Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

December 13, 2007

Nathan Drake, a modern day fortune hunter, raises the sarcophagus of his famous ancestor Sir Francis Drake from the bottom of the ocean only to find a coffin with a journal in it where a body should be. This discovery starts off a series of events that will go through the jungles of South America to an uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean in search of the legendary gold of El Dorado. But as Nathan gets closer to his goal more questions arise as to what happened to the once populated island and whether it has anything to do with the curse of El Dorado.

Playing out almost perfectly, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune looks and feels like a well-conceived action adventure movie complete with memorable characters and enemies, and showcasing the production team who spared no expense to create a polished, good-looking game. Part of the draw of the game is the leading character, the archetype “everyman”, Nathan Drake strikes the right level of charisma, bravado and klutziness to make you identify with and ultimately root for him. Combine that with well written dialogue and crazy situations and you can’t not want to be this guy.

Gameplay focuses on two separate phases with exploration/puzzle solving and gun battles. Looking at the exploration you can’t help but compare the game to Tomb Raider as you enter a room and try to find the best path towards your exit. Usually this is accomplished with manipulation of levers, or by scaling around the room on hand ledges to get to your goal. The puzzles don’t ever get to the hard level, although there are a couple that will have you scratching your head. The true challenge of the game comes from the frequent gun fights, luckily you can always tell one is about to begin by all the extra ammo and cover scattered around the room. Here U:DF really shines with an involved third-person shooting system with effective duck-and-cover mechanics that can really turn the tide if used properly. Or if you choose, you can take a run-and-gun mentality by getting closer to your targets and shooting from the hip without holding the L1 aiming button while using more ammunition. Either way the battles are a high point of the game and the most dramatic difference between the optional difficulty levels.

The controls are mostly intuitive for the situations but took a little time for me to master, especially the duck and cover routine which left you exposed as you lined up your shot. Many times in the later levels this was the death of me as the enemy snipers didn’t take as long as I did to find my target. Interspersed throughout the game there are random cut-scene button prompt sections and vehicle levels that require different coordination as you pilot your jet ski and try to take aim and shoot at objects. Beyond that, there are a few interesting uses of the SIXAXIS motion sensing to ward off attacking enemies and throwing of grenades to get good use out of the controller.

Graphics are some of the best that the Playstation 3 has to offer; the maps are gorgeous and lighting effects are almost perfect. From the open jungle where the sun filters through the canopy and the grass sways in the breeze to the dark underground tombs where all you have to light the way is your flashlight, the graphics perfectly capture the details of the environment heightening the sense of realism in the game. Add superb voice acting and an orchestra score and you have a solid game all around.

Looking at U:DF you can almost tell that production team of Naughty Dog set out to prove something as they stepped up from cartoony games to more serious fare. And proved it they did, creating a fully formed and detail rich game that really makes you feel like you are playing a Hollywood blockbuster movie with all the fun, excitement and wit thrown in. In fact, I believe Naughty Dog has done the impossible to create the first must-have PS3 game that isn’t just necessary for PS3 consumers to buy, but rather, people without must buy the system to experience.

Score: 5/5

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