Review by CrimsonGear80

"LAWLZ, its Gears Of Dude Raider! lololo-*gets dropkicked in the face*"

Indeed.

After much hype, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is finally upon us. Amazingly, this is the first PS3 game I can remember that didn't suffer from any type of spirit-crushing delay. Anyway, just like brothers-in-arms Insomniac games, Naughty Dog decided to make their first PS3 game a brand-new IP. Well, just like Insomniac, ND have made an excellent action-adventure game that PS3 owners would be proud to include in their libraries. Read on to see why this should be one of the games on top of your Christmas list.

(Interestingly enough, both original IP's by Insomniac and Naughty Dog have main characters named “Nate”. But that's a discussion for another time, I suppose.)

A FORTUNE IN “STORY”

Players climb into the globetrotting shoes of Nathan Drake, an adventuring who claims to be a descendent of the great Sir Frances Drake. With his cigar-chomping friend Sully and TV host Elena tagging along, Nate attempts to find Frances Drake's greatest treasure: El Dorado, the lost city of gold. Their search will lead them to an uncharted tropical island where the treasure is supposedly hidden. However, it's not that easy for Nate and company, as Sully owes money to a very crafty British explorer, and he has hired an army of modern-day pirates to stop our heroes dead in their tracks and claim the treasure for himself.

An entertaining, if a little hack-eyed, story that pays homage to all the adventure films that helped inspire it, but the story works well because Nate and crew are all extremely likable people. Nate is the wise-cracking, one-liner dropping hero that we all root for, Sully is that loveable old man who tells stories about his past and complains about being too old for this stuff, and Elena is a determined and tough heroin who will do anything to get what she wants (in this case, juicy TV show footage). You'll definitely feel attached to these guys and want to play through till the end to see if they succeed in their adventure. That, and…

A FORTUNE IN “GAMEPLAY”

Uncharted's gameplay is broken down into three categories: platforming, puzzle solving, and combat. Since combat makes up the bulk of Nate's adventure, let's start with that. While moving Nate around the beautiful jungle, crypt, and ruins that inhabit the island, he'll get into many scuffles with the modern-day pirates that Sully's debt-collector hired to take him out. Nate can carry a handgun, a secondary weapon like a shotgun and assault rifle, and four grenades on him at all times, and they are easily selected by using the d-pad on the controller. You acquire new weapons and ammo by picking them up off the ground after you defeat a foe. Nate can fire his weapon with the R1 button, and he'll automatically target whoever is closest to him. However, the pirates he faces are cunning and well armed, and fighting them this way usually leads to certain death. Good thing for Nate, Uncharted implements an excellent, fun-to-use cover based and aiming system. (I would bring up the references to “Gears Of War”, but I have never played it, so I'll just keep my mouth shut”).

Nate can manually aim his weapon by holding the L1 button, which zooms in right behind his shoulders RE4-style (Resident Evil 4 has done a lot for action gaming, hasn't it?) By clicking the Left stick, or L3 button, you can switch his viewpoint between his shoulders. Now then, by pressing circle near almost any solid object, Nate will take cover behind it, allowing him to blind fire and pop up/to the side and take shots at his foes by holding the L1 button. Releasing L1 will cause Nate to take cover again. Nate will also roll and run from cover to cover by pressing circle and pointing him towards where you want him to move. Battles are fought like this until all of your enemies are dead. Now while some people may think this sounds boring and repetitive, well it isn't. The pirates you'll be facing have incredible AI, on par with games like Call Of Duty 4. They will flank you, flush you out of cover with grenades, and the shotgun-toting ones will even rush at you from all sides. The AI definitely makes for some intense, challenging battles and keeps the combat experiences fresh almost everytime. Now some people may still find fighting the same pirates over and over boring, well then Naughty Dog threw in a surprise for you as you get close to the end of the game. I won't say anything about it, but I will say that Nate's auto-aiming might just come in handy after all…

Other combat techniques Nate will use include hand-to-hand fisticuffs with his opponent. When you get close enough to an enemy, press the square button to enter melee combat. You can then mash the square button to perform a quick 5-hit combo, or you can enter in the square, triangle, square input for a brutal combo. The benefits of doing a brutal combo include a cool finishing animation that Nate will do to his opponent, and it will award Nate double the ammo from the defeated foe's gun. Sneaking up behind enemies and pressing square will have Nate break their necks, while running at them full speed and hitting square will, you guessed it, have Nate dropkick them in the face. I also like how if you enter melee combat near a wall or ledge, Nate will push his foes against it while he punches their lights out. I though it was a nice little touch:)

Uncharted also throws in a couple of changes of pace in the combat, including a level where Nate mans a heavy machine gun on the back of a moving jeep, and a couple levels where you drive a jet-ski up a river while Elena rides shotgun with a grenade launcher blowing away enemies. Speaking of Elena and Sully, their will be times in the game where one of them will accompany you while you fight off pirates, and I'm happy to say that they sport some fine AI as well. They'll take cover and basically shoot enemies and, get this, actually KILL them as well!! I checked the game box a couple times to make sure I wasn't playing Call Of Duty 4, I tells ya! Still, as much as I love the games combat, there is one annoyance that I must address: exploding barrels. Haven't bad guys in video games learned yet that placing these around in random places just isn't a good idea? Seriously, if I want to blow up enemies, I'll use grenades and skill, but I'm sick of the cliched exploding barrels already.

