I don't think Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a good game

Posted by GrantHeaslip (1662 posts) -

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.)

#1 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1662 posts) -

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.)

#2 Posted by Landon (4164 posts) -

ok

#3 Posted by Fearbeard (834 posts) -

Uncharted 1 isn't that great. Uncharted 2 is vastly superior. Though I enjoyed the characters and story of 1 the gameplay is definitely subpar

#4 Posted by Jeust (10803 posts) -

Personally I loved it. I agree that the gameplay, especially the gunplay related, isn't great, but all the rest about this game and its sequels is great.

#5 Posted by Rohok (554 posts) -

@Jeust said:

Personally I loved it. I agree that the gameplay, especially the gunplay related, isn't great, but all the rest about this game and its sequels is great.

He already acknowledged that, pay attention.

#6 Posted by xaLieNxGrEyx (2605 posts) -

You're repeating things that a lot of us already know.

Also Gears of War 1 in comparison feels outdated and sub-par next to its sequels.

Doesn't make either any less awesome.

#7 Posted by thechronodarkness (294 posts) -

See.... Gears of War 1 is still very impressive now. Technically, its actually better than 2. Toned down alot of the textures to make for a less claustrophobic world.

But uncharted 1 actually isn't a good game. Its an ok one. The music score is very generic. And naughty dog obviously wasn't experienced enough to do shooters. After making platformers... I'll be the first to say, the characters just are not interesting at all. Neither is the story. I played through the entire trilogy, and it remains the same.

Now uncharted 2 still retains alot of the trilogys problems, but the settings worked. To a technical level, its the best the franchise had to offer. The least glitchy, and feels well put together. Die Hard worked because it had huge moments every now and again that made you go.... Woa! But in uncharted, every moment has to be a Woa moment, that just feels forced. Like they're trying to be epic, without being it. Uncharted 3 suffers from this majorly.

#8 Posted by LiquidPrince (16106 posts) -

I disagree.

#9 Posted by JeanLuc (3604 posts) -

I have to disagree. I really like Uncharted 1.

#10 Posted by Hunter5024 (5891 posts) -

I think Uncharted 1 is great, but I understand your opinion sir! Carry on then.

#11 Edited by Jeust (10803 posts) -

@Rohok said:

@Jeust said:

Personally I loved it. I agree that the gameplay, especially the gunplay related, isn't great, but all the rest about this game and its sequels is great.

He already acknowledged that, pay attention.

Actually no. Because he acknowledge the finicky gameplay of the first game, but I raise it to the entire franchise, and say that especially the gunplay related gameplay is, at best, average.

#13 Edited by MegaLombax (419 posts) -

I thought UC1 was pretty average, so much so that I wasn't really hyped when UC2 was announced. When the reviews for UC2 came out and was generally praising the game, I doubted each one of them. I later on decided to buy UC2, and was glad that I gave the UC series a chance. UC2 still stands as one of the best games I've ever played in my life.

#14 Posted by wjb (1687 posts) -

I enjoyed Uncharted at the time, but saying it isn't a great game isn't exactly a bold statement.

#15 Posted by Morningstar (2224 posts) -

I think it's ok, but a little underwhelming indeed.

#16 Posted by BraveToaster (12588 posts) -

I played it for about an hour or two and sent it back to Gamefly.

#17 Posted by captain_clayman (3326 posts) -

it hasnt aged well compared to 2 and 3

#18 Posted by impartialgecko (1697 posts) -

For the time it was impressive. But in 07 people still hadn't managed to copy the Gears cover system properly so any cover-based shooter that actually worked was impressive and even with the first game the series had a tonne of personality. 
Then again, 3 made a lot of the same mistakes as Drake's Fortune did so how much evolution really happened over the course of 4 years?

