Review by Stalolin (Steve Rosenburg)

Reviewed: 08/25/09

Hunt for treasure, kill the bad guy, save the lass

From developers Naughty Dog comes a unique Playstation 3 exclusive. Nathan Drake believes himself to be a descendant of the famous treasure hunter Francis Drake, and sets out to follow the clues he left behind in order to find priceless treasure (but not too priceless, then he wouldn't sell it). He travels out into the middle of the ocean with Elena Fisher, who is out to film her next big story for a documentary. Trouble soon finds the pair, forcing them to fight off invading pirates and escape with the old guy, Sullivan. They then proceed to hunt for the elusive treasure. Essentially, Uncharted is a typical wisecracking, hunt-down-the-treasure, kill the bad guy and save the lass adventure, like Indiana Jones or something, which could easily lead to disaster, but Uncharted is pulled off well and the majority of the dialogue is funny (which is owed largely to the quality of the voice-acting).

Uncharted is a third person shooter crossed with a platformer. Pressing the aim button takes you to an over-the-shoulder view, making it easier to target and kill enemies. Nathan also has two or three different kinds of melee attack. At any one time you can only carry two weapons (one being a pistol of some description) and a rifle. Grenades do not count towards the two weapon limit. There is also a well-developed cover system which most gun battles are based around. It works extremely well, and I'd even go so far as to say it's the best cover system in any game that I've played. Although on the other hand I haven't actually played many games cover systems. Diving behind cover is easy, and Nate immediately ducks behind the object when you get to it, saving you from getting shot while you press the cover button again. It's also easy to jump over obstacles as you don't have to come out from cover first. In some parts Nathan will have a partner to fight baddies with, but Naughty Dog played the right moves, your ally doesn't get in the way or even die on you. Although they could be a little more useful in the killing bad guys department.

The platforming is fantastic and easy to control, Nathan climbs, swings and jumps his way over and above all kinds of obstacles. The fighting sections are broken up by these platforming sections, meaning you won't get sick of doing one or the other for too long at a time. My only complaint would have to be that sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between an object you can grab onto, and one you can't, though this rarely happens. Aside from breaking the game play up with platforming, there's also an occasional vehicle or rail-shooter section thrown in for good measure.

In terms of the problems with the game play, there are few and the few that there are aren't enough of a nuisance to be a deal-breaker. Quicktime events come into play once in a blue moon, which is a pain if you aren't expecting them (you never will be) which is a nice shortcut to the game over screen... well, Uncharted doesn't actually have a game over screen, but you get my point. It is a good thing however that they didn't put them in more often, although I can't say that I'd be happy if Naughty Dog got rid of them completely either. Regenerating health is another issue, but it's an issue in which I have no idea where to stand. Health packs may have ruined the game, as the hunt to actually find them would break game play. Another problem is that a health bar may make the player hide behind cover too often and not take any risks.

Now onto visuals. Uncharted is impressive. Beautiful greens and blues are everywhere, and the character modeling is great too. However, near the end of the game the nice blues are greens are swapped for dull browns and grays. My only other complaint about the graphics is that occasionally textures take a little longer to load than they should. One thing that really blows you away is the soundtrack. The music definitely captures the action adventure mood, both in terms of the fast-paced action music and the slower, thoughtful music. The kind of music that plays when the camera flies over the ocean or island.

There are nifty bonuses to unlock by completing certain tasks, which are now recognized in the form of trophies if you download the patch. Uncharted is certainly a game that can suck you in and force you to play for hours. The action is engrossing, the soundtrack us wonderful and the graphics are superb. A game that is worth your time to play. A few times over even.

The Good:
Fast-paced action, pretty visuals and good dialogue, unlockables and Trophies!

The Bad:
Arbitrary quicktime events, the occasional slow loading texture, graphics become dull and grey in the later parts of the game.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (AU, 12/06/07)

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