Now then, let's talk about the platforming segments. Now here is where the “Tomb Raider” references come in, but platforming isn't really like TR at all. In Tomb Raider, jumps and climbing and such require precision and perfect timing, otherwise you'll face certain death. I would more akin Uncharted's platforming to a Prince Of Persia game, as guiding Nate across platforms and ledges moves very fluently and at a very fast pace. Just like the nimble Prince, Nate jumps gaps and shimmies ledges with the greatest of ease. It's very rare to die or get lost while doing the platforming bits, but if you do the game will prompt you to press L2, which causes Nate to look in the direction of where he needs to jump, climb, or whatever. While the segments are very fun and remind me of a Prince Of Persia game, one of the annoyances I have with Uncharted is that there isn't enough of them. Combat is definitely the main show here and it is great, but I would have loved it if they added more climbing, jumping, and exploring because it also works very well. The same thing befalls the games puzzles. When you run into one, the game prompts you to press select to view Sir Frances Drakes journal, which gives you painfully easy to figure out clues to solve the puzzle. I would have liked to spend more than five minutes trying to solve these puzzles, but since Uncharted wanted to have that fast paced action movie feel, spending a lot of time on the puzzles just wouldn't cut it.

SIXAXIS control is also implemented in the game, but not really all that much. You'll use it to balance Nate on some ledges, control how far you throw your grenades, and shake off the…whoa, I'll stop right there. You'll also run into some "press the button on screen" style cut-scenes similar to what you'd see in God Of War. There's only a few, though.

In a nutshell, Naughty Dog nailed the fast paced action movie, uh, action perfectly in Uncharted, even though some bits saw some small sacrifices.

A FORTUNE IN “GRAPHICS”

WOW.

Uncharted is the best looking PS3 game to date, and to tell you the truth it's the best looking game I have ever seen. The environments are all lavish, beautiful, artistic, and they seem to come to life. The jungles, ruins, crypts, fortresses, and other places you'll encounter on the island are breathtaking. Excellent lighting and textures are, well, just plain excellent. Great water effects as well. Character models are highly impressive, and cut-scenes are filled with phenomenal animation and motion capture. Some of the most impressive stuff though is the little things. The way Nate's shirt crinkles with every step he takes, or the way only his pants get wet if he's walking waist deep in water. Maybe his cringing facial animations as he takes fire from behind cover, or the way he flails his arms and legs about when he makes a jump. I can go on and on, but I'll leave it to you to experience this beautiful game yourself. I should also point out that besides loading up a game and a few seconds before a cut-scene, there are NO loading times in Uncharted. Zero. All done without installing any data on the HDD. Truly impressive.

Still, some wrinkles have to show up on even the most beautiful faces. The wrinkles on Uncharted come in the form of screen tearing. While not as bad like in Heavenly Sword or Assassin's Creed, it can become noticeable in some areas. Still, it's not noticeable enough to keep this game's immense beauty down. HD please!

A FORTUNE IN “SOUND”

Maybe not as impressive as the graphics, but still excellent nonetheless. The sounds of the environments, weapons, and the like all get the job done rather well. The music is epic and definitely akin to what you would hear in an adventure flick. Voice acting is extremely well done and the actors definitely give personalities to all the characters. Once again, some of the little things may impress you the most, like Nate mumbling to himself to calm himself down, or complaining about having to traverse yet another ledge. This is also the first PS3 game I have played to support DTS surround sound, so big plus there.

A FORTUNE WORTH DISCOVERING

Although the main game may take most people less then 10 hours to complete, Uncharted is a game that begs to be replayed. There are four difficulties to tackle, 60 hidden treasures to find, and medals to unlock by doing various things like getting kills with certain weapons, pulling off headshots, etc. Finding the treasures and unlocking medals gives you points that you use to unlock new outfits, behind the scenes extras, infinite ammo, and lots of other goodies.

So does Uncharted live up to its hype? Definitely. While it may not be wholly original, it is filled with the one thing that games nowadays need to have: pure fun. PS3 owners, it can only get better from here!

KEWL
+Best graphics I have ever seen
+NO load times!
+Gameplay that is pure fun
+Challenging enemy AI
+Smart comrade AI
+Great sound
+Great story with likable characters
+Excellent voice acting and cut-scenes
+Replay value
+It's worth mentioning again: this game is FUN!

LAME
-Would have liked more platforming bits and more challenging puzzles
-Exploding barrels, go away!
-Screen tearing, while not horrible, can be pretty noticeable in some areas.
-“Gears Of Dude Raider” references will most likely never stop, and there aren't enough dropkicks in the face to go around :(


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/27/07, Updated 11/28/07

Game Release: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (US, 11/16/07)


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