#19 Posted by ch3burashka (5168 posts) -

@Landon said:

ok

#20 Posted by SimonM7 (129 posts) -

Uncharted absolutely had its problems, but Uncharted 2 did little to address them. The individual components of Drake's Fortune hint at a much more gamey game than Naughty Dog were attempting to make - if we are to take 2 and 3 as indications of what they were gunning for all along - and that promise makes me remember the first game more fondly than either of its sequels. I realise in hindsight that the game they were making wasn't the mindful puzzle solving, taxing platforming and rewarding combat amalgamation I was looking for, but going into Among Thieves I definitely didn't expect it it to pile scripted spectacle on top of virtually the same game. Its prefab "almost misses" and "almost falls" numbing the sense of real, player-dependent urgency and adventure, and its puzzles working on the assumption that you check your convenient in-game instruction manual - effectively turning most of them into distance to be travelled.

There's something to be said for the storytelling aspects of Uncharted 2, however, and it breaks some really cool ground in terms of bringing narration and gameplay together - so much so that the clashes between the two that were left unattended prompted the "Nathan Drake is a psychopath" angle. That, purely because for the first time the rules of the GAME bled into the rules of the NARRATIVE, and that's actually a bit of a compliment. More so than people give it credit for.

Its framing of set pieces and the momentum and cohesion of its "campaign" design is what people respond so positively to over its predecessor, but looking squarely at the part where it's a video game, very few of Drake Fortune's issues are actually resolved with Uncharted 2. They're just spackled over *beautifully*.

#21 Posted by csl316 (9229 posts) -
@MegaLombax

I thought UC1 was pretty average, so much so that I wasn't really hyped when UC2 was announced. When the reviews for UC2 came out and was generally praising the game, I doubted each one of them. I later on decided to buy UC2, and was glad that I gave the UC series a chance. UC2 still stands as one of the best games I've ever played in my life.

Pretty much exactly what I was about to type. Had barely any interest til I saw that helicopter take out the building you were in. And that sweet trailer close to release.
#22 Posted by Soapy86 (2638 posts) -

I don't think any of the Uncharted games are very good. :/

#23 Edited by GunstarRed (5396 posts) -

I thought very, very highly of it when it came out and have not gone back to it since either of the sequels have come out. I still think it has the best story ( as far as silly action adventures go) It is the least set piece-y of the three and felt a little more like a modern Indiana Jones instead of this big epic action blockbuster. At the time its closest comparison gameplay-wise was probably Gears a game I knew I adored, so the bullet spongey nature of the enemies didn't really seem like a problem.

I still think it has the best music of the three, a cool twist (yeah, I loved the part where they introduced the cursed dudes) and some of my favourite moments of dialogue. I liked that Drake was by himself for quite a lot of the game, the sequels in my opinion have far too many characters following you about.

I remember being slightly disappointed when Uncharted 2 came out. I've replayed it twice and yeah, it's god damn awesome, but my memories playing through that don't even come close to the memories I had experiencing Drakes Fortune for the first time.

#24 Posted by NTM (7516 posts) -

This is how it went down for me.

Uncharted comes out, I see it, I couldn't care less about it, it just looked awkward to me. The pictures shown of the game just didn't appeal to me. Over time, in late 2007, I get it, play it, and it was far different than I had expected, but that doesn't necessarily mean good. I get through it, I think "meh", and after I play some other games for a few days, I go back to it and beat it on hard, or whatever the hardest difficulty was, and I was blown away, at the time I felt it was one of the greatest games ever created. I beat it again, and again, and again, and again, it was and still is (I'm pretty sure), an amazing game.

I had been playing on a new PC in 2009, I had just beaten Crysis, at the time, it was my favorite FPS, and it's still one of the best. As the credits were going, it was the same day UC2 game out, so I pop that in, I beat it in one sitting, and I was severely disappointed. It had the great characters, it had great graphics, the sound was mostly great, but I just absolutely disliked the shooting, it felt like there was no impact as I shot someone, that sounds bad, but still. I've tried playing that again and again, it never stuck, so even till this day; I don't think that Uncharted 2's that great of a game. And just a few months back, I finally got Uncharted 3, first time through, amazing game, and still is. And that's my story of Uncharted!

