Written by Nathan Love
Uncharted is, without a doubt, the PlayStation 3’s most distinctive and visible exclusive franchise. Notoriously difficult to categorize, the Uncharted series combines elements of action-adventure games, third-person shooters, and platformers to create a delightfully unique gameplay experience. Throughout the series, you play as enterprising treasure hunter Nathan Drake as he lucks his way into and out of dozens of intense and harrowing situations- and with the recent release of the third game, we at IPGR thought it would be helpful to give you our thoughts on the first game in the series, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.
The game, as I’ve said, is difficult to pigeonhole. Much of the gameplay is spent shooting at enemies. Uncharted features the ever-present one-touch cover system, but executed so fluidly that many of the issues present with the system in other games are almost nonexistent. Headshots, realistically, are always a one-shot kill (disregarding enemies with helmets, which require another shot to knock off). The shooting controls are excellent. The auto-aim on running-and-gunning is just inaccurate enough to discourage you from using it except in emergencies or for tactical positioning, and the two-button point and shoot controls for aimed fire make you feel like a total sharpshooter. The controls, however, are not perfect. Early games for the PS3 are marred by forced usage of the Sixaxis controls, and Uncharted is no exception. Grenades, aimed entirely through motion control, are maddeningly difficult to use, and as such I rarely did.
The shooting sequences are almost always bookended by platforming ones. Nathan Drake is by far the world’s greatest parkour master, able to leap the most massive chasms, swing from vines, and cling fast to the tiniest ledges. Naughty Dog’s roots are deeply entrenched in platforming, and it shows- but their experience making non-realistic, over-the-top platformers is evident as well. The obstacles are always interesting and sometimes it may take three or four attempts to find the correct path through them. All the while, Nate makes completely unrealistic jumps and grabs. In short, the platforming is fun, but definitely breaks the immersion somewhat.
Speaking of immersion, the setting and feel of the game lead me to classify it overall as “action-adventure,” despite the shooting and platforming elements. The game’s strongest aspect lies in its ability to keep you on the edge of your seat. Nate always seems completely pushed to his limits and in over his head, and he always just manages to come out alive in the end. The game is paced extraordinarily well, with something new and exciting around every curve. It feels for all the world like a summer blockbuster action movie- like the Indiana Jones game LucasArts never gave us. There’s also a collection element, which feels fairly inconsequential, but it definitely contributes to the action-adventure “explore and climb everything” feeling.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was released nearly four years ago, hitting shelves just in time for the holiday season of 2007, and for a four-year-old game, it’s still looking pretty great. The environments are particularly magnificent and the character models are pleasing. You will certainly spend a lot of time looking at jungle scenery, but at least it’s pretty jungle scenery. It’s not all excellent, though: a lot of the animations are uneven and choppy, particularly during platforming sequences and explosions.
The protagonists are priceless. Nate Drake is absolutely hilarious, his banter inspiring real, from-the-gut laughter. Whether he’s wondering about how he managed to get into this mess, laughing at some bad guy he just shot in the head, or screaming “SHIT” at the top of his lungs, he is absolutely full of charm and humour. Elena Fisher breaks the mold on a lot of female leads in video games and action movies by being a badass in and of herself- less a damsel-in-distress type and more of the blowing-things-up-with-a-rocket-launcher type. Victor Sullivan, known as “Sully”, is crass, crude, and sarcastic, with some of the game’s best one-off lines. Conversely, the villains lack depth. But what can you expect from action villains? This lack of depth is definitely reflected in the game’s “final boss”, which is nothing special whatsoever.
Long story short, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is still a good game, even by today’s standards, and is worth a play if you’ve never touched the series. If you’ve already played the second one, the first is rough enough around the edges by comparison that you might find playing it somewhat of a challenge.
Overall Score: 86. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a lot of fun, and has a lot of really good things going for it. It’s starting to show its age a little, particularly against some of the really polished games coming out now, andespecially when compared to its sequel, but it’s still a solid choice if you’re looking for something to occupy your weekend.
Genre Score (Action-Adventure): 90. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is riveting and intense from the first minute to the last. It’s almost like you’re playing a movie, in all the good ways.