not people find it agreeable. That's the sort of work that critics should strive to do.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Review [Eurogamer]

When a Mostly Positive Review Becomes "Controversial" [Giant Bomb]

My Take on Eurogamer's 'Controversial' Uncharted 3 Review [David Jaffe]


Comments

    Brilliant

    I agree 100%, we need more reviews like this. It's too easy for reviewers to review with their emotions and shower a game with praise or tear it to pieces.

    The Eurogamer review was critical in a very fair and measured way. I loved Uncharted 2, and as I read the review I didn't get angry at the criticisms, instead I found myself agreeing with them.

    Until there is more balanced critical analysis of this kind interwoven into the reviewing of video games the standard of 'journalism' and criticism in the medium will continue to stagnate and remain mostly irrelevant. Well done, Simon Parkin, and well done Eurogamer.

      Also well done to David Jaffe. Good to see him fighting the good fight.

    Since I don't own a PS3 and have never played any of the Uncharted series, I know I'm not in much of a position to comment. However, I have always thought that a 10/10 score should represent a "perfect" game. The problem arises because perfection, like everything else related to reviewing games, is subjective.

    Both Uncharted 2 and 3, according to metacritic averaged 96 and 94 out of 100. While I have no doubt that they are good games, I find it hard to believe that many people found no flaws with it. I understand that many reviewers don't subscribe to the 10=perfect like I do, but the point still stands.

    GTA IV is another example. 98 on metacritic, but many people that I have spoken to, just your average gamers, hated the game, whether for dodgy driving controls, AI issues or some other problems. Now if your average gamer can find several problems with a specific title, why is it that reviewers can't be seen to be calling out Rockstar, Naughty Dog etc on it?

    A comment on one of the other stories related to this suggested that scores should be abolished all together. In some ways I agree, but I know that its not the written review that sells a game, its the big shiny number at the end... And thats a problem

      Played but never finished UC1, completed UC2 and loved it. I agree with what you've said and I think the GTA games are an excellent example.
      I have a nostalgia trip every time I think of the original and out of them all my favourite is Vice City. But despite the raving reviews I only spent about four-to-five hours with IV and haven't picked it up since. Reviews, like some news outlets, have become a space too full of personal opinions. Where is the objective journalism that shows us what is on offer and points out both the pros and cons then lets us decide how much they matter ourselves?

      This is why I still buy monthly gaming magazines. I've nothing against Kotaku and its brethren, they often surprise me with well written and thought out pieces. But it's hard to reach a standard of journalism when you’re pumping it out and internet speeds.

        There is no such thing as a perfect game. It would be a sad day when a game is created that is so good it literally cannot be improved on. Anything can be improved, making the notion of a 10/10 game being perfect absolute nonsense.

        10/10 should mean that it's an absolute must play game, a genre defining masterpiece in gaming history. It can still have flaws. A 10/10 game doesn't need to be perfect. It just has to be excellent.

      I'd give gta iv a 7. I'm not sure I've ever seen a 10/10 game.

    I go out of my way to find bad reviews, it's more important and informative to find out what's wrong with a game and why.

    All those "10/10 AMAZING! MUST BUY!' type of reviews really shit me.

    Reviews are so silly.

    I posted my opinions on the whole thing over here
    http://wp.me/p1NBQj-8O

    It sort of turned out like a love letter.

    I don't think it is necessarily the scores that are the problem. It is clear that through the comments I read on here and other websites that *intelligent* people usually disregard them. They are just so damn convenient.

    It also sucks that most reviews I read are boring. Boring as all hell. That's what makes scores a little more important.

      ...yet try to write reviews that are different to the norm by aiming to be fun, a bit out there or just rather silly and the standard comment seems to be a scornfully typed "you call that a review?" - the usual summation of my stuff. Because a handful of wonderfully supportive people seem to like what I do I continue with it, but it can be disheartening copping abuse or accusations of putting no effort in when that couldn't be further from the truth. Ultimately, difference usually scares people. :\

        Then what you are doing is wrong in principle. You shouldn't be writing your reviews to make the public happy, you should be writing them to your own standard.

        I quite like the uniqueness of your reviews. Again, I didn't just skip straight to the score even though you had one there. I think every artist - and as a reviewer that does encompass what you are - will cop criticism. Moreover, the gaming community feels empowered behind their keyboards to be even more abusive.

