Review by Kiriyama_X
"The best adventure game since the original Tomb Raider"
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
It's hard to believe it's been over a decade since developer Naughty Dog first burst onto the scene with Crash Bandicoot. A game that soon became the face of the original Sony Playstation and went on to become one of the best selling franchises in gaming history. In 2001 they once again gave birth to another multi-million franchise Jax & Daxter for the Playstation 2, and now unbelievably they've managed to top themselves and create by far their most accomplished title ever with Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.
Uncharted follows Nathan Drake, a modern-day fortune hunter who uncovers the coffin of legendary explored Sir Francis Drake. Inside he finds a diary that leads him on the trail of a 400-year-old treasure. Joining him in his escapades are a young bubbly journalist Elena Fisher and cigar chomping B.S.'er extraordinaire Victor Sullivan. Along the way they encounter one outrageous danger after another, exploring derelict tombs, trigger happy mercenaries and other surprises I won't reveal. The story is far-fetched to be sure but it's so alive and energetic, and the characters so likeable that you can't help but love every minute of it. In the same spirit of Romancing the Stone it perfectly blends action, humor and excitement into an edge-of-your-seat experience that you'll be grinning through from start to finish.
The game draws heavy inspiration from Indiana Jones and the original Tomb Raider, yet unlike Lara Croft's recent endeavors Uncharted never loses a step throughout the entire game, and keeps things in the lush jungles and crumbling ruins like it should. The majority of the game is platforming, leaping from one object to another, shimming alongside walls with certain death waiting below and running from deadly booby traps in various environments. The main fault with platformer games is timing your jumps right; most games resort in you having to replay the same section again and again and again until you get that one jump just right. Uncharted ditches this ideology and instead, as long as Drake is facing the right direction, if he jumps, he WILL make it. Some people might complain this takes some of the challenge out of the platforming sequences, and yes in a way it does, but the truth is games don't need to be frustrating to be fun. Naughty Dog wisely understands that the concept of a game is to entertain you, and by making the gameplay forgiving doesn't make it more simplistic, it makes it better in many ways.
When you're not running or hanging on for dear life, you'll be ducking behind cover in heated gunfights. The shooting works in the same vein it did in Gears of War. Drake can utilize various objects for cover before popping out and firing a few shots off, or can blind fire if enemies get too close for comfort. There's a nice variety of firearms available, from assault rifles, shotguns and even grenade launchers. You can also take down enemies with hand-to-hand combat but you can only perform a few combos and it's really only necessary if your ammunition has run dry or you're sneaking up on an unsuspecting foe. The gunfights are challenging and some have claimed by some to be the most frustrating part of Uncharted. Maybe I would've agreed with these complaints if the shooting wasn't as much fun as it is. Naughty Dog also knows how to strike a perfect balance in these moments by making none of the firefights go on too long and outstay their welcome. There're also frequent checkpoints, literally after every room you enter, so even replaying certain sections won't turn into a chore of tedious backtracking.
Uncharted should take gamers around eight hours to complete, which is a good length for an adventure game. But there's also plenty of incentive to come back for multiple play-thrus. There are tons of worthwhile rewards to be unlocked, unlockable characters, featurettes, photo albums and many more. Unlocking these is achieved by finding hidden items throughout levels, getting a certain number of headshots or taking down enemies with designated weapons. It's nice to finally see a game bring back hidden features which is something that has been long amiss in the gaming world.
From a graphical standpoint, in a nutshell: Wow. Uncharted is one of the best looking game you'll ever see. Everything from the environments to the characters has been rendered down to the finest detail. You'll see planets brush aside as Drake passes through them or see his soaking wet clothes when he emerges from water. Yet if there's one thing I really need to mention, it's the animation. Characters move with a level of realism that is unheard of in gaming. When Drake dives for cover behind a rock you can see the panic on his face as he raises his hands over his head with the hail of bullets overhead. Motion-capture animation has been turning into a standard for games this day & age and Uncharted is the standard of just how well it can be done. All of the voice acting is superb, the characters all give lively performances, but more importantly, they have a good script to work with. The music is of equally impressive value, perfectly fitting each mood and atmosphere with tension and excitement.
All that really needs to be said is that Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is about as close to perfection as games can come. I haven't had this much fun with an adventure game since the original Tomb Raider over a decade ago. Just saying this is the best Playstation 3 game ever isn't giving it enough credit. This is the game that will make all your friends jealous of your big black box, and the game that you will remember for years to come.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/28/08
Game Release: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (US, 11/16/07)
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