Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Review
Uncharted Drake’s Fortune for the Playstation 3 is one of the best games i have played in awhile. Developed by Naughty Dog(of Crash Bandicoot/Jak & Daxter Fame) Uncharted is a tale of a treasure hunter named Nathan Drake, the descendant of Sir Francis Drake. The game fuses elements of platforming, adventure and gun play to make one hell of a ride.
The story of Uncharted starts with the finding/opening of Sir Francis Drake’s coffin in the middle of the ocean. It is here we are introduced to our male lead Nathan Drake (A treasure hunter as I mentioned above) and the female lead (and the only female) Elena (A reporter). Upon opening the coffin it is found to be empty, a great surprise to Elena, expected from from Nathan. Nathan immediately opens a small box within the coffin and finds the diary of Sir Francis. Pirates attack the boat and Nathan and Elena are saved by Nathan’s partner Sunny. After being rescued Nathan and Sunny find the map to El Dorado inside the diary and the story evolves from there.
The graphics in Uncharted are utterly mind blowing. The scenery is breath taking with high detail in everything from rocks to water and especially the characters.
Where the game really shines is in the animation. Nathan has some of the most complex animations seen in characters outside of CG cut scenes. In fire fights as bullets fly by or hit his face changes to show fear and distress, his body movements change to show the feeling too. As you take out enemies he becomes more confident with a smirk on his face. To go beyond this water affects Nathan in various forms. Walk into knee deep water and your pants from the Knees down will be wet and gradually get dryer. Lets say you jump into the water and get wet from head to toe but stood in the water still. The top of your body will get dryer before the lower half still in the water will. Naughty Dog put a lot of work into the animation with the motion capturing in the game. The cut scenes(used with the in game engine btw) really show this with very realistic facial capturing where you can believe its a real person experiencing the events within the game.
The audio in this game is extremely well done, from the terrific voice acting that really bring the characters to life to the excellent music that plays in the background. The motion capturing and the voices were done by the same people. While doing the motion capture actors are acting out a scene they were also using dialog so it was as real as it could be. If Nathan was in the game lifting something the real life counterpart was lifting something, so scenes like that the sounds were normally faked, they were real.
Now onto the gameplay, the game uses three different types of action to make up its gameplay. The first is the adventure aspect of the game, running around and finding treasure to collect. For the most part treasure is hidden using the “Hide it in plain sight” method. About half are hidden this way where a tiny camera turn can reveal the treasure. The puzzles within the game are very simple, they could have used more work but not being a big puzzle fan, i wasn’t too disappointed. The puzzles pretty much have you looking back and forth between Francis’s Diary and the room your in to solve the puzzle. The second aspect of the gameplay is platforming. Nathan will have to climb old ruins. walls, balance across logs and jump between gaps to move around. The platforming is simple in a good way, it is not like the early tomb raiders where if you were a tad off base, you fell to your death. The jumping/grabbing onto obstacles very lenient, allowing for some error so you don’t get frustrated. For the best aspect of uncharted we now turn to the final aspect of gameplay, combat.
Combat takes two forms, gun fights and melee. Nathan has access to quite a few melee moves that can quickly take down enemies and give you more ammo than just shooting them would. However in most cases attempting to melee fight an entire room will quickly get you killed, that’s where the gun play comes in. The gun combat uses a cover system as its main way of fighting. Standing in the middle of an open area attempting to kill enemies is a one way street to deadville. Cover is extremely important to survivability in the game. Nathan can hold two different weapons at any given time, one pistol type and a Shotgun/machine gun/rifle type(he can also hold grenades). There are a few of these weapons, some more useful than others. The AI in gun fights aren’t stupid, stay in one place too long and at least one will try to flank you. There will be a few times where an enemy will pop up outta nowhere while you were concentrating on a different area. On higher difficulty modes gun fights can quickly turn from fun to frustrating with you dieing from around 2 hits. There are quite a few amount of extras in the game. The game uses a Medal system where killing a certain amount of people with a certain gun gives you one, using a specific melee attack on __ amount of enemies, collecting __ amount of treasure will all give you extras. Some are new experiences for the gameplay, different lighting, new costumes or behind the scene videos and concept art.
Load Times? Never heard of them
This is one of the few games that has no in game loading times. In total there are only two, when you boot the game and when you load a saved file. Aside from those two scenarios during gameplay there are no load times. The game is separated into chapters and the chapter number and name will be displayed when you reach it(This is the only indicator that you just gotten to the next level, its 100% seamless).
The game is full of medals you can earn which are similar to Insomniac’s Skill Point system in both the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series. There are a lot of medals in this game with some that really challenge the player. The Medals are all worth a number of points which are used to unlock extras. The medals range from “Collect “insert number” of treasures, to getting a certain amount of headshots and certain amount of kills with each weapon. Some of the more challenging medals are killing enemies with a one hit melee attack after weakening them with bullets.
There are a lot of rewards to earn, ranging from the standard Behind the Scenes fare, a collection of the game’s cutscenes, to actual useful things. You can unlock extra skins(Play as Nathan in different clothes, or play as an enemy etc etc) as well as picking a weapon at any point outside of battle. Generally you can only get ammo and weapons after you fight enemies, however with this extra you can unlock a weapon and basically get unlimited ammo. Naughty Dog controls this obvious cheat by making you unlock a certain amount of points for each weapon as well as limiting this option to outside of battles only. The behind the scenes are interesting and worth a look, even if a good number of them are available for download via the PSN store for free.
In the end Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a damn good time. An interesting story with great characters, combined with beautiful graphics, sound and awesome gameplay makes this game a must own.