It's obvious Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was made by a veteran studio. It controls fairly well, the musical score is solid (if a little bit generic), the engine is impressive, the writing is snappy, the acting is almost universally great, and the facial animation tech still holds up. I watched the bonus features diving into their rendering and animation tech (I'm a sucker for that stuff), and it's clear a ton of time and attention went into this game. What they were able to achieve on the PS3 (which at the time was causing grief for many developers) with an engine that must have begun development with early development kits is awe-inspiring.
But when it comes down to playing it, Uncharted isn't fun. It's billed as an action-adventure, but it's really a repetitive, second-rate cover-based shooter unevenly speckled with some awkward climbing and insultingly easy puzzles. The lion's share of the game is an incessant string of combat sequences with a meager drip of "you need to go here" MacGuffins. In the (surprisingly uncommon) climbing sections, I often found myself having no idea where I was supposed to be going and frequently made unclear jumps into cheap deaths. The game is at its best at the very beginning (when the story is unfolding and you're experiencing new things) and in the final few areas, at which time the game finally sees fit to throw some wrenches into the "enter an open area and shoot the same identical handful of enemies while cursing the broken-ass cover system and gameplay systems that force you to sit in cover and exploit the AI" formula it perfects over 5+ hours of almost nothing substantial happening. It's telling that I found myself checking the percentage meter in the save file when I was well under halfway through the game.
Even the game's cutscenes aren't what they're cracked up to be. Again, the animation and motion capture is impressive, but let's be real, if this game were a movie, it wouldn't be a particularly good one. I'm sick of games getting a free pass for making inspired attempts at emulating uninspired summer blockbusters, and impressive technology doesn't mean anything if it's being used to tell an unimpressive story. The story was fine by (fairly low) video game standards, but it isn't anything I haven't seen before, and it didn't really take any unexpected turns.
I'm of the opinion that Uncharted's reception was emblematic of some of the worst manifestations of the hype cycle and blind spot for "cinematic" games in the gaming press -- very few outlets looked at this game with the kind of critical eye they should have as professional critics. To his credit, Ryan Davis (then at GameSpot) gave Uncharted an 8, one of the lowest scores handed to the game. I'm sure at the time he (and GameSpot) took hell for it, but in hindsight, he was generous. I don't think this game would have received even a fraction of the accolades it did if it hadn't looked so good for the time and didn't come out at a time when the PS3 was in dire need of a flagship exclusive. Good games have relevance beyond ephemeral graphical excellence and their role in the early lineup of a struggling system. I don't think anyone will give Uncharted a lot of thought as the PS3 fades into console history.
Uncharted isn't a bad game, but I also don't think it's a particularly good game. I came into it expecting a lot more than what I found considering it's one of the most significant games of the generation. This is, of course, my opinion, but I think if a lot of people went back and played it with fresh eyes, they might also be puzzled by its positive reputation, not to mention the 88 metascore it received.
(Yes, I know Uncharted 2 and 3 are better. I'm not so soured on the franchise as to totally give up on it, and my PS3 came with Uncharted 3.)