RELEASED: November 2007
AVAILABLE ON: PS3
DEVELOPER(S): Naughty Dog
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment
By 1996, Naughty Dog had been around in some shape or form for 12 years, but their first true hit was released around that time - Crash Bandicoot for the Sony PlayStation. A platformer with a titular character that was somewhat of a mascot for Sony as Sonic the Hedgehog was for Sega, and as Mario was for Nintendo. I believe you all know the story. After giving up on their involvement with Crash, Naughty Dog went on to create the successful Jak and Daxter series. At some point, Naughty Dog became driven by a new ambition; to break out of their overtly family-friendly mold. They wanted to create a bombastic action game that wouldn't be shunned by older players as just another kids' game. When the PlayStation 3 came out in 2006, Naughty Dog announced Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. Not much was known about this game, except that it was to be a highly cinematic action game deeply influenced by the adventures of Indiana Jones. As the release date of November 2007 drew closer, the hype grew stronger. Up 'til that point, the PlayStation 3 hadn't been doing too well when it came to exclusive titles. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was greeted by universal acclaim, and it was the beginning of one of today's biggest and most popular action franchises. Since it's so accessible and easy to play, many of my friends have asked me what's so special about Uncharted. My answer: a lot of things. After five years, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is still one of the best PlayStation 3 exclusives out there... not to mention one of the best looking ones.
Raiders of the lost art of simple gameplay
Nathan Drake - perhaps a little overambitious, but multi-skilled and extremely resourceful treasure hunter with an amazing wit - is out to find El Dorado, the lost city of gold, using a diary left behind by his supposed ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. Accompanied by his best friend and mentor Victor "Sully" Sullivan and the beautiful reporter Elena Fisher, Nate embarks on an epic adventure involving a rival band of treasure hunters, as well as the deadly, unearthly guardians of El Dorado.
|Our amazing male leads...|
The story's good, but if you're being honest to yourself, the story of Uncharted doesn't really matter. I mean, you don't necessarily have to know the purpose behind each twist and turn in the storyline - you don't have to really squint and struggle to keep up with what's happening. Nathan Drake gets thrown in such epic stipulations you don't really care what's going on, as long as it keeps going on... as well as Nate's hilarious monologue. Nathan Drake is one of this generation's greatest action heroes; although he's clearly an exaggerated character when it comes to his ridiculously amazing ability to scale walls - like Spider-Man on steroids - everything else on the side shows that he's human. He curses at sticky situations and constantly rants to himself, or to his companion if he happens to have one, he stumbles while running, sweats and breathes heavily, and truly fears for his life in most of the game's situations. I guess he could carry the game all by himself, but he's backed up by some of the greatest supporting characters in the history of cinematic gaming, the greatest of which is Victor Sullivan - kind of underutilized until the third game in the series.
|...And the girl of my dreams, all in the same game.|
This was Greg Edmonson's first video game. Being most famous for composing music for the TV shows King of the Hill and Firefly, there were no realistic expectations towards the guy's work at all, especially since Uncharted was a new franchise. From the beginning, it's made clear where this score's influences spawn from and how great and epic it's gonna be; the Uncharted theme is one of the most recognizable theme songs today, and when I think about it, Uncharted is also one of the only modern game franchises that HAS a theme song. Musical cues are right on the spot, great sound effects take care of the rest... as well as remarkably good voice acting.
In November 2007, two games came out with Nolan North in a starring role - both ended up being the first installments in soon-to-be best-selling franchises. The other was Assassin's Creed, the other was of course Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. It's no wonder Nolan North's been in just about every game released since - the guy's phenomenal. He uses ad-libbing for Nate, which is totally unheard of in this business, and makes the character seem 100% real. Emily Rose does a fine job as my polygonal daydream Elena Fisher, and one must never forget to mention Richard McGonagle as Sully. As a lifelong fan of Simon Templeman's work, I must also mention him, but his performance left me surprisingly cold in this game. He's less the root of all evil, and more of an annoying bastard.
|Nate doesn't know how to use a doorknob.|
It ain't all about headshots, though. A great deal of the game is about puzzles - which are way too easy since the game has no patience at all when it comes to hints you cannot turn off - and Nathan's tendency (I refuse to call it an actual need) to scale walls and whatever's in the environment instead of looking for a way to bust open a more obvious and safe path to his destination. This game was not made for people scared of heights - or maybe it was made for them in particular, I don't know. Anyway, seeing Nathan hang from a flimsy rope and swing along a partly corrupted castle wall to make it to a window on the opposite side of the stronghold with a hundred feet of air beneath him makes you wish for people to just leave their doors open.
|The sweeter side of vehicular combat in this game.|
What are the flaws of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune? They do exist. The game has awkward pacing. The intro sequence is all about combat basics, but it'll take hours for the next combat sequence to turn up. There's a lot of those easy-as-hell puzzles and in-depth introduction of the main characters in between. It's great at first, but not that great on subsequent playthroughs. The second half of the game is almost all about combat. It feels like you're thrown from one ridiculous situation to another, and both the puzzles and the spot-on dialogue, even the climbing, take a backseat. I'm also not a huge fan of the vehicle levels in the middle of the game - sometimes it feels like the chemistry between Nate and his companions is the only thing keeping me going for something better. Last, we have the lack of boss fights - which is actually a good thing, they don't really belong here, but the only real boss fight in the game, the final battle, could be better. They had all the opportunity to make the fight count for all the missing boss fights, but it's actually just a run-of-the-mill "catch the bad guy" type of fight, which can easily be over in two minutes if you rule at the game. At least this is what I felt when I first completed the game - having a real fight for your life in the end of Uncharted 2 against a superhuman kind of made me miss this more realistic battle.
|Back off, Mr. T. This fool's got a gun.|
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is what I'd call a true modern classic, a beautiful start to a beautiful franchise. Assuming you've never gotten familiar with the Uncharted series and want to start from the beginning, you're going to find one damn great game in Drake's Fortune. It's a little outdated, but like I said, not much - it's still an amazing experience, which paved the way for a not only even better, but more daring game.
- Nathan Drake
- Nate, Sully and Elena form one of the greatest teams in video game history as the game progresses
- The game is simple to play, very accessible and easy to learn
- The game looks and sounds nearly flawless, even after five years on the market; extremely high production values for a new franchise
- Lots of unlockables for the most enthusiastic players, last of which are left for those worthy enough to beat Crushing Mode (haven't been able to, myself)
- The pacing's off when it comes to fair division between combat and adventure
- The puzzles are too easy, and even if you turn the hint system off, there's usually something or someone in the environment just blurting out the solution before you can even think things through
- The controls are occasionally clumsy; taking cover is unnecessarily hard in all the wrong situations, and trick jumping in certain areas can certainly spell your downfall
- Non-English versions of the game have crappy subtitles, which are based on the written script instead of what's actually happening in the game; lots of misinterpretations, which annoy and amuse the player at the same time
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