Review by EZ_Company

"A strong and capable action-adventure title"

Throw together one part Gears of War and one part Tomb Raider, some shiny graphics, an interesting story and great voice acting; you'll get Naughty Dog's action-adventure game, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. While using already tried and true game mechanics, this title isn't original in terms of game play. However, Uncharted blends these aspects together well enough to provide Playstation 3 owners with an overall entertaining gaming experience.

The story of Uncharted is one of its strongest points. It follows the main character, Nathan Drake, a fortune hunter who has uncovered an ancient clue in the coffin of famous explorer, Sir Francis Drake, to the mythical treasure of El Dorado. The story takes off running as it begins with Nate on a boat with T.V. journalist, Elena, who hired him to help find Sir Drake's long lost treasure and get the story of the year. They're soon attacked by pirates and a gun battle ensues. They escape as Nate's partner/mentor, Sully flies in for the rescue. Nate comes across as your everyday good guy, but not Boy Scout good. He displays a healthy amount of confidence, charm and wit, and reacts to various situations in a realistic way many people can relate to. Every character feels like they actually have a place in the story. All this would hold as much weight as a feather in a blizzard if the voice acting sounded like the actors hadn't slept in a week, but thanks to the cast's performances of Nate, Elena, Sully and others, an interesting story gets woven together.

The visuals in this game are spectacular. All the textures, from the vines slithering down trees and vegetation shrouding walls and pillars of ancient jungle ruins, to the dark and claustrophobic chill of subterranean tunnels are very well rendered. One noteworthy aspect is the water effects. It shimmers and ripples like real water as the main character, Nathan Drake, swims through it. His clothes also get realistically wet depending on whether Nate dips his toe into the water or dives in. There are other nice details, like Nate flinching behind cover as bullets whiz by during combat, barely missing him. The large scale and vertigo-inducing feel of some of the areas is apparent, such as scaling a tower on a high cliff overlooking the ocean. All the visuals in Uncharted definitely show off the graphical prowess that can only come from the power of the PS3.

Uncharted plays out and has a very cinematic feeling to it. The voice acting is a good example. Gamers get a real sense of emotion resonating from the characters, which really helps pull you into the already gripping story. It's easy to tell that Naughty Dog didn't just go out and pluck random people off the streets to fill these roles. The ambiance during game play is very crisp and clear. During combat, all the weapons in the game have their own distinct crack, boom or clatter. The music is also well done and has sort of an Indiana Jones feeling to it.

The game play of Uncharted switches back and forth between the stop-and-pop gun play similar to Gears of War, where you scramble to the nearest pillar, wall, rock, and pop out to take shots at the swarms of blood-thirsty pirates and puzzle/platforming a la Tomb Raider. Combat is frantic as gamers shuffle Nate from cover to cover, trying to flank the extremely aggressive enemies while avoiding their hail of well-aimed bullets. The controls are pretty tight as players will be pulling off head shots left and right. Nate gets the usual array of weapons one would expect to find in an action game: machine guns, grenades, shotguns, handguns. He also has access to a few devastating, if somewhat limited, hand-to-hand combos. Successfully completing the timed and tricky button presses to perform a brutal combo will yield more ammo dropped by the unlucky pirate you just decked. As Nate takes more damage, the screen starts turning gray. To heal, all he needs to do is lick his wounds by hiding behind cover for a short time until color returns to the screen. So there is no health pack scavenger hunt players will need to go on. The gun battles are occasionally broken up by a couple decent vehicle sections to add a little more variety to combat. Also, if you're feeling sneaky, you can waltz up behind unsuspecting enemies and snap their necks, but there are only a handful of times where gamers will get to test out their ninja skills.

The platforming side of game play has Nate shimmying across walls while hopping from handhold to crumbling handhold, leaping over crevices and swinging on vines. The controls are quite forgiving as Nate will grasp a hold of platform ledges even if your jump was not perfectly timed or aligned. One major problem with the platforming ties back into the game's beautiful graphics. There are a few times when you'll plummet to your death, cursing the whole way down, when you jumped for what looked like a grasp-able ledge only to find out it was part of the background. Exploration is scarce as there's only one distinct way to get from point to point. Gamers will come across puzzles, but nothing that will give anyone migraines. There are even a small handful of “press a button to narrowly escape death” moments scattered throughout the game.

This game is short, like Danny DeVito short. It can be beaten in about 10 hours, give or take. This alone would snap the game's replayability in two like a toothpick if it weren't for the loads of achievements like taking out fifty enemies without dying or finding all the game's sixty treasures peppered throughout the game. The great story, graphics, strong game play characters, unlockables and featurettes also warrant a few playthroughs.

Even though Uncharted doesn't go any new directions or take risks in terms of game play, it does combine the elements of other successful titles and uses them well. It's by no means the system seller. However, if you already own a Playstation 3, then Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a good addition to your gaming library and a solid buy.

Final Score: 8/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/21/08

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

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