        Don't be afraid, brother. Just do what you do. For instance, I like your sesame street review, and if you hadn't posted here talking about how you get disheartened, i wouldnt have told you that. For every hater, there will be someone who also likes your work - you just might not hear from them because people are less likely to be nice on the internet than they will be mean.

          Cheers for your rev. :) Maybe 'try' wasn't the right word. What you get there is what I *want* to write, rather than conforming for any of the writing gigs I may have where there are (justifiably) guidelines to be squarebracketed within. At the same time though the hope is that they entertain others as well, on top of delivering some serious idea of what I think about the games I'm writing about amongst any silliness.

            The squarebrackets only exist because the wider community see X as a review - this is because of things like movies/books etc. Reviews by definition. So when you do something different, it frustrates them. Which means that the same boring reviews get stronger. It's sad but it's just the way it goes. I don't know how to change the entire public mindset (and you can't anyway) but if I could I'd love for non-conventional reviews to be much more popular than thy are.

            I think gaming has to be treated slightly differently, so just keep doing what you do man, people will appreciate it.

    the scores are for impulse buyers.
    I read reviews to see if there's detailed game features that i would like, and I check user forums.

    For fans of cinematic linear games it's a 10, for fans of open world style games its 4.

    Same with arkham city, to me its just more of the same with a few extra improvements, to me it looks like a 7.
    A 10/10 batman game to me would be, if they made an improved batman gta, where u could also have the batcave, vehicles, coop, and play as the villains. A more mature and sophisticated lego batman game, without the lego.

    God I just wasted 20 minutes trawling through the Eurogamer comments thread on the review. Geez there are some stupid people who know how to use a keyboard.

    Eurogamer and Giant Bomb. Two awesome gaming websites

    The reason Parkin's review was received so negatively is simply for the fact there is a whole generation of gamers that don't understand concepts like agency or emergence.

    This is largely due to modern games ditching these concepts in favour of more rigid structures borrowed for film, because they are the easier sell, Doug Church pointed this out back in 2004:

    "That is the low-hanging fruit when you want to advertise more, when you want to communicate to more people and get them involved -- entertainment is the easy hook. Humans have had a long period of learning how to sell two sentence high concepts and a lot of little cut scenes: an explosion and someone running, the girl going "aaaaah!", and the guy riding off into the sunset, or whatever. We know how to advertise that and we do it a lot, whereas talking more deeply about the play experience isn't something we seem to know how to do very much of at all. You start trying to figure out how we get to a bigger space of non-enthusiasts: people less steeped in the culture and the language. Which is fair enough, the more people that get to play stuff, the better. I'm certainly not against that. But until we can communicate more clearly what experience they're getting I think the entertainment angle is going to continue to dominate, because it's the thing that's easier to explain in two sentences."

    ...

    "I do think if we continue to find it impossible to explain play, and continue to rely on movie notions of entertainment in particular and fail to develop any identity or vocabulary of our own, then we miss the chance to be what we probably should be. Because as the interactive media, not the passive media, if the only way we can talk about ourselves is borrowing the language of a non-interactive media, that strikes me as a bad sign."

    Sadly the situation only got worse as the returns increased.

    I think the backlash is a bit much, so I won't comment on the game specifically, but generally this topic has been covered before by individuals like Yahtzee and extra credits. Both of whom I think make a better case that this sort of experience over gameplay is in many ways superior to the sort of meandering open-world route most games are taking.

      I agree that these rigid empty hubworld games like LA Noire and Mafia 2 are rubbish, but removing the hubworld doesn't solve the problem. The rigidity persists. The only point of superiority is they are less of a waste of time.

        I'm not even talking about hub-worlds necessarily. As much as I love Crysis, the large, do what you like maps generally meant the pacing was all over the place. I'm not sure what you can do about that, without scripting events. In many ways, this is why I preferred the linear Far Cry Instincts to the more open Far Cry - the scripting allowed for tense pacing.

        l guess my point is that there is room for both experiences, and I'm not sure its correct to criticise either unless its done badly. Unfortunately, many games are now getting torn apart for being linear, even well its well done.

          Linearity in itself is not a bad thing, its when the game is designed so it removes the ability for the player to produce their own solution to a problem, or even worse, doesn't even provide the tools for it in the first place.

