Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

I played through Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune on the Playstation 3 during the weekend. I can merely bow before the craftsmanship of the developer, Naughty Dog and Sony’s judgement in backing these guys. This is excellent entertainment through and through.

Uncharted has become to be known as Tomb Raider without Lara. Seeing and hearing the game, my wife called it an Indiana Jones game. Both of these definitions are correct, yet Uncharted rises above such easy categorisation. Basically, it’s a pulp adventure in which you search for the fabled gold of El Dorado in the footsteps of Sir Francis Drake. You are a reckless adventurer, you have a reporter lady in tow, there’s double-crossings abound and barrels to shoot. But this is short-selling the game.

Just on a design level, Uncharted glows. The pacing is unequaled and the game is almost without frustrations. You solve basic puzzles, climb around, fight bad guys and look for treasure. All of the elements are fun and you’re constantly learning new stuff. While there’s just three types of enemies and a lot of combat, it never gets old. All of this is really brought to life with Naughty Dog’s attention to detail.

The fights are always the same. You run between cover and avoid being flanked. The enemies are pretty aggressive and often come from several directions at once. Played on normal difficulty, I only had to re-try a couple of fights, but I expect the harder difficulty levels to be very taxing – for all the right reasons. This respect for your enemies keeps things interesting, but what initially captured me was the way the game’s protagonist moves. As a first in videogames that I recall, he occasionally stumbles, lowers his head when shots strike close and looks tired when running up stairs. In a word, he’s imperfect. It’s great. Coupled with extensive, excellent motion-captured acting and a very likeable, hand-crafted overall look (no photographed textures), the characters immediately come to life.

The same holds true in the story, too. It’s really nothing new – you can see most of the stuff coming from a mile away and there’s not a single wow moment in there – but it’s just told really very well. The dialogue is natural and funny, there’s well-judged humor in there and most importantly, it flows easily all the way. There are no loading screens, ever, nor sections that function as veiled loading screens (think elevators).

Uncharted is a very basic videogame, “small” in many ways, but fit to be an example for almost everyone. If you have a PS3, you need to play this game.






3 responses to “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune”

  1. Mikki Avatar

    Uncharted is a fantastic game. I’m not going to pretend that it has a particularly deep storyline or multifaceted characters, but what characterization it does have, it really nails just about perfectly. The characters are fun and funny, and Nate in particular is a marvel to behold. Whenever he climbs something, ducks to avoid a bullet, freaks out when a grenade lands nearby or otherwise interacts with the environment, there’s a palpable feeling that he’s always just barely surviving. You get the feeling that that he’s all skinned knuckles, broken nails and bruises by the end of the game — and happy to be alive.

    The other characters have similar qualities that really make them engaging and interesting. Elena, the journalist, is also a great sidekick. In one review she was referred to as “Nathan’s damsel in distress”, and I was kind of appalled by how little the writer of that review had actually thought about what the game was all about. By definition, she’s not a damsel in distress; quite the contrary, she proves to be pretty damn capable and actually rescues Nate, not the other way around.

    A weaker script would have the game make a big deal out of it, doing the “look at this strong woman!” thing until she’d turn into an idiotic caricature with no real personality beyond being a strong woman. But Uncharted never makes a big deal out of it — it takes it for granted that Elena isn’t an idiot or a weakling, or in constant need of affirmation from someone else, and there’s no need to underline the point, because her actions and personality speak for themselves. In video games, that’s still something of a rarity, so I was really glad to see that.

    It’s a really fun game. I played through the whole thing in one sitting, which isn’t exactly something I do a lot these days. I was just having too much fun to stop. I don’t actually own a PS3, but if there was any one game that would make the system worth buying, I think right now this’d be it. It’s certainly the first game for the PS3 that I felt really made the console itself stand out — it’s not the first good game for the system, but it’s the first one that made me think of the PS3 as a product I was interested in, as opposed to a piece of entertainment hardware that I didn’t happen own, if you know what I mean.

  2. Kai Avatar

    What fantastic reviews/comments, both of you. Makes me want a PS3 and the game.

  3. Joonas Laakso Avatar
    Joonas Laakso

    You can always do what Mikki did and come sit at our place for the eight or so hours it’s going to take you to finish it.

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