#25 Posted by Brodehouse (10105 posts) -

The first Uncharted is probably my favorite, even if the second is technically better. Fell in love with that game.

#26 Posted by SarjuTheRapper (279 posts) -

i liked it alot and i played it after falling in love with the second one. i regard it as a stepping stone to its greater successors, much like the assassin's creed series

#27 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1662 posts) -

Thanks for the thoughtful replies everyone! I didn't expect to get so much feedback.

@SarjuTheRapper brings up something I meant to bring up in my post: this game and Assassin's Creed have a lot in common. They're both technical marvels that really felt next-gen, severely overhyped, maddeningly repetitive, and games that sounded way better on paper than they actually played. And in each case (assuming Uncharted 2 is the improvement I've heard), they set the stage for more fleshed-out sequels.

#28 Posted by believer258 (12075 posts) -

Yep. That's pretty much my opinion of Uncharted 1.

2 is a vast improvement. I still don't count it as anything more than a game on the low-end of "good" (i.e. it's a solid 3.5 out of 5) but it's definitely an enjoyable experience over the first game.

Online
#29 Posted by lmenzol (271 posts) -

@GrantHeaslip: one of the only ps3 exlusives i liked

#30 Posted by Nodima (1273 posts) -

I totally agree with you, I recently grabbed UC1&2 on the PSN and cruised through them, but both games left me wanting a LOT, especially once I hit their respective plot twists in the final act that were just an excuse to make the enemies way more annoying than they needed to be. I can't think of any other games where I've actually changed the difficulty to Easy (or in Uncharted 2's case Very Easy) just to finish the game. It wasn't a matter of the game getting too hard as much as me simply being bored by its premise. Uncharted initially lured me in through its fun as hell (at the time - that level wasn't as revelatory five years later for obvious reasons) demo but I just never felt comfortable spending $60 on it. At $20 I feel like I more than got what I paid for, sure, but truthfully I was a lot more interested in the first hour or so of the game, where you're wandering locations, learning about the characters and most importantly not killing dudes. It's easy to forget that the first actual action in that game is the MGS-style passenger seat Jeep sequence, which sets a really misleading tone for the rest of the game considering almost every environment from that point on is a river of blood by the time you're done with it.

#31 Posted by Nightriff (5238 posts) -

I understand that 2 and 3 are better in gameplay and set pieces but I still enjoy the first one the most, I think it's because it makes the best of the situation in only being in one location where the other 2 is constant traveling all over the place. If it wasn't for the tanker scene I will argue 3 is worse than 1 (and there is no reason the tanker should be in the game, has nothing to do with the story)

#32 Posted by Bourbon_Warrior (4523 posts) -

I picked up Uncharted 1 when I got a PS3 in 2009 and really enjoyed Uncharted 1, loved the interaction between characters and the graphics where nice. Was the Tomb Raider game I had been waiting for since the PS1 era, but UC2 was fucking mind blowing.

#33 Posted by MikkaQ (10326 posts) -

I don't think it holds up, especially after the refinements made in 2 and 3, but it was a pretty fun game for it's time.

#34 Posted by DarthOrange (3878 posts) -

It looked amazing and had a great story. The gameplay was ok but really does outstay its welcome by the end of the game. I would say it is a good game, just not a great game.

#35 Posted by RE_Player1 (7573 posts) -

I'm about to piss everyone off... 3>1>2

#36 Posted by the_OFFICIAL_jAPanese_teaBAG (4308 posts) -

I really loved the first one for some reason.  I was surprised when I first saw some of the negative reaction towards the first one after the second came out.  

#37 Posted by benspyda (2042 posts) -

It's an average game, I don't normally see many people defend the original that much. I don't think the combat in any of the Uncharted's are that much fun but the spectacle of 2 was an amazing experience.

#38 Edited by DharmaBum (1049 posts) -

The first game had the best chemistry between Drake and Elena, before they started piling on more characters. But the gunplay was always a letdown for me and traversing the environment felt like busywork after a while, no matter how good the game looked in motion.

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