Nathan Drake's first adventure is a memorable one, filled with mystery, scenic beauty, and an unforgettable cast.
- Gorgeous visuals
- Amazing cutscenes and voice acting
- Very impressive character animations
- Excellent soundtrack
- Engaging and addictive platforming and shooter elements
- All around, very immersive
- The hidden treasures and medal system provide additional content
- The game is short
- Rare game freezing
- Occasional screen tearing (especially in the earlier chapters)
- Some awkward design choices
- Tough, plentiful, and omniscient enemies
I bought my PS3 in March of this year. Of the three games I jump-started my game collection with, Uncharted 2 was one of them. I'd only made it through one-and-a-half chapters before I knew irrefutably that I would enjoy the game, that the game would leave me wanting more of its kind. So I decided to buy the prequel, Drake's Fortune, and play through that first. I do not regret this decision one bit, and I am glad I didn't let myself miss out on this outstanding game.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is at once a 3D platformer and a third-person shooter. While these two seemingly unrelated game elements never occur simultaneously, they do blend right into one another. A brief platforming section may precede a tense firefight, which may then be followed by yet another platforming section. The whole time, it never feels like the player is simply walking from one section of the chapter to another; rather, Drake is just making his way to his next destination - whatever he encounters is just whatever happens to be in his path or a total surprise. In this respect, the game most definitely feels like you're playing your way through an action-adventure movie. Watching a proficient player play their way through the game as a spectator would be an activity most synonymous with watching an actual action movie, I'm sure.
While Naughty Dog has always been known for its ability to come out with games that feature excellent platforming elements, this game marks ND's first foray, I believe, into the genre of third-person shooters. To this effect, they have done, in general, a very good job. Aiming is not a chore, nor is it automatic. In addition, switching and reloading guns is easy. The one bit I don't like about the combat is that you must use the Six-Axis to toss grenades. It's just so unwieldy and in later difficulties, the enemies will absolutely tear you apart before you can even begin to aim a grenade the regular way. That's just unfair.
In regards to the platforming, it is rather intuitive. Most of the time, it's very easy to see where Nate might be able to jump to or hang from; my only issue is that maybe these ledges and such could have been a bit more subtle and not so obvious. There were definitely times when I thought to myself, "wow, that's not very realistic." and it just took me out of the experience for a second.
Occasionally, there will be puzzles that will need solving. They can best be described as challenging, yet completely doable without frustration. None of them require precise timing or that the player will make some sort of miraculous connection between this and that. They change up the pace just a bit, especially when they succeed a firefight, and I always felt them to be welcome and enjoyable. Of course, that could be because of my past experiences with and undying love for the Myst series. They're along the same vein, though much simpler.
On a final note about gameplay, I'd like to talk about the difficulty settings. While Easy is great for players completely new to third person shooters (like myself) and Normal is challenging enough for newcomers and shooter vets alike, it is Hard and Crushing that warrant some discussion. Uncharted's difficulty settings are defined by a few qualities: increased AI aggressiveness, increased AI accuracy with weapons, increased AI durability, and decreased durability for Nate. Normal strikes a perfect balance between challenge and being entertaining; Hard provides a heartier challenge for those seeking it. However, Crushing is a total monster. Without a headshot, it typically requires at least five shots for an enemy to go down (it takes only one or two for Nate to do the same). Also, enemies have the uncanny ability to shoot through walls. I watched bullets' trails go through a stone pillar. I really don't know what that's about, but it never happened on any of the other difficulties. It just all seemed terribly unfair, unreasonably difficult. Take my advice: Hard will probably be challenging enough, so leave Crushing alone unless you really want the Platinum trophy. Personally, I left Crushing alone after three-and-a-half chapters because I didn't want to grow to hate every part of the game that I'd grown to love.
Overall, the story is great. Cut from the same cloth as every Indiana Jones movie (most definitely not a bad thing), it is truly an enjoyable adventure. Even after the initial playthrough, it is worth it to go back and play through additional times, if not just to see if some things will come to make more sense or if you might notice certain things you completely missed the first time around.
One word: Unbelievable. I have never seen water this realistic-looking (prior to Uncharted, Super Mario Sunshine had the best water) and rocks so detailed. When Nate jumps into water, only the submerged parts of his jeans and shirt will become wet; over time, the clothes will dry. Sunlight shines through the trees and these patterns are reflected on the characters' clothing. When using a flashlight, the way the light shines onto once dark surfaces is incredible. The tilework inside the buildings of the city, the way wet or damp rocks and brick walls appear...Truly, even now in 2010, you will probably find yourself stopping to gawk at the three-year-old scenery from time to time.
This game had enough going for it with an enjoyable story and impressive graphics, but Naughty Dog didn't feel that was enough. No, they decided to go all out in every way they could. The sound in this game is phenomenal. The soundtrack was composed by a well-known music composer by the name of Greg Edmonson. He composed the soundtrack for the TV show, Firefly. If there's one thing this soundtrack does very well, it is that it immerses the player into what's happening in the game. It cues up when you're idle to create a sense of danger or mystery; it quickly drives up to a fever pitch when a firefight breaks out, ceasing suddenly when the danger has passed; and it evokes certain emotions when the story warrants them. This is not to mention, of course, the sound effects. Gunshots and explosions sound very realistic. Furthermore, they will sound close or far away (as will characters' voices when not in cutscenes) depending on their position compared to Nate's. Two particular sound effects that really made me go "WOW" were the subtly quiet sound of waves crashing up against the rock wall below the fortress and the sound of Nate's ears ringing each time a rocket or grenade went off close-by. That is detail rarely seen or heard of in games, even in these days.
Regrettably, the game is short. It only consists of the single player story mode, which can be completed in anywhere from seven to ten hours, even on your first playthrough. However, it is never dull and you will want to go back and play through it again. There could be hidden, shiny treasures to find that you missed the first time through. There are also medals to earn by completing certain objectives, some of which are quite challenging. Then, of course, there are the additional difficulty settings. For a fact, I can say that I have personally clocked in very close to 40 hours with this game, playing through it on the different difficulties, finding the treasures, and earning the medals. The game doesn't get old, and it is one that you most likely will want to return to in the future for return visits.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was my first third-person shooter. Based on the hype, reviews, and overall opinion of the sequel, I knew that this game had to be a winner as well. I wasn't wrong.
So this is when I say to you, the reader of my review, that if you have any interest in an intriguing and mysterious, action-packed adventure, then Uncharted is a game for you. Even more so, I feel that the Uncharted series is such a great exclusive franchise for the Playstation 3, that the games should be a part of every PS3 owner's collection. They're that good.
Just, don't miss out on the first one simply because the second one is better. Drake's Fortune is still a remarkably beautiful and entertaining game.
ROUGH SCORE: 9.6
FINAL SCORE: 9.5