I always found it interesting how noticeable studios went from mascot platformers on the PS2, to creating games with mature content on the PS3. Sucker Punch Productions went from Sly Cooper to Infamous, Insomniac Games tried to do the same with Resistance: Fall of Man before going back to Ratchet & Clank, and even Naughty Dog got finally tired of trying to do something with Jak & Daxter. According to the developers at Naughty Dog, they wanted to “grow up” since the more cartoony approach the team used before was rather a way to mask the systems’ technical shortcomings. They now wanted to create a new franchise for the PS3 with a more realistic feel. Inspired by pulp magazines, movie serials, and titles like the Indiana Jones-trilogy and National Treasure, Naughty Dog created the first Uncharted game and finally gave me a reason to be interested in the black box from Sony. At least after it dropped its price from 599 dollars. Before picking up the collection for the PS4.
“Man, this is like trying to find a bride in a brothel”
Out on a small boat in the open ocean near Panama, Nathan Drake is on the search for clues on Sir Francis Drake’s treasures, with Elena Fisher, a reporter, documenting the discoveries they come across. After long hours of searching, they eventually find an old casket were Francis’s corpse should be in. Instead, they find his journal containing tons of valuable information. Before they can celebrate, pirates attack with Nate and Elena fighting back. They are eventually saved by Nathan’s father figure, Sully, and are already one step closer into finding the treasure of Sir Francis Drake.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is definitely inspired by adventure movies as mentioned above, with a huge focus on witty comments and intense action. Nathan is a likeable protagonist with a lot of funny remarks, though never insensitive, and the other characters works well with him to expand the humorous writing in a wide range. For example, the old man Sully can be described as a smart gentleman, though also a player, and Elena is a strong and competent woman without resorting to the traditional damsel or over the top badass girl. All characters have a down to earth approach and contain three dimensional personalities, making them easily relatable. The constant bantering between them both in-game and in cutscenes are always entertaining, and quotable.
The hunt for Sir Francis Drake’s treasure leads to a lot of exciting moments and intriguing historical theories of “what if” scenarios. This sense of adventure is further enhanced by subtle tributes to other projects, like Indiana Jones’ fights against the Nazis, and how every area you travel to are believable and atmospheric. It all comes together thanks to how cinematic it all is presented, with huge explosions, intense camera movements, ruins being detailed with clear marks and exhilarating action sequences. While some aspects can be straightforward, it never makes the story or the events dull.
Though that does not mean this adventure is without its bumps in the road. While the villains are generally likeable, with one being a nemesis of Drake and another being a British jerk, they are not memorable due to their lack of unique visual design and personality. They do get a lot of chuckles thanks to the excellent voice actors delivering some hilarious lines wonderfully, but they needed more to their characters to really stick out. There was also one minor plot hole with a video camera just spinning around without anybody being there, but that did not bother me too much. The story provides a fun treasure hunt with likeable characters. That is certainly good entertainment in my opinion.
Story Score: 7.5/10
Set as an action game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune combines gunfights with platforming, and sprinkles in minor puzzles, all in a third person perspective. Each chapter contains a linear path to follow, with either of the three genres being obstacles to overcome. Let us start with the TPS, as it is one of the game’s highlight. Nate can carry one handgun, such as a pistol or an Uzi, and one two-handed weapon, such as an AK-47 or a shotgun. This limitation in what you can carry mixed with a strong variety of weapons to find, is a good way to make you always be on the lookout for firearms to pick up, varying up your playstyle well. The gunfire is satisfying and functional, with recoils being solidly implemented for realism for each firearm. Nate can also take cover, blind fire, run and gun with less accuracy, and roll into or to another cover, making him a versatile fighter.
Cover is an important aspect, with Nate even having regenerative health represented by the screen going black and white when he is near death. This works at making each fight intense, and defensive play important. Nate can also carry grenades, which can both be thrown in an arc or blind-thrown. With only four grenades being the max amount he can carry, it makes it as only an equaliser and never to replace guns, which is good.
Should he be out of firearms, Nathan can perform simple combos using square for quick punches, and triangle for a specific brutal combo, though the latter never worked for me. There is also stealth implemented in this game, but it is clunky with poor hit-detection and enemies who can easily spot you. Thankfully, it was never required in order to progress the game. Sadly, the fights became repetitive since you will not be fighting any different versions of enemies, just remember what weapon they were holding. The layout for cover and shooting is always different, and the enemies are aggressive with decent AI and a good selection of guns you can try out, but more could have been added for creating variety within these types of gunfights.
