Review by Hanji

"Uncharted Indeed."

Uncharted, out of absolutely nowhere, envelops the story of Nate and his two partners, who search for the treasure of Francis Drake, El Dorado. The game is a bullet-ridden journey through lush environments and solid platforming. There is only one problem, this gilded chest is empty.

I. Story

You play as Nate, who is on a mission to find treasure, with his indebted buddy Sullivan and a spunky female reporter. They encounter many obstacles and various villains, taking it all in stride. The characters are all rather cliché, fitting the set roles of any adventuring team. You have the outgoing and stubborn girl who slowly draws to the protagonist, a handsome, risky, bold young man. There is also the older companion, there to enter his sarcastic comments and advice. There are multiple villains, from the thug leader to the wealthy mastermind. The ensemble is charming and a bit nostalgic of those dynamic who need not be mentioned, and are acted well. The predictability of their every aspect, however, turns the story into an amusing curiosity, rather numbing that entire aspect of the game.

II. Graphics

Like many PS3 exclusives, the aesthetic appeal of Uncharted does not disappoint, and is certainly impressive. The environments, items, and models are all beautifully rendered, allowing you to become truly engrossed in the areas and situation wherein Nate finds himself. Along with that comes the mystery, awe, and in one case, downright horror of the scenes. There are absolutely no complaints, as everything visual is worthy, if not stunning. If there is a problem, it is that the world the visuals draw you into is rather worthless beyond the vivified scenery, emphasizing this absence.

III. Sound

The voice acting and sound effects are excellent. The people sound real and befitting to their figures, and the gunshots, punches, environmental and platforming noises accentuate the visual prowess of their execution. The background music sounds fine, but did not seem particularly memorable. Fondness to the tracks, however, is purely personal preference.

IV. Gameplay

Uncharted switches between two forms of gameplay. There is Platforming and puzzles, where the game basically holds your hand through simple jump and climbing moves to reach a destination, open a pathway, or whatever the momentary objective might be. Even in the infinitesimal chance the solution is mysterious or the quest obscured, a Hint, which should instead be called Answer, appears after a few minutes explaining what do to. The actual movement is very solid and effective, as well as not completely linear, allowing for a small bit of exploration. This isn't substantial, however, as there is no interesting incentive to look around, although there are hidden artifacts to collect, a nice touch for completionists. Truly, there is nothing wrong with the platforming, it is just very easy, and serves as stark passageways between the second gaming element, combat. Combat consists of hiding behind cover and then ducking out of that cover to shoot people or punch them. There are a variety of weapons to use, and grenades, giving some variety to how you can play. The system of cover works well, and the combat is interesting for a little while, but the extreme frequency and repetition of the fights eventually makes it extremely tedious, as with the exception of one type of enemy, you basically fight thugs with a Pistol, Machine Gun, Shotgun, or Sniper Rifle. As much more time is spent ducking and shooting than jumping and exploring, the game becomes annoying to advance in, not due to the factor of difficulty. Now, if you like the combat in spite of its lack of depth and constant repetition, there will be a healthy and enjoyable amount. The game occasionally switches to vehicle-based combat, which works equally smoothly, but suffers from the same blandness problems as the normal system. The game took me 9 hours to beat on Hard mode, without collecting everything.

V. AI / Difficulty

The game does well with both AI and difficulty, as there are many difficulty setting with relevant and noticeable differences. Furthermore is the ability to change the game difficulty at any time should you find yourself unchallenged or overly daunted. There are four settings, the last of which must be unlocked, and is allegedly exponentially more difficult than its runner up. The AI works well; it is simply easy to counter provided you are paying attention. The enemies maneuver according to their weapon. Shotgun wielders run up at you, Pistol and Automatic users tend to fire madly, Snipers will track you well and are truly threatening if you don't find appropriate cover, while the occasional explosive users are usually smart enough to fire at the edge of you cover dealing significant damage. Again, there is nothing actually wrong with it, there's just nothing to it, and perfection out of insubstantiality is not a merit.

VI. Replay Value

As a primary motivation to complete the game is revelation of the plot, playing it afterwards is rather pointless, although it cannot be denied that the game left tangible incentive. There are rewards for performing certain tasks in the game, as well as the aforementioned multiple difficulties and collectible artifacts. There are also multiple costumes for Nate. As stated, this is good for completionists and/or those who thoroughly enjoyed the combat, but it is otherwise superfluous, and beating the game is more than enough experience.

VII. Overview

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, is stark, abstract, and quite irrelevant in every aspect. There is no depth or coherence, one simply passes through the motions of the game, enjoys the mild comments of the quirky characters, and it is over, with nothing gained or learned. It looks nice, and the story is interesting enough to bother going through, but aside from that, there seems to be no point. This is not in the ulterior sense; nothing is required more than the fulfillment of victory and the reflection of fun. The game lacks that, it is looked back upon with a blink and shrug, remembered for its gilded accomplishments, but providing no deep satisfaction.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 02/19/08

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

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