          Take Hitman Blood Money for instance, that is a linear game. However the simulation was designed as such that the player was provided with the necessary tools to produce their own solution to each mission.

          This is Parkin's point, that Uncharted 3 isn't simply linear, its structure is far too rigid that it removes all agency, reducing the player to a participant to the predetermined events unfolding on screen.

          Talk of pacing brings me back to the quote I posted above from Doug Church, that there is an over reliance on adopting the entertainment aspects of other media to sell games, because games haven't developed their own language to communicate its concepts and ideas. The pace of a game should be determined by how the agent proceeds within the simulation, not manipulated by the designer funneling the player through checkpoints or scripted set pieces.

          Video games should be highly variable, this is how real immersion is achieved - by giving the player genuine choices and not roadblocking them regardless of the outcome. This then increases replayability, which is a common complaint of "short" games.

          Instead they're being treated as an interactive offshoot of films, complete with actors, script writers, and egotistical directors.

            I enjoy different play styles but isn't the point that reviewing should focus less on a strait "good" or "bad" and more on providing information about what the game provides and which style of play it caters to best. Unless of course it is actually bad on an Atari E.T. level.
            I take the view that reviews are buying guides, would you rather go car shopping with an expert mechanic at your side or a used car salesman with the morality and customer service ethics of a "Nigerian Prince"?

              Reviews by their very nature are intended to determine the good from the great, and the terrible from average.

              Yes, through its critical analysis, a review will convey the gameplay concepts the designers have implemented, but will then determine how successfully they were implemented and whether they were more or less successful that similar games on the market.

              Ultimately its marketing that tells us what the game is about, and reviewers will tell us whether it's good or bad. It's then up to the reader to determine whether or not the reviewer's opinion aligns with their own.

              And THIS is why scores, and aggregate sites based on scores, should be taken with a large pinch of salt. It can lead to some great games going largely ignored due to a mixed reaction from the reviewers.

      This happened before when Ign gave diablo 2 an 8 for being too similar to the first game.

    I think a far better option is to remove user comments from reviews on web sites - Stop giving the un-informed a voice...

      I don't necessarily agree (I can think of lots of games that my opinion is more aligned to that of the mob than professional reviewers), but certainly there is no basis for allowing comments prior to the release of the game. No matter what line you take you end up sounding like an idiot.

      I think review scores could stand to go as well. They are incredibly stupid - reviews are subjective, numbers aren't.

    Is it just me or are gamers the only ones who lose their shit when someone doesn't think the same way they do? Terrorist are the other ones i can think of. I know i'm going to enjoy this game because i enjoyed the other 2 i dont need anyone to tell me that. Why cant people think for themselves instead of listening to any of those reviews? Silly people, just enjoy what you do and be thankful you were born with arms to play games.

      Its really not. Its hobbyists of any kind. My undergrad psych studies referred to a phenomena called cognitive dissonance. I won't go into specifics, but on of the implications is that people who spend money on a product or time pursuing a hobby will become increasingly committed and invested in that product or pursuit.

      For instance, in my home town four people murdered a couple over a saddle. True story.

        Is it still a hobby if you take it seriously though, i like to think gaming is my hobby and i dont care what people think of the games i play. You make some excellent points my friend, maybe people could take a step back and enjoy life.

    A part of me dies every time I see "I don't read reviews" written on the Internet.

    If gaming wants to evolve, or even just to be taken seriously as an art form, it needs to foster a culture of criticism. Not reviews, and especially not trolling, but genuine criticism. As in, analysis and commentary by people with an understanding of the history and mechanical processes of gaming. Literary, music and cinematic criticism is taken seriously because it can contextualise the experience of its art form.

    I would argue that it's going to be harder for gaming to develop a culture of genuine criticism because it's so intrinsically tied in with the levelled academic playing field that is the Internet, and because it's a pastime that's arisen in the new culture of disdain for intelligent comment. The fact remains, however, that until the gaming world starts to encourage mature discussion of gaming, we're going to be saddled with experiences that are increasingly technically flawless, while increasingly turning gaming into cinema. We need a cahiers d'ordinateur.

      The only genuine critic I can think of is Yahtzee, and people generally don't realise it because he's funny about it.

        Rock, Paper, Shotgun is consistently excellent. Usually their opinions are the ones that drive me to buy games.

    Who would complain about an 8/10 anyway... oh wait, publishers!

