Thunderbolt logo

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

After many months of waiting, the PS3 finally has a game to be proud of. So far, few games have been able to tempt gamers into picking up Sony’s system, but now they’re joined by Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. For all the game starved PS3 owners, it’s almost like Christmas has come early. First impressions of the game will likely to be the same among everyone; even non gamers will pick up on the Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones references that appear everywhere throughout the game. While Uncharted may have taken cues from every other big adventure title out there, it all comes together surprisingly well.

screenshot

Uncharted is developer Naughty Dog’s (Jak & Daxter, Crash Bandicoot) 10th game and their first for the PlayStation 3, expectations were especially high considering Naughty Dog’s track record is a notably strong one that has yet to disappoint. You can tell they wanted to make a good first impression as the introduction certainly catches your attention.

The opening couldn’t be expressed as anything short of cinematic, combining the an emotive musical score with superb visuals to seamlessly create an unforgettable atmosphere. Shortly after, we’re introduced to our two heroes of the story; cocky but charismatic Nathan Drake (the supposed last remaining ancestor of Sir Francis) and the gorgeous Elena Fisher, a sharp minded journalist who has ended up with Drake on his quest to find the remains of his legendary ancestor. Before long the stunning opening sequence is over and the game throws you straight into the action. Being caught in unlicensed waters by pirates isn’t exactly the best situation to be in and you’ll have to quickly fight off your attackers. Thankfully, getting to grips with the controls isn’t too taxing, since this initial encounter acts as a tutorial level.

The first thing you’ll notice after taking control of Drake is how fluid and responsive his animation is. Although not completely lifelike, it certainly looks and feels authentic. The gameplay in Uncharted fairs well against other titles in the genre, borrowing many aspects from the likes of Gears of War and Tomb Raider. The duck and cover system works brilliantly and while it may be déjà vu after playing Rainbow Six: Vegas, it’s certainly a lot better implemented than in other titles out there. Pressing the circle button when you’re next to a wall or object allows Drake to take cover and from there you can either fire blind with the R1 button or time your attacks carefully and choose when to aim and fire with the L1 button. Uncharted has often been criticised for its infuriating fire fights and often resilient enemies, but after playing through the game on both easy and normal difficulty it felt as if the learning curve had been fine tuned and balanced for both new comers and veterans of the genre.

screenshot

Graphically, Uncharted is an absolute tour de force with some of the most detailed and downright gorgeous environments yet seen on Sony’s console. There is never a dull moment in Drake’s adventure; the jungle atmosphere is wonderfully realized with lush and vast tropical environments at every turn. You may feel that Tomb Raider has set the standard template for the action adventure genre over the years, but it’s almost as if Naughty Dog has beaten them at their own game. Crystal Dynamics certainly have a worthy competitor when they go back to the drawing board for Lara’s next outing. The game’s many story-driven cut scenes are superbly animated and often engrossing. On a first glance, you wouldn’t be criticised for mistaking it for a CGI movie, but closer inspection does reveal your usual console traits such as screen tearing and jagged edges. Overall the game’s cinematics look and sound like a Hollywood movie; characters are lifelike and full of expression while the game’s voice actors do an excellent job in breathing life into their roles.

Uncharted’s gameplay isn’t all linear fire fights either; there’s plenty of platforming to be had for those that relish Tomb Raider style jumping and problem solving. Whilst the puzzles in Uncharted aren’t quite as complex as those seen in games such as Broken Sword, they are still a nice distraction when you’re not pumping pirates full of lead or leaping for the next death-defying obstacle. The puzzles tend to be your standard fare, usually involving following a certain path or moving objects about in order to proceed. These can be fun but it’s hard to feel satisfied after solving these riddles as Drake’s notebook (viewable by pressing the select button when prompted) pretty much solves them for you from the get go.

Uncharted also has a number of vehicle sections, which normally spells disaster for adventure games, but Naughty Dog has pulled them off surprisingly well. The most notable of these is the jeep chase half way through the game, where you’ll find yourself ploughing through the jungle, blowing up pretty much anything that moves. It’s simplistic from a gameplay perspective, but it’s moments like these that really shine. You also get to take control of a Jet Ski with Elena providing the fire power from behind and while these sections are visually pleasing, the handling is pretty clunky which can lead to some very frustrating deaths.

screenshot

Uncharted has come as a real surprise for everyone, not only because the majority of big PS3 games like Heavenly Sword been a disappointment, but because entirely unoriginal games aren’t often good. While the game’s endless repetitive enemies and often flawed fighting system are among the issues that keep Uncharted from being perfect, the unexpected plot twist around 80% into the game comes just at the right time. It’s at this point when the old pirates start to take their toll and it appears Naughty Dog realised this. The result is Uncharted sporting one of the coolest enemy transitions I have seen in an action game yet. This certainly keeps you on your toes for the rest of the game right up to its climatic and surprisingly satisfying ending.

Uncharted isn’t a long game; it’s certainly becoming an unwelcome trend as of late for games to be around 8 hours in length and sadly Uncharted follows suit. This would have been a problem was it not for how enjoyable your time will be, the game also luckily sports a fair amount of replay value. Chances are you will want to go back and collect treasures that you missed first time round as well as beat some of the harder achievement points the game has on offer. Uncharted is a superb but linear action adventure that doesn’t last too long, but anyone with a PS3 or even a soft spot for a grand adventure should definitely check out it.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in January 2008.

Gentle persuasion

Think you can do better? Write for us.