Review by AK_the_Twilight

"It's more charted than you would think."

In 2006, with the Playstation 3 ready to go, Sony enlisted its dream team of development houses to design new software for their new monolithic machine. Among these development houses were the Sony platformer trifecta: Sucker Punch, Insomniac, and Naughty Dog. Naughty Dog, known for their extensive Jak trilogy on Playstation 2, decided that like its brothers Sucker Punch and Insomniac, they would bid farewell to their platformer heroes and work on something brand new for Playstation 3. Taking cues from adventure films like Indiana Jones, Naughty Dog designed 2007's Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, an action-adventure title featuring a laid-back hero searching for treasure in the dense Amazon. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune's redundant shooting sequences and short length are disappointments, but the end result remains a quality adventure title thanks to some excellent production values and great exploration elements.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune follows Nathan Drake, a wise-cracking treasure hunter who says he's the descendant of legendary explorer Sir Francis Drake. After discovering the coffin of his ancestor, Nate, along with an accompanying journalist Elena Fisher, finds no trace of Sir Francis Drake's remains. Instead, there's a diary written by Drake, one that holds plenty of secrets for Nate and his crew. After meeting up with his friend Sully, Nate searches for the legendary treasure of El Dorado, which is hinted at in Drake's diary. Along the way, however, Nate, Elena, and Sully find out that there's more to Drake's disappearance than gold, including but not limited to a fabled curse. The story takes its trappings from epic adventure media such as Indiana Jones, but Uncharted makes a good name for itself thanks to a great collection of characters and some interesting (but sometimes farfetched) twists. Nate's personality is the shining star, though, thanks especially to his everyman attitude and laid-back heroism. He definitely gives the story a unique mood. The use of historical fiction is clever as well, all without feeling too unbelievable. The mythology of El Dorado and the history behind Sir Francis Drake merge together well, and when combined with Nate's unique brand of heroics, they make a solid narrative that's worth seeing through to the end.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is mostly composed of two distinct gameplay types: the exploration and the shooting. The exploratory elements in Uncharted take liberties from past adventure titles like Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider, focusing significantly on environmental puzzles and high-tension ledge-climbing. These two elements have evolved over time, but Uncharted does a fantastic job of making the harrowing exploration a big part of the game. Nate is quite the daredevil, and seeing him barely avoid a crumbling ledge is a genuinely memorable moment. The puzzles themselves are intuitive enough, but still demand reflexes and some brain power to complete. Using Drake's diary helps Nate and crew figure out certain environmental brainteasers and Nate's repertoire of skills is used extremely well throughout the game. The difficulty is solid, though the shoehorning of quick-time events always seems to break up the action. You never really know when a quick-time event will be used, and though that's a big part of what a quick-time event is, it doesn't make it any less irritating. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune does a great job with the treasure hunting and cliff-grabbing tension, even if the quick-time events do more to hinder the gameplay than intensify it.

The second component of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is the shooting. Like many other third-person shooters, Uncharted uses the “Gears of War template,” offering cover-based attacking to take out enemies. Though the controls in Uncharted aren't as fluid as Gears of War, the combat is generally well done (though the Sixaxis control for grenade throwing is downright unneeded). The available weapons are good; you get the staples like pistols, machine guns, shotguns, and sniper rifles, to name a few. Uncharted doesn't do anything particularly badly with the shooter combat; it just does too much of it. Naughty Dog, for some reason, decided to make shooting sequences so common, that you'll no doubt beg for some downtime just to climb ledges and solve puzzles. The instant that you hear the enemies' one-liners or random gunfire, you're bound to roll your eyes. Uncharted really shines during the exploration, and while the combat isn't awful, there's so much of it that it quickly becomes a serious bore.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a decent “rental-length” game. Though the storyline isn't particularly long, there are plenty of memorable moments throughout to revisit. Replaying levels lets players find hidden treasures, which aside from earning Trophies, earn points to spend on new game effects and unlockables. The rewards are decent, but still, the game is short. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune makes up for its short length with some fun moments to revisit, and while some extra modes would've been nice, the game still remains fun, gripes aside.

Being one of the pioneers of Playstation 3 processing power, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune had a lot to show in terms of presentation. Naughty Dog's transition from the edgy cartoon art of Jak and Daxter to a full-blown realism aesthetic could've been disastrous, but Uncharted is a stunning game. The lighting effects are remarkable and the textures are clean. The occasional pop-in graphics and a few technical hiccups are present, but on the whole, the game is a great way to show off what the PS3 can do. Even better is the variety of the environments. Though Uncharted could've taken place entirely in the jungle, some other unique areas like a crashed airship or a dank tomb riddled with skeletons spice up the presentation very well. The sound design is awesome as well, thanks to some great voice acting. Nolan North's role as Nate couldn't have been done better, as his slightly nervous, but always righteous treasure hunter attitude cannot be duplicated. The sound effects and musical themes are equally well done. On the whole, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune doesn't skimp on the cosmetics. Thanks to varied environments and high-quality voice acting, the presentation is one hell of a showcase piece for the Playstation 3.

Pros
+ Harrowing platforming sequences add plenty of tension to exploration
+ Interesting storyline with a charismatic main character
+ Great aesthetic design with a surprising amount of variety

Cons
- Shooting sequences are too frequent and don't do much new
- Not much replay value
- Quick-time events are intrusive

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a bold and remarkably solid step for Naughty Dog's newest franchise. Taking cues from successful adventure games and films is a great start, but thanks to some excellent production values, Uncharted feels like a world all its own. The platforming is intense; seeing Drake scale a colossal cliffside is definitely a standout moment for Sony's newest home console. While the shooting sequences are far too common, they are well-designed and challenging, offering a good collection of weapons and environments to battle in. The presentation is what seals the deal. The voice acting is top-quality, the areas diverse and engaging, and the effects amazing. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a solid action title, only hindered by some gameplay imbalances and a brief length. Naughty Dog shows unquestionable potential in Nathan Drake's world, and though it doesn't reach the quality of Naughty Dog's past games, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a PS3 adventure worth exploring.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/01/11

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


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