    Come on, who wouldnt agree with the opinions from Eurogamer? Ive always thought apart from the great Hollywood blockbuster-style script, it was a bit of a copy of the old school Tomb Rader.

    ^Raider*

    If this was on the 360 it would be undoubtably a better experience. Unfortunately the PS3's processor keeps this game from shining.

    I wrote about this on my blog. It details the shortcomings of the biggest site in gaming, IGN's 10 of Uncharted.

    http://tinyurl.com/3zufd9n

    PuppyLicks said it very well, some critics "review with their emotions and shower a game with praise or tear it to pieces." Not that there is anything wrong with that but reviews should critique which IGN failed to do and where Eurogamer succeeded.

    Fair review. UC is really exhaggerated. It's mainly just set pieces which brings out the 'cinema' feel and in UC2, there was about 5 of them. People compare Gears to UC and Gears is the better action game all over. Every fight like a set piece just not as major as UC's but other than that, UC has slow and boring gameplay. Gamespot and Eurogamer's reviews were the best ones.

      I don't find UC1 or 2 to have slow and boring gameplay at all, I find gears incredibly boring yet both UC and Gears have the same core gameplay: 'shoot shit'. Character and Story give resonance to your action, I dont find either remotely interesting in gears, so perhaps thats why.

        Uncharted 2 won more game of the year awards (200) than all of the Gears of Wars combined. There is a reason it is so praised and loved, give credit where it is due dude.....

    Interesting that a lot of the maniclly upvoted comments on the EG article are 'You gave Uncharted 2 a 10 and said it had the same problems, what gives?'.

    I think they fail to see they've just answered their own question, Uncharted 2 was a big departure and improvement over Uncharted 1 and could be forgiven it's missteps for its advances. Uncharted 3 makes the same missteps without advancing.

    Crazy thing is if you just took the score of it would be a terrific review and get a third of the complaints it has, if that. But every twat has to obsess over one empty, arbitrary numeral.

    Nothing wrong with the review. Very honest. I said the same stuff about Uncharted 2, still enjoyed the movie. I mean game.

    Where people have a point is that Eurogamer is being inconsistent, as not only did it give a 10 to Uncharted 2 but insofar as the criticism is that U3 is too similar to U2, it doesn't make the same criticism of the production line of FPS sequels it hypes (one of which, not coincidentally, was being blanket advertised on Eurogameryesterday).

    Why does everyone always agree to bash a game on the spot when an article like this comes along? So much for free thinking guys, try to look at both ends of the spectrum before you trash a game developers have been working on for years, tools.

    This really comes down to one question. "Does this review score reflect the ability of the game to meet/exceed its goal/purpose, or does this review score reflect the ability of the game to meet/exceed the reviewers expectations?"

    I think, if people insist on using scores at all, that there should be at least 2 scores in every review. One to reflect each angle of approach.

    *example*
    Does Uncharted 3 accomplish everything that an 'Uncharted' game should? Does it do that well? Then that score is 10 out of 10.

    Does the reviewer personally find the formula for the entire series to fall short of their expectations and desires for a good game? To an extent, and here's an explanation of my reasoning... .... which makes that score an 8 out of 10.

    I didn't like the review at all, comes off as negative from the start. I think reviews should be written from someone who is a fan of that "genre", all though the review he points out the ideas the game does great, then bashes the very concept of the idea. The reviewer would have served himself better had he summarized the negatives of the ideas in one paragraph instead of putting backhanded complements throughout the review. Most of the negatives would be better fleshed out in a opinion piece about the genre rather than littered throughout a review. From reading the review it sounds like he hates the very idea of it then gives it a 8/10?? I can only hope in the next review of a FPS he does he has a cry about the lack of jumping puzzles and the games reliance on shooting things

      Spot on dude, it think that guy just wanted to take a piss for the sake of it, I never agreed with a lot of Simon's reviews or even eurogamer as a whole. They are just so out of it that it's unbelievable, portal 2 was a perfect 10/10 for them yet the replay value is piss poor, as for Uncharted 3, you've got treasures, competitive multiplayer, co op and extras like videos and concept art to unlock. Along with that there is the sheer thrill of the campaign alone to relive. This is just like the time they game Red Dead an 8/10 for no apparent reason. Thank god there are alternatives to that disgraceful site.

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