Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune // PS3
October 17, 2009
At the beginning of this week, knowing Uncharted’s high-scoring sequel was being released on Friday, I decided that it was about time I finally picked up the original adventure, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, having only played one PS3 exclusive during my short time as a PlayStation owner. What followed was a week of sheer admiration and utter frustration at Naughty Dog’s action adventure epic.
See the picture above. Nathan Drake, the hero of the story, is holding a pistol. He’s holding this during the opening sequence of the game, where you are required to fend off pirates who are after the coffin of Sir Francis Drake, which has literally just been unearthed from the sea by ‘Nate’. After this high-action opening sequence, ostensibly a tutorial in order to familiarise the player with the controls, Drake puts his pistol away for the next hour, and the game is much stronger for it. Where Uncharted shines is in the adventuring sequences, where you are asked to jump, shimmy, swing and roll your way across beautiful environments in order to find the path forward. This is what Tomb Raider must have felt like – a liberating, exhilarating joy-ride that invokes memories of classic Indiana Jones games. Of course, the astounding success of that franchise had little to do with this gameplay and more to do with a massive pair of CG-generated tits. Uncharted stands and falls on it’s own merits, without resorting to such a cheap marketing tactic.
Where the game stumbles, however, is in it’s combat sequences, when Nate is ambushed by waves upon waves if enemies, each seemingly made of anything but human flesh as six bullets in the chest is still not enough to bring them down. Add in the occasional brute with a rocket launcher which will slay you in one shell, when you have no idea that he’s even there, and you have yourself a recipe for bouts of frustration, especially when you have spent the last five minutes methodically taking down each enemy, only for the last one to finish you off and start you right back at the start of the extended, never-ending firefight.
The protracted shooting sections are at odds with a story that otherwise cracks along at a brisk pace and has all the plot twists, dramatic crescendos and witty banter between it’s stars to round out a successful action movie. The world that Naughty Dog has rendered only heightens this feeling – Uncharted is a very pretty game, and is a testament to the developer’s talent that even two years after it’s release it is still one of the most eye-poppingly good-looking titles I’ve played. Nathan Drake himself, voiced by Nolan North, is a very likeable lead, mixing bravado with bluff and bluster, and tossing off a well-timed one-liner as readily as he does a grenade. His counterpoint, Elena Fisher, a journalist who is along for the ride and capturing footage of Nathan Drake’s obsession (El Dorado), provides a romantic subplot which is oftentimes executed with genuine humour. It’s a shame that all games are not as well-written and superbly acted as this.
At the end of the game, after we have navigated Nate through a variety of jaw-dropping environments, it’s a shame that the climax is a bit of a damp squib; but then the game is striving for realism, and an enormous boss character is not in keeping with Naughty Dog’s vision for this series. Frustrating firefights aside, Uncharted’s execution more than lives up to this vision, it exceeds it; and leaves behind a game destined to become a classic. The final credits rolled just in time for the release of it’s sequel for me, and an all-new adventure to guide our hero through. It’s got a lot to live up to, that’s for sure.