I put it like this, as there are two other types of shootouts. One will have Nate use a turret from a car, and it is actually engaging thanks to plenty of enemies to shoot and be aware of, keeping up the intense action. However, the other part is more common in the late game and can be downright tedious. These are the water-segments where you have Nate driving a jet ski, with your companion shooting at obstacles and enemies. This can lead to terrible pace breaking, as you will drive at high speed, stop, aim, shoot, and then move on. This is an awful design and oddly enough fixed later in the game, when Nate actually gets the ability to shoot without good accuracy while on the move. Why not let the player do this from the start?
As for the rest of the game, platforming will be a huge part of it with X and the analog stick making you jump towards climbable constructions. It can feel incredibly loose and it is simply thanks to its limited design, making the act of climbing around not engaging. However, the believable constructions and the game not telling you exactly where to go, makes it a bit more fun since you must figure out how to climb further, testing your keen eye.
The small puzzles sprinkled around can also provide some good platforming, such as pushing certain blocks in the right order, and none of the brainteasers were tedious. I just wish there where more, as the game uses the journal to give hints on how to proceed, which is a clever addition that added to the treasure hunting. However, I can only recall a couple of scenarios that used this mechanic, and even then, they only lasted at best two minutes. The worst part of the entire game, are the QTEs that pops up out of nowhere and ends as quickly as they enter. To add insult to injury, this is how the final battle is played out. I should clarify, though, that had a good time with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’s gameplay, but it is certainly unpolished and could use more to remove unnecessary variety and flesh out its main mechanics.
Gameplay Score: 6/10
Still looks fantastic with slight upgrades
For this review, I played the PS4 version and it is glorious. The frame rate is consistent, textures for each environmental object are beautifully rendered, and the backgrounds whether it be in the jungle, ruins or up in the mountains, are sights to behold. Characters have fantastic mouth and facial-animations and are combined with stellar voice acting, making me intrigued by everyone. In comparison as well, it is clear that the developers went the extra mile to polish everything from the original PS3 version, due to how every detail having been redone or upgraded
With such gorgeous draw distance and attention to details for minor elements like how the grass waves, different wall-textures, and even making parts of the clothing wet when leaping in pools of water, it is easy to forgive the poor blood animation and the few enemy types. Enemies are decently varied, but only to the point of serviceable with a couple of different suits for the humans. Although, I do love their death animations, as they fly around after getting shot. It is all kinds of hilarious and reminds me of the Havoc engine’s rag-doll physics or over the top action scenes from old movies. On a more negative note, the animation for climbing and jumping has a lack of frame, making it feel like you are basically jump-cutting to safety. It would have been nice if the alternative costumes were shown in the cutscenes as well, but this one is really me nitpicking.
Being a treasure hunter, you will primarily explore organic forests and ruins, making the journey mysterious and threatening, while still letting the supernatural aspect be a thing of wonder or even a possibility. With this, comes a fitting soundtrack that includes heavy drums for tribal chants and orchestral scores highlighting the more intense moments. An especially important track to mention, must be Nate’s theme. It has a varied use of instruments to signify the highs and lows this adventure will provide in its tones alone, with all emotions transitioning beautifully.
Presentation Score: 8/10
Since you are a treasure hunter, of course you need to have other smaller things to find and luckily: Nathan can find sparkling objects on the ground hidden throughout the levels and pick them up. These small gems are actually treasures and artefacts with lore, and will contribute to unlocking costumes, weapons, cheats, art, tweaks and rendering modes. It is fun to search out for them and the newly added continuous speedrun mode is also entertaining thanks to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune being a short game, clocking in about 4-6 hours. There is also an unlockable brutal difficulty and it lives up to its name for better or worse. Not all the unlockables are entertaining and more obscure elements would have added to the enjoyment, but the treasure hunting makes exploring these linear stages more engaging.
Extra Score: 7/10
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is like your good treasure hunting movie. It has some flaws and can be clunky, but when the action heats up, the characters gets to shine or the scenery takes you to another world, it is hard to not get sucked in. Drake’s first adventure is certainly easy to have fun with, due to the entertaining story, enjoyable gunfights, engaging hunt for collectables, and how the platforming and minor puzzles adds to the adventure. Just be aware that it is unpolished in its execution.