Uncharted 3's linearity is a strength, not a weakness

Opinion: Naughty Dog's adventure shouldn't be slated for being straightforward, argues Chris Schilling

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Let's be honest, this is the kind of thing you show non-players to get them excited about games. Sure, Harrison Ford would have been paid handsomely for those Japanese ads, but if his skills with a DualShock leave something to be desired (his apparent phobia of triggers lend credence to that whole 'Greedo shot first' business) his awe at Drake's plane escape seems entirely genuine.

Perhaps the reason the third game in this terrific series is facing criticisms the first two avoided is that a relatively guided experience feels comparatively anomalous in the current climate, as more and more games cede authorial control to the player. It's rare that a major release doesn't at least offer the illusion of choice, and the likes of Mass Effect genuinely allow the player to shape the ongoing narrative. L.A. Noire, meanwhile, closed off narrative avenues and opened up others depending on your actions during its interrogations.


That said, many argued that Team Bondi's might have worked better as a straight crime drama; that it didn't really benefit any from its open-world setting. Granted, that wasn't a criticism of its branching storytelling so much as the driving and exploration that occasionally spoiled the pacing of the plot. It seems spinning a compelling yarn is much easier when the developer is at the wheel.

I wouldn't want every game to be like Uncharted, but a little linearity is no bad thing, and Naughty Dog's adventure shouldn't be considered a lesser game than its sandbox peers simply for choosing a different way to keep the player entertained.

Uncharted and Call of Duty might be castigated for being little more than funfair rides, but since when did rollercoasters stop being fun? Would the world be a better place without Alton Towers? Would Nemesis be improved by the opportunity to climb off for a sandwich break between its stomach-flipping corkscrews?

By all means, whinge about Drake's magical webbed fingertips or his bizarre ability to disrupt space-time during fistfights that - let's be honest - are hardly up to Arkham City standards. But Uncharted shouldn't be criticised for something it's not trying to be. Instead, its developer should be applauded for crafting something that easily outdoes this year's crop of Hollywood blockbusters for cinematic thrills.

On rails is just fine if the ride is exciting enough - with Uncharted 3, it undoubtedly is.

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