Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Review

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Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Publisher: Sony
Developer: Naughty Dog

Platform: PlayStation 3
Reviewed on PlayStation 3

Fortune hunter Nathan Drake believes himself to be a direct descendant of Sir Francis Drake, and is hot on the heels of a treasure the famous Elizabethan knight may have hidden more than 400 years before. Does the treasure exist? Did Sir Francis Drake steal it from the Spanish to sell it or conceal it? How has a colonized Caribbean island remained concealed from everyone since Drake except the Nazis? Most of all, how many gunshots will it take Nathan Drake to uncover the secret of El Dorado?

Kyle Ackerman

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is an impressive action movie, it's just not a great game. I'd far rather watch a practiced gamer run smoothly through the scenery and battles of Uncharted than be forced to play it myself. Sony has been pumping up Uncharted as a movie you play. Initially, that was true.

A Tutor Who Tutored N. Drake

Uncharted: Drake's FortuneUncharted has the most exciting tutorial I've ever played. Seriously. The game has an intricate and cleverly plotted introduction that coaxed me through every move I needed to learn, while brilliantly maintaining pacing and surrounding me with gorgeous oceanic and jungle landscapes. If I'd gotten a few hours of game as well paced, plotted and gorgeous as the tutorial, I'd have been enthralled. Sadly, once the tutorial ends, the game rapidly becomes repetitive and worse... irritating.

I suspect that Uncharted started off as a gorgeous, brief adventure with a few gunfights and several platforming bits reminiscent of the Tomb Raider or Prince of Persia franchises. Then, someone decided the game wasn't long enough. When that happened, the checkpoint saves got spread far enough apart to force me to replay certain sections to excess. Gun battles suddenly had dozens of clones attacking, instead of a few strategic and interesting battles. Uncharted got longer at the expense of being fun.

Leap and Shoot... Leap and Shoot

Uncharted: Drake's FortuneAfter the tutorial, you get to do three things: platform around the landscape, fight enormous gun-battles and search for hidden collectibles. The platforming is easily the best aspect of the game. Most of the time, these are brief sections in which Drake performs impressive acrobatics through spectacular scenery. It's gorgeous when it works, but not as polished or intuitive as some other franchises. Naughty Dog did a poor job of identifying active grips and handholds. Most of the time it's obvious, but occasionally, they blend too well into the scenery. I also took a long time to work out the swinging vines and ropes. Combine those quibbles with the regular camera problems (it was often hard to identify drop-offs), and the platforming fell far short of perfect.

The gun battles were, by far, the biggest irritation. Uncharted wants you to take cover and slowly pick off your assailants. Of course, the game tends to throw hordes of enemies at Drake (with multiple instances of each kind of obviously cloned mercenary) all of whom (until the late-game snipers) quickly flank Drake to push him out of cover. It's not that there's anything wrong with the system. The gunfights were probably fun when it was just two or three enemies. Once it became several waves and twenty assailants, it just got repetitive. Add to that the regular gotcha moments and the fact that there's usually a single correct piece of cover to use and survive, and the gunfights quickly had me grinding my teeth.

The Glint of Invisible Gold and Jolt of Pixelated Jungle

Uncharted: Drake's FortuneThe only optional activity is collecting treasures, and Uncharted has the single most irritating collection scheme I've ever encountered. Instead of objects you can actually see hidden in nooks behind elements of scenery, treasures in Uncharted are only visible as glints. A treasure is invisible most of the time, and often only appears as a single flashing pixel, and only once you get close enough. Actually picking up the treasure meant jerking Nathan Drake around until I found exactly the right spot to press a button and pick up the otherwise invisible valuable. Rather than simply looking in dark corners, I had to actually run into dark corners if I wanted to pursue treasure in an act reminiscent of pixel hunting in ancient adventure games.

If there's anything that's the saving grace of Uncharted, it's the parts you don't play. The terrain is gorgeous – I particularly admired one of the early platforming sequences set around a submarine that was well out of its environment ("You act like you've never seen a German U-boat in the middle of the jungle, before."). That however, is only when the graphics work. Much of the time, Uncharted is the prettiest game to grace the PlayStation 3. Then, sometimes textures just don't load, and big sections of the scene pop in belatedly. Then, while waiting for the scenery to arrive or watching a cut-scene, the game segues into an event where if you don't press a button immediately, you die. Just in case I was enjoying myself.

Let's Hold Out Hope for Hollywood

Uncharted: Drake's FortuneUncharted: Drake's Fortune really would be a great film. The writing isn't superb, but it's action movie good with malevolent villains and ambiguous allies. The plot is passable and the settings are spectacular. If the film version cut out the extended, repetitive play sequences, it would be a boon to watch. I bet I wouldn't even have to watch extended fight scenes over and over until Drake got them right, either.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on December 6, 2007 6:24 PM.

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