Review by Menji

"Funny how issues from the Playstation era still plague games today"

Yes, this game contains numerous issues. Things I have not seen in years and never hope to see again. Uncharted does not bring anything new to the genre that Tomb Raider or Prince of Persia has not done already. The story does not leave the gamer breathless after the ending credits. It leaves the gamer questioning how Naughty Dog could mess up the simplest of things.

But first, the short list of good stuff.

Nathan Drake models the ideal hero - clever and funny without being a total badass. The lush world tries its best to cover the dull gameplay and almost succeeds. I did not realize how badly Naughty Dog dropped the ball until halfway through. At any point in time, gameplay in Uncharted has the gamer picking up ammo and treasure, climbing around or taking on wave after wave of enemies. A typical battle comes with no surprise. Obvious by the sudden change from a narrow path to a wide open area with numerous ammo clips and boxes to take cover. Once the battle begins, the laziness kicks in. The coding on enemy tracking belongs in a Playstation game.

Picture a large wall. One enemy fires at Drake from a distance. Drake takes cover behind the wall and peeks around the left side to shoot. After shooting, he takes cover and reloads. The enemy continues to shoot at Drake but the wall protects him. With the entire wall to protect and shield him from the enemy's sight, Drake moves to the opposite side. Before he peeks out to shoot and gain the upper hand, the enemy magically changes the location of his attack point and fires upon Drake despite not having the ability to know he moved. No excuse exists for this.

The other glaring problems reveal themselves in every gunfight. Every single enemy mastered the art of ninja-dancing. If they ever do get caught out in the open and become a sitting duck – they will do some absurd dance move to dodge bullets AND it works! Headshots happen almost entirely by chance and not skill giving the impression that it takes two headshots to kill an enemy. Not to mention the larger than life number of bullets required to bring down an enemy or even wound him – the later does not even exist in Uncharted. Once you get past those two major flaws, combat transitions to fun and exciting. Naughty Dog placed plenty of ammo and places to take cover to keep every battle motivating because each battle produces around eight enemies. It does not help that when the difficulty rises, the number of hits it takes to kill an enemy increases - rather than upping the skill of the enemy. Moving between places of cover takes no tremendous skill and yet stays effective. The fact that Naughty Dog could do dodging so perfectly and not the rest of combat baffles me. Hand-to-hand combat exists in the middle of the spectrum. The gamer presses square and triangle in repetition to kill an enemy but the difficulty still remains. I would even say hand-to-hand might be more effective than a gun, especially if only one enemy is attacking Drake.

When Drake finally clears an area of pirates, he turns into Lara Croft and the Prince of Persia. Ledges and vines have been placed in convenient locations to get wherever Drake needs to go. The laws of physics do not exist in this world as Drake has no problem jumping between ledges ten feet apart and grabbing the ledge with one hand. The linear ledge jumping path provides some difficulty. About twenty percent of the ledges Drake needs to jump to do not always seem obvious. Even ones that look like something Drake can grab are not. This leads to many instances where Drake falls to his death, resets and must jump again. Normally Drake does not have much to redo but if he dies in a firefight he has to start all over - a frustrating realization indeed especially after fighting for ten minutes. Luckily, Naughty Dog rid Drake of a health bar. Whenever Drake takes lead, the screen loses color. Once it turns too gray he dies. If Drake stays out of danger for long enough, he recovers his health. Definitely more convenient but entirely obvious that Naughty Dog does not want to give the gamer a real challenge and merely wants the gamer to beat the game by playing long enough. Naughty Dog even tried to throw in a bit a stealth action. At least, I think they did because they have a couple trophies for doing stealth kills. But the stealth system is horrendous. Drake can not crouch and walk at the same time so he must walk to sneak up on his enemies. Killing one pirate alerts every pirate in the area to your location instantly even if Drake was hiding and shot from a distance. Fortunately, the story balances out some of the garbage gameplay.

The legend of El Dorado makes up the backbone of the story. The game opens with the hero Nathan Drake and the reporter Elena on a boat. They have found the lost coffin of Sir Francis Drake, a possible ancestor of Nathan Drake. The coffin appears empty but Nathan finds Sir Francis Drake's journal, the journal contains instructions to find an enormous treasure – the amazing El Dorado. Not the city of gold but a colossal statue of gold. This joyous moment does not last long. A herd of pirates arrives on scene and serve as a mini-tutorial for gun and physical combat. After surviving long enough, an old friend of Drake, Sully, saves the day and they all return to shore. Sully and Drake discuss the possibility of finding the greatest treasure of all-time while Elena talks with her editor about covering the treasure of El Dorado. Sully convinces Drake that they need to leave Elena because she will bring too much press and they set off for an uncharted island to find El Dorado.

I am surprised that Naughty Dog did not implement many puzzles, or ones that required some amount of thinking. Two come to mind but both failed to establish any sort of difficulty or critical thinking. I would even go as far as saying they slapped the gamer in the face in this dumb down example of a puzzle. One “puzzle” occurs when Drake walks into a room with seven circular tablets. The tablets have different symbols. Drake checks Sir Francis Drake's journal which shows all the symbols in the correct position. Drake makes three moves, one that turns a snake right side up and the puzzle is solved. No joke! There are a couple other puzzles exactly like this - some even stupider with clues that do not even make sense. But the thing that bothered me the most occurred when Drake explored the deepest depths of caves. Remember that Drake has the journal and the map to El Dorado. He and his company open up secret passage and then become trapped when the door closes on them. Yet somehow Drake still runs into pirates in the deepest caves. Drake even mentions something along the lines of no one has been down her for centuries but yet a group of pirates patrol the very next room, or torches are lit.

I did not hate this game. Uncharted exhibits fatal flaws that needed to be fixed but that does not stop it from being fun. I had no problem playing it for hours and finishing the game. But I had no desire to go back and replay it on a harder difficulty to unlock everything. Uncharted has no variation in gameplay and that did not suit me too well. A rental suits Uncharted and only a rental. Plenty of games do this genre better.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 06/16/10

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

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