While the story is awesome and full of twists and turns, Uncharted is also filled with shortcomings and frustrations.
Let's get this right out of the way. Uncharted's story and cutscenes are phenomenal. Everything within them is presented with absolute excellence, and will have you impatiently wanting to see it through right away. You might even pull a one sitting play-through on your first go because of this. I did, it's that good. Within the main gameplay mechanics however, there are a few sizeable warts that will hamper the fun factor you have during the game.
The most notable shortcoming Uncharted: Drake's Fortune has comes from the enemy AI. During the first half of the game, you'll think to yourself "Wow, these guys are no push overs. Naughty Dog did a great job with this." During the second half of the game you'll go "What in the heck? This is RIDICULOUS." The cheapness to be seen is the level of where I wanted to stop playing no matter how badly I wanted to see the story through; however I didn't. This is on the normal difficulty by the way.
Along with that cheap AI, which ultimately creates a double whammy of frustration, is the very rigid cover system. It works fine most of the time, but when you are in need of doing some quick maneuvering, this is when things get ugly. You'll often find yourself rollinh around trying to dodge enemy fire and get a better vantage point, only to be thwarted by magnetically sticking to any cover near by (roll and cover are the same button, circle). This can be extremely frustrating when fighting some of the more advanced enemies, and has gotten me killed a plethora of times. This could have been easily prevented by coupling the cover button with the jump button (ala Gears of War).
On to my two final gripes, which I will attack in this same paragraph. First off, there is just too, too much platforming. I knew what kind of game I was getting into, but this game just goes EXTREMELY overboard with the cheesiness of the mechanic (used in too much repetition, anyway), and this is coming from a game that will only last you about 8 hours. On to my second part of this complaint, is the fact that this game is trying to tackle a believability factor that of a blockbuster movie, and some of the things it does are just jarring. You'll find yourself traversing ridiculous sections of platforms, only to find an aggrevating placement of your pirate adversaries at every bend (even if it makes completely no sense). Oh yeah, and did I mention I hope you enjoy fighting these enemies, because you will... A LOT.
Oh, and for a bonus along with that, it can be said that the majority of the weapons found in the game are practically useless. All the pistols feel and sound the same, along with the rifles, shotguns, etc. The best part about it all is that you could get away with playing 90% of the game with nothing but your regular old pistol because it always only takes 1 headshot or about 3 body shots to kill. What a downer.
There are some positives with the gameplay though, right? Yes. The fact that you actually feel like you're on this great adventure is very prevalant and unrivaled by any game this year. There are also some great battle scenes sprinkled along the way that will have you go "Oh heck yeah!" when certain things happen, or "Oh crap!". Also, a few of the puzzles and platforming sections are pretty clever. It does start to get a bit stale before the end though because there is just SO much of that stuff. Naughty Dog however did put a great amount of polish into the product, as the game is still quite fun to play.
For the most part, the graphics are drop dead gorgeous and will make any high definition television setup sing with beauty. There are quite a few occasions where you'll see the framerate get a bit low, and there is some mild screen tearing, however.
The characters are modeled and animated gloriously, especially shown in the cutscenes which are all rendered in the game engine and also acted amazingly, might I add.
All in all the graphics are top shelf this year however, and sit right up there along with games such as BioShock and Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction.
Sound gets major points for the excellent voice cast featured throughout the game. Naughty Dog must have worked tirelessly to get just the right performers to accompany their cast. Not a single voice feels out of place. It must be noted however that there were a few sound glitches that showed up while I was playing, such as a staticy effect one time a character was talking in the game, and a loss of music (which is pretty good I might add) for a second. Very, very minor and rare, though.
The other part of the sound category that I'd like to touch on is the weapon sounds. The pistol(s) sound great and about how you would expect them too, but the rifles... oh man the rifles, do they ever sound pathetic. Never have I had such an odd look on my face when I've fired an AK-47 in a game. What a disappointment.
No real reason to go back and play the game again, other than just wanting to see those great cutscenes again, or see the story play out again at a future date. The repetitive nature of the platforming and cheap AI will likely scare you away from another playthrough on anything but easy, but it must be noted that there are lots of "awards" and "treasures" that you can unlock that do give the replayability some length. They're basically Uncharted's take on Xbox Live achievement points on the PlayStation 3 with their game. Basically you complete some task, such as getting 50 headshots or getting 50 blind-fire shots and you'll unlock a "reward". As for the treasures, collecting these is completely optional and will help you unlock some bonus content within the game.
The game is short at only 8 hours, and quite linear, so there's not going to be much bringing you back to play the game. If you're an achievement addict though, you might spent some extra time doing so.
Overall Average: 8.0
While the story is awesome and full of twists and turns, Uncharted is also filled with shortcomings and frustrations. The game is still quite enjoyable to play, and is a recommended play through, but it won't keep you occupied too long for your $60. I would still suggest a purchase of the game because it is quite an experience to have in your library of games, filled with plenty of wow moments. At the very least, it serves as a great graphical showpiece to put your setup and PlayStation 3 system to the test. Cheers to Naughty Dog for taking a risk on a new franchise, and here's to hoping they tie up the loose ends on their next game and blow us away.