Uncharted, Drakes Fortune – Review by jg4xchamp
Naughty Dog has made a name for itself as a quality platformer developer. The Crash Bandicoot series became famous from their work(before hitting rock bottom, after Naughty Dog left), and the Jak and Daxter Trilogy the following generation (Playstation 2) were impressive improvements to the formula they started with Crash Bandicoot. Now comes Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune a third person shooter/action-adventure style videogame.
The initial story premise of this game is that the main character Nathan Drake a descendant of the famous explorer Sir Francis Drake is on a quest to find the lost treasure of El Dorado. His supporting cast is your typical womanizing, older character in debt Victor “Sully” Sullivan and then there is the journalist Elena Fisher. She fits into the strong woman type characterization. The characters can come off a bit cliché, especially if you have seen many adventure films(such as Indiana Jones, the Mummy, National Treasure, The Davinci Code, etc). Along the way Drake runs into rival hunters Roman and Navarro, as well as running into what is suppose to be a rival hunter with a history with Drake in Eddy Raja. This ultimately leads to another enemy set you will face in the final portion of the game, before getting your final boss fight.
Simply put the story is standard fair. It borrows a lot of elements from the adventure movies listed before. The characters never really stick out, and just don’t come of as interesting. As a main character Nathan Drake lacks that spark of a Nicholas Cage in National Treasure, or that special something that made Indiana Jones such a famous character. That said while it won’t set a new standard for story telling, it is quite enjoyable and has a fun “summer popcorn flick” like feel to it. As much as Drake doesn’t stick out, alot of his smart mouth witty remarks do always have a chance to make you laugh.
What the game does have is a fantastic presentation. The visuals in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune are simply stunning. The Jungle environment is bright, luscious, and breathtaking. The game separates itself from the typical “grey” shooters with a much more varied color palette. The animations are smooth and certainly help immerse you in the game. Every animation just comes off natural, and doesn’t come off as something weird like in other videogames. Simply put Uncharted is a looker. The character models are really well done. The surrounding area is beautiful, and when needed(because of other areas you will enter further into the game) can provide the right atmosphere for the situation. The game is rich with detail to its visuals, such as the water effects and how it works with Nathan Drake’s clothing. The effects for grenades, and the handy dandy explosive barrel are as top notch as you can get in terms of videogame explosions.
The audio department delivers on there end as well. The gun sounds are solid, as well as the grenades. The voice acting is actually really good, however the script and story overall could have been stronger. The musical score has your adventure movie theme, while also having the right theme for something more creepy, intense, and mysterious. The game certainly shines through surround sound(well every game shines through surround sound).
Naughty Dog’s strong presentation is backed up with solid gameplay ideas. Uncharted isn’t a videogame that brings anything new to the table. It takes the over the shoulder shooting mechanic from Resident Evil 4. It has a lot of the puzzle, jumping, plat forming aspects of the Tomb Raider games(as well as the concept). It also has the cover system now made famous from Gears of War/Killswitch. The health system in the now typical regenerating health system. This all together in one package comes off as something highly enjoyable and entertaining. The controls are intuitive enough and the overall gameplay just works well.
The first major stretch of gameplay is all done extremely well. The scripted set pieces are a lot of fun and the game ramps up the intensity at the right moments. The cover system is extremely productive in the firefights. The gunplay can take some getting used to, but it won’t take long before headshots become natural. The grenades will take some work, as the grenades use the six-axis feature to line up your grenade throws. The blind fire in this game is used in a more strategic manor than in other games. In Uncharted if you shoot near an enemy, you can spook them. Making them stop shooting, or run for cover. This can give you that time to reload, or recharge your health. In the bigger fire fights, this strategy will prove more than useful.
The AI in Uncharted is impressive as well. The will flank you, throw grenades to flush you out, swarm together, and if needed run away to get back with the pack. As stated earlier there reaction to blind fire is not only impressive, I found it to be kind of cool. The supporting AI isn’t to bad either. Elena can certainly hold her own in the game, and Sully is no slouch either with a gun. You won’t ever have to worry about baby sitting them, as the enemy AI mostly focuses on you. That’s not to say it won’t focus on your partner and just skip him/her. However you will be the primary target most of the time.
The melee combat in Uncharted is also quite interesting. It is mostly a quick time event to create a more cinematic $tyle fist fight. Most of these end in a quick 3 button press process. It can be a productive way to take out an enemy quickly, while saving bullets. However this tactic can backfire as surrounding enemies will continue to shoot. So getting into a fist fight can leave you vulnerable to enemy fire, and on harder difficulties they will certainly kill you for making this mistake.
The game also has more scripted events where you will man the turret on the back of a jeep, and also ride a jet ski. These sequences aren’t very long, and can offer a ton of intensity on the higher difficulties. These scenarios show a lot of tension, and defiantly offer more intensity than some of the other sequences in the game. Other scenarios can lead to some quick time events. While the game isn’t filled with these left and right, they do pop out of nowhere. Which can actually be quite annoying, since you can go hours without ever getting one, and then suddenly boom you die because you didn’t expect a quick time event coming.
The other portion of the gameplay is the adventure style gameplay found in the Tomb Raider games. You will swing from vines, climb ledges, cliffs, etc. The controls for these actions are quite simple and intuitive. It all works out perfectly, and Drake’s animations are just so natural. The camera also does a good job of giving you good angles, so you are never jumping blind. The platforming isn’t strong, but it is adequate and certainly gets the job done. The puzzles in Uncharted seem to be uneven. Some of the puzzles in the game are grand and are a lot of fun to work with. Some are short, but unique in design. Others are just too simple and uninteresting. This is an area where games such as Zelda and Tomb Raider certainly excel in with superior puzzle designs.
The other area where the game seems to suffer a bit in its game design. Is the second type of enemy that is shown in the final portions of the game. They are more annoying and cheap. It takes the game out of its strong blend of Adventure/Puzzle/Cover/Pop and Shoot $tyle gameplay to a more run and gun feel. This part off the game comes off as the weaker link to the game, but it isn’t game killing. I certainly preferred the more dominating game $tyle of the game, than the run and gun that shows up in the final stretch.
As far as boss fights are concerned, the game doesn’t have any. Even the final scenario is more or less a quickly scripted, more linear, combat set piece. It isn’t anything special, but it does provide that cinematic flair that goes hand in hand with the game’s strong presentation.
The game also isn’t very long. The game can be done in under 10 hours. However for the more adventurous there are treasures to find. Which unlocks trophies as well as concept art/dev diary videos, etc. There is also the hardest difficulty for those looking for a stiffer challenge. Just remember don’t leave yourself open for too long.
In short the game isn’t very long, its linear, and it doesn’t do anything new. The final sequence offers an enemy type that gets away from the type of gameplay that made it so good, to a $tyle of gameplay that just comes off weak. The story isn’t strong, but the presentation, graphics, and audio work is fantastic. The blend of gameplay ideas from other games comes off as something well designed and entertaining. The game is a high quality polished product. If you like those adventure style movies, or were a big fan of the Tomb Raider games in the past. Uncharted Drake’s Fortune provides a worthwhile experience.