Uncharted is a game that you should play at some point
By now, the Uncharted series has amassed some serious fame. Uncharted 2, in particular has received critical acclaim for being one of the most exciting and best-looking adventure games in recent years. However, its predecessor, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is definitely worth checking out as well, and if you're wondering why this game is regarded a classic from the PS3's earlier days, I'm about to explain just that. It's a piece of entertainment that's not to be missed.
Uncharted allows you to take control of the audacious Nathan Drake, a first-class tomb raider with the ability to raise his brows to amazing heights at the many ridiculous and hilariously dangerous situations he keeps on finding himself in. He is developer Naughty Dog's brilliant answer to Tomb Raider, the series which it most noticeably draws inspiration from. Whereas Lara Croft was a confident—and voluptuous—archeologist that wanted to bereave the ancient civilizations' valuable relics for scientific purposes only, (a point furthered by her extreme Britishness, because everyone knows British people mean well) such ethics don't bother Nathan. He seeks treasure for the sole purpose of selling it off and receiving some serious dough for it. That this trait does not make him feel repulsive at all, is thanks to the brilliant writing that is present. Drake is aided in his quest by a pretty blonde reporter who wishes to make a story out of it all, and the grumpy, experienced grey-haired veteran Sully. One might immediately think of the usual stereotypes when while reading this, but the interaction between these three is well-done enough to make the whole thing believable. Drake's Fortune is a modern Indiana Jones movie, which is exactly what Naughty Dog set out to do, and the highest compliment I can give it.
The Tomb Raider comparisons don't stop there. Just like in that iconic series, finding valuable artifacts requires a good handle on how to kill the other relic raiders and a large amount of upper-body strength. Those ancients sure did a fine job of setting complicated booby traps to protect their sacred gold! Nathan will either be climbing some structure, or shooting up other people who are attempting to find whatever he's after. Why his reasons for attaining said object would be any better than the opposition's is never really touched upon, but it's impossible not to sympathize with Nathan Drake, as he gets past each pickle by the seat of his pants.
The game divides these sections pretty clearly. Most combat encounters simply have you bursting into a room and waking up every enemy unit in the area, who will rush you, shoot at you and take a lot of bullets. Bullet sponge doesn't begin to describe it, to the point where I found myself bored with the whole ordeal. Adversaries take cover and throw grenades, and generally act with a decent amount of intelligence. By no means are they particularly smart, but there's definitely worse AI out there in third-person action games. One thing that does stick out is their tendency to flank you, but completely ignore cover while doing so. They'll try to get behind you, but then they seem to forget what cover is and just stand there, shooting you, waiting to be killed once you notice them. If you included the ability for enemies to get the drop on you, at least try to have them be consistent in terms of tactics while doing so. The game can also be pretty frustrating on Normal difficulty: while the enemies feel like they take forever to kill, Nathan can keel over pretty quickly, which led to some frustrating moments. The gunplay is serviceable, but not what I enjoyed the most.
Thankfully, the platforming is done quite well. Nathan lacks the gadgets Lara Croft employs, such as grapples and the like, but he can get around pretty well too. The standard array of moves are featured here. Nathan Drake can jump, grab onto stuff, shimmy, climb ropes and spout one-liners all the while. There were some minor flaws in the environment design that occasionally had me convinced I had to go one way, when the actual route lay elsewhere. Random bouts of jumping and climbing to get to places are also broken up by rooms which have the player solving a puzzle of sorts. The moments of block-pushing are pretty rare, but there are plenty of levers to be flipped and Sir Francis Drake's diary, which Drake finds early on in the game serves as a guide to most of the solutions. It's unfortunate, therefore, that the gunplay is focused upon way more. The platforming feels like a path to more fighting, when I feel it should have been the other way around. It's unfortunate the game fails to lean on its stronger points.
There's no denying, however, that Uncharted: Drake's Fortune looked fantastic back when it came out, and it still an impressive piece of entertainment to look at. The subtle bloom, the fantastic enviroments, the great character models and especially the animations make other games from that period look bad. The first Uncharted was one of those games that showed off just what the Playstation 3 is capable of, and the evidence of its power is just as impressive here, even if the game has obviously been surpassed by more recent games, such as God of War III, Gears of War 2, and of course, Uncharted 2. Gamers often claim that gameplay is infinitely more important than graphics, and they're probably right to an extent, but a good-looking game can really lift gameplay and the package as a whole to a significantly higher level, a sentiment this game is a testament to.
The best way to sum up Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, is to call it a rollercoaster adventure. Provided you play the game, which you most definitely should, you'll get thrown from one crazy situation into the next, shooting dudes, leaping off ledges, opening ancient Aztec doors that haven't been opened for significant amount of time and marveling at how far gaming has come in the technical department. While it was arguably surpassed in every way by its successor (as any good sequel ought to attempt), Drake's Fortune is one of those games that may just turn out to be timeless. It's got the looks, it's got an entertaining story and it has gameplay that is pretty fun throughout. As someone who always weighs his options when he makes a game purchase, I can tell you I did not regret buying Uncharted one bit, and I'm guessing you won't either. Go play it.