Review by FeralBerserker

"Confessions of a Puzzle and Jumping Hater"

As the title of this review states: I am a fanatic puzzle hater. Jumping, climbing, pushing and pulling, find that switch, find this switch, where do I go next? None of that stuff is really for me. I'm more of a cut em up, beat em up, shoot em up, and crush their skull under my heel kind of guy (in that order). I watched my dad play this game when he bought it, since I didn't want to play the next Tomb Raider... And I've got to say it looked so fun that I played it through. Then two more times. A valuable lesson: Once you know where to go and what to do in this game, you'll be killing 80% of the time. Kill. Kill. Kill. And fun kill, too (assuming you're decent with the controls).

Overall Ratings:

Gameplay - 10/10
Throw the last pile of dirt on Tomb Raider and consider it buried for good. Drake's Fortune features functional acrobatics and extremely entertaining firefights in nicely detailed areas. You'll be killing humans with a smile on your face... Instead of killing wolves with a big frown, then jumping for thirty minutes.

Acrobatics (climbing, jumping, swinging on vines, etc.) are very functional. The only game that surpasses Drake's Fortune in this aspect is Assassin's Creed. Most often you can spot where you need to go quickly enough, and climbing/jumping to that location won't take more than a couple tries (assuming you're terribly unskilled at it). Checkpoints are pretty plentiful, so you won't have redo flavorless jumps or climb tall walls over and over. Drake is pretty good at grabbing things too, so even if you're a little short on your jump you'll get lucky and grab on a lot of the time. Overall, there's very little frustration involved in all the acrobatics (hell, my brother played it and he's the most impatient person I've ever heard of when it comes to this kind of stuff).

Puzzle solving? Not really. Whenever you have to solve a puzzle you can usually either press a shoulder button for a 'hint,' or check your journal for a 'hint.' Of course, these 'hints' usually are just the answer, so I don't know why they call them hints. You'll be pointed exactly where you need to go, or told exactly what you need to do 90% of the time. In the event that you do have to pull levers or something like that, Naughty Dog didn't feel the need to waste a lot of your time doing so. No more tedious things like pulling a lever, then sprinting and jumping across 40 platforms in order to roll under a door that's closing so quickly you can't afford to make one mistake.

Combat, the meat and potatoes of the game once you've played it through (or if you have company who can tell you where to go/what to do). You can take cover in the form of 'hugging' almost any object. Small objects can be vaulted over, even when you're taking cover, so that you can get closer to your enemy without taking outrageous risks. Also, when you're hanging on a ledge you can still aim over the top of it (as opposed to climbing up and get shot a bunch while you wait for the character to finish climbing). Drake can also do a roll, which helps to avoid damage while you're going in for the close and personal kill (though this can result in accidentally 'hugging' a wall, which is terrible).

Drake can hold two different guns and four grenades at once. You can't hold a ton of ammo, so every so often you'll have to switch to a weapon that the enemies are using in the area you're in. Weapons are quickly selected with the D-pad, and Drake is quick about switching his weapon (he's a real killer, no doubt). You can run and gun or aim your shots. Run-n-gunning isn't the most effective all the time, but if you're close it's a sure bet. Aiming is usually preferred if you're at a range or low on ammo, as a headshot kills every time.

When using grenades you'll see an arrow that displays the arc of your toss and where the grenade should land. You can aim grenades with the left analog stick (like aiming a gun), and then tilt the controller to adjust the height of your throw quickly (it works nice once you get used to it). Grenades can blow up certain cover that your enemy might be using, or take out nasty enemies who have grenade launchers. Also, you can shoot an enemy in the shoulder/arm while they're throwing a grenade and they'll drop it. This usually results in them being blown up, as well as the cover they're hiding behind (assuming it's destructible).

Last but not least, Drake can beat up his enemies with his bare hands. The sign of a true killer. Successfully completing a simple combo (box, triangle, box or something like that) will kill the enemy, also causing the enemy to drop double the normal amount of ammo. If you can get behind the enemy and melee attack from behind, Drake will perform an assassination. Assassinations look sweet, and save you ammo, as well as giving you the personal pleasure of breaking someone's neck.

The locations of firefights have really nice setups. You'll have plenty of cover (so will your enemies), and if you use your acrobatic abilities to your advantage you can get a height advantage for killing hidey-hole enemies. If you want to go shoot-em-up rambo style then there's plenty of cover to get you near your enemy without taking much damage.

There isn't the widest variety of weapons, but it's good enough. It covers all the basics. Couple pistols, some assault rifles, a grenade launcher, shotguns and grenades. There's even a sniper rifle, which is usually sitting in a good spot so you can pick it up, pick off a few snipers (beat them at their own game :D), then grab the weapon you were just using. I don't ever use sniper rifles, but I used them in Uncharted almost every time I saw one.

Overall, the gameplay really amazed me. While I was expecting a lot of jumping and climbing, what I got was a lot of shooting and neck breaking. You'll have fun shotgunning them just to see them fly through the air, papi.

Story - 4/5
I was pretty surprised with the story. It isn't ultimately complex or anything, but I give it a good rating because it flowed and was delivered very nicely. Nothing really pointless happened just to fill time. Everything you had to do was explained in the plot. Also, the reason for all the climbing and such was adequate and made sense. Really, the delivery of the story was great. In all honesty though, it didn't have a whole lot of depth. However, the characters had interesting and realistic personalities, and their dialogue didn't seem contrived. What a relief, and just when the gaming industry needed it.

Graphics/Sound - Nil
This game makes me wish I figured graphics into my rating. Lush, detailed, breath-taking environments and characters. I wouldn't describe it as realistic looking, because it looks nicer than things in real life. So much more vibrant, so much cleaner and neater. With multiple models and skins to choose from (once unlocked) you won't mind admiring old Drake either. The graphics really are so amazing. You can even see every little wrinkle and fold in a person's skin move while they talk. They don't just stretch, they move appropriately to the character's expression.

Sounds are nice, with good ambiance and a soundtrack that I can only remember kicking in during combat. Guns and explosions were adequate, and when certain traps triggered it sounded great. The American voice acting was actually really good, which is a first in my opinion. None of the voices were very annoying, and the voice actors actually managed to express emotions when they were doing their job (for once they earned their pay).

Play Time/Replayability - 4/5
The play time was pretty average for modern games. The game gets substantially shorter with each play through, as is to be expected. With unlockables that are actually valuable (especially for increasing the fun factor and pacing) replayability is pretty high. Also, like I said in the first paragraph, you'll be killing most the time on your subsequent play throughs. After you've got a lot of stuff unlocked you can rip through this puppy in a day, which ends up being a pretty fun day. To help with replayability, there is a Hard mode and a Very Hard mode.

Final Recommendation - 9/10
I don't know what else to say... This game knocked me out of my sandals. Good story, great fast-paced gameplay, a whole bunch of unlockables (that are actually worthwhile), stunning graphics and sound, and great replayability. If you don't own this game then you definitely should. Even if you don't like puzzles and climbing and all that stuff, it's a must-own. If you don't enjoy playing this game, regardless of what genre you like most, I really wouldn't understand why.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/03/09

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

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