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.