This Game Shouldn't Be Left Uncharted
Are you a fan of virtual jungle expeditions, but don't like leaving your cushy leather couch? Do you cosplay as the whip crackin' Indiana Jones? Did you enjoy ogling Lara Croft's enormous breasts in Tomb Raider? If you said yes to at least two of the above, there's a game out there that you have to play. This must-play title is not Indiana Jones for Wii or the latest Crash Bandicoot -- it's Naughty Dog's Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.
Uncharted puts you in the role of Nathan Drake -- a descendant of a famous English explorer (or pirate) known as Sir Francis Drake. The journey begins on a small boat headed towards an island where the legendary treasure of El Dorado is reported to be held. Nathan is accompanied by a female reporter named Elena, whose goal is to get the scoop on this treasure and report back to her news outlet.
After only a moment of peace, the small boat is ambushed by pirates who are intent on taking the vessel down. Nathan and Elena make a narrow escape via airplane, and before you know it, they find themselves in a dense, yet colorful jungle.
El Dorado has been a frequently explored myth for centuries, so Uncharted's premise isn't particularly exciting, but what makes the story special are the game's meticulously detailed environments, wonderful voice acting, and hyper realistic character animations.
Most of us have played a video game with visuals so detailed that they cause us to salivate before, but rarely do we encounter a title this colorful. Unlike games such as Gears of War that mostly focus on darker colors, Drake's Fortune includes a color palette that seemingly makes use of the entire color wheel.
The variety of colors are used to great effect in Drake's Fortune's environments. Not only do players get to spelunk dark caves and ruins, they also have the opportunity to explore brightly colored jungles full of lush vegetation and roaring waterfalls.
Drake's Fortune's environments are brought to life through amazing lighting effects and shadowing, but it's the subtle animations that truly make them believable. Unless a player stops to closely examine the scenery, they likely won't even notice trees swaying in the breeze, and the rippling of water. Environmental objects such as waterfalls are so realistic that you'll never find yourself questioning Drake's world.
Uncharted's natural and human made environments certainly give the game a lifelike feel, but equally important is the game's solid voice acting. Naught Dog handpicked a talented cast that not only read their lines -- they lived them. Okay, so Nathan Drake's voice actor doesn't really climb cliffs and score ten headshots per minute, but he donned a motion capture suit while performing his lines to give the game a more realistic feel. Each voice actor took part in this process, which made for a stunning result: the game's characters were actually believable.
The voice actors' genuine efforts weren't the only thing that contributed to the level of realism found in Uncharted -- the character animations were equally important. These realistic animations including actions such as Drake stumbling when he lands from a jump and the motion of his face made the adventure far more relatable to players. Sure, the stunts the characters performed were still fantastical, but the animations and voice acting made for a truly cinematic, yet interactive experience.
Of course nice visuals are all fine and good, but if the gameplay isn't any fun, players might as well see a movie instead. Thankfully, Drake's Fortune delivers thrilling gameplay that is mostly free of defects.
During the majority of the game, players will take part in two activities: exploring their surroundings and shooting up seemingly endless strings of goons. Okay, so neither of these pursuits sound very original, but it's the level of detail put into each component and the seamless transitions between the two that makes Uncharted special.
Exploring Uncharted's many areas is a joy, because you're rarely spoon-fed what to do. It also helps that there's always some obstacle to overcome. Players will find themselves climbing sheer cliffs, balancing while crossing logs, swinging on vines, and solving numerous environmental puzzles. There's plenty of platforming as well, and there are enough unique puzzles to solve to keep players busy.
Uncharted's dangerous environments are fun to explore, but equally exciting are the numerous shootouts that occur throughout the game. During these sequences, Nathan Drake can fire pistols and automatics, lob grenades, and he can engage in hand-to-hand combat. All standard stuff really. What sets Drake's Fortune apart however, is the unique cover mechanic.
In Uncharted, players can hide behind almost anything simply by pressing circle. They can quickly duck, hide behind a wall, move to another piece of cover, and they can quickly leap over small obstacles. Sure, this cover system is similar to what's found in Gears of War, but it's made better by the game's intelligent enemies.
Your foes will work together to ambush you, they'll hide behind cover, lob grenades your way, and they'll pick you off with a sniper rifle from afar. Most of the time, these fights are frantic affairs that will keep players engaged.
Occasionally, players will also take part in vehicular sequences such as riding in a jeep (come on, every action game has to have one). Even though this is familiar action game fare, it's a welcome change of pace from the regular game. Making enemy jeeps explode and riding jet skis up mini-waterfalls is quite enjoyable due to the fast-paced action and solid controls.
Uncharted has enough gameplay variety to keep most players satisfied, but it's not without its faults. Unfortunately, there are a few frustrating encounters that are made worse by infrequent checkpoints. Sometimes, you'll clear out a dozen enemies only to be ambushed by a dozen more with even better weapons. Getting nailed by a sniper shot, mauled by a monster, or blasted with a shotgun at point blank range after clearing out what seems like an entire battalion can quickly put a normally calm player into a rage. Fortunately, this type of scenario doesn't occur often (at least on Normal), but when it does, it breaks up the flow of the game.
Minor gripes aside, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is one hell of a game. Its story isn't all that original, but the combination of its colorful visuals, lifelike animation, and fantastic voice acting bring life to this cohesive, yet simple tale. These factors along with Uncharted's solid gameplay and fabulous soundtrack make it a must-have PS3 title. If you're a fan of Indiana Jones flicks or anything adventure related, go to the store now and plunk down $30.
· Features some of the most believable characters ever to grace a video game
· Uncharted shows us how voice acting should be done
· Realistic character animations make Drake feel like an ordinary human
· Solid gunplay with a great cover system
· Includes nearly photorealistic environments
· The experience is enhanced by a sweeping musical score and great sound effects
· More checkpoints would be nice
· Some firefights are overly long
· The game could have used more weapon variety. The jet ski sequence wasn't as thrilling as it could have been