Review: Uncharted: Drakes Fortune

By Mike on 7:27 pm

Filed Under: , ,

The PS3 has been hammered a lot lately for the quality of its games, and up until late Fall 2007, I'd be inclined to agree with those people. The long running joke that Xbox fanboys have is that the PS3 is nothing more than a folding machine. Fall came around with some unusually strong titles. One of these was Uncharted: Drake's Fortune from developer Naughty Dog. If that name sounds familiar, Naughty Dog are the same people behind the hugely popular Jak & Daxter series.

Uncharted is a third person shooter, like Gears of War on the Xbox. You play as treasure hunter Nathan Drake, self professed ancestor of Sir Francis Drake. The game begins with a search for Drake's coffin which Nathan finds at the bottom of the ocean. In it, he recovers Drake's journal which sends him on a quest for the mythical El Dorado, the city of gold. Without giving too much of the plot away, you run into rival treasure hunter Gabriel Roman. Nathan's partner Sullivan apparently owes him a lot of money. Needless to say, Roman just happens to have a nearly endless supply of mercenaries hunting you down throughout the game. This game actually reminds me a little bit of Far Cry, though I only played the demo version of that one. Both were set in a tropical environment, both saw the main character fighting mercenaries, and both had state of the art graphics at the time of their release. I'll talk about that last one next.

Uncharted is a visual masterpiece and is a real showpiece for what the PS3 is capable off. All elements of the game are rendered in real time, excluding cinematics. However, it's hard to tell between the pre-rendered cutscenes and regular game play. Frame rates are rock solid throughout the game. Environments range from lush Jungles, Mayan ruins, and a Spanish fort. All are rendered beautifully. High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting has become a staple in gaming these days but is often overused to the point of looking unrealistic. In Uncharted, it's well done, in a way that faithfully mimics true real world lighting. Characters in the game are well modelled. Check out some of the screenshots on the official site. A lot of developers try to pass off prerendered scenes as in game action but this is the real deal.
The sound is also excellent in the game. Well rendered. It's too bad I don't have my PS3 connected to a 5.1 system to get the most out of it. Another positive aspect is that Uncharted is not dogged by the long load times that some other PS3 games are. Loading screens are few and far between. Considering this is probably one of the most technically advanced games on the PS3, it's a mystery why other games are having this problem. Uncharted doesn't even install anything to the hard drive.

Gameplay combines third person shooting with platform gaming. Nathan Drake is a true parcour fanatic when it comes to climbing on rock ledges or spelunking in dark caves. It's a little different from most games and may catch you off guard at points but once you get used to the controls, it's pretty easy. The Sixaxis is used for this portion game but minimally.
You can't really die in the game since if you fall or get shot dead, your character starts back at the beginning of that particular area of the level. You'll find yourself in gun battles a lot in the game. Nathan can crouch behind rocks, walls, or other objects for cover in a fire fight by pressing the O button. L1 puts you in shooting mode, R1 is the trigger and you aim with the analogue stick. Gun fights are fast paced with a lot of action. You get a choice of a variety of weapons including various handguns, sub-machine guns, automatic rifles such as the AK-47, and grenades. I'm not a big fan of "spray and pray" in these types of games so I usually use the handguns since it's more accurate. The AI is what you'd expect for a contemporary shooter. If you shoot an enemy in the leg, he'll be less mobile. The enemies have a limited sense of self preservation in that they'll duck for cover. It's no Euphoria AI but it keeps the game challenging. Gamespot criticized the game as being overly difficult at times. I disagree. Intermediate and veteran gamers should be able to get into it quickly and though it's challenging, it's not difficult. At some points in the game though, you can quickly become hopelessly outnumbered. This made it a bit frustrating at times but it does make you reevaluate your tactics. Some parts of the game involve using turrets or driving vehicles in order to mix things up from the usual hide and shoot.
The game itself is about 10-15 hours long and can be beaten in a weekend or two. The replay value of it is a bit weak, which is why it didn't get a higher score than it did. However, that's typical of linear shooter games. There are extras that can be unlocked through finding treasures or accomplishing certain feats, which add a bit more to the replay value but are tedious to unlock. You can also try the game at different difficulty levels.

What else can I say about Uncharted? It's a fun, action packed 3rd Party shooter that feels and plays like a movie. Nathan Drake sure gives Laura Croft a run for her money. Rent of buy? I'd took the risk of buying it first and I was pleasantly surprised. There's a demo on PSN that you can download. The game's a lot of fun but you might want to try the demo or rent it first to see if it's your cup of tea. Naughty Dog has racked up 1 million sales as of today and they've already got a sequel in the works.

-Realistically rendered environments
-Realistic lighting
-Smooth as butter frame rates
-Excellent sound with good voice acting
-Fun gameplay with good controls
-Good storyline

-A bit weak on replay value

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Note: Like your college history professor, I rarely give a perfect score. There's always room for improvement, even in the best of the best. I try to write these game from the point of view of casual to intermediate gamers.

0 comments for this post