Uncharted: Drake's Fortune PlayStation 3
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Naughty Dog
Release Date: Out Now
Having been forced to wait an extra few months for the arrival of the PlayStation 3 here in Europe, it was hoped that we would at least have an impressive collection of titles to play on the system. Looking back it’s fair to say that 2007 was a decent year for the PlayStation 3 but nothing special in terms of quality exclusive games. That said, the PlayStation 3 finished the year on a high and Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction was definitely one of our favourite PlayStation 3 games of the year. The best first-party PlayStation 3 title of 2007, however, was Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune which we’ll now take a belated look at.
Uncharted puts you in the shoes of Nathan Drake, a ‘professional treasure hunter’ who’s in pursuit of the lost treasure of Sir Francis Drake. He actually claims to be a descendent of the great explorer. At the beginning of the game he’s accompanied by his occasional partner, Victor Sullivan (aka Sully) and Elena Fisher, a camera woman for a popular survival reality show. Initially everything appears to be going well with Nathan salvaging a diary from the bottom of the ocean, which reveals the location of the treasure. Unfortunately as Nathan picks up the trail of the treasure things begin to go horribly wrong and the initial party of three gets reduced to two. Uncharted isn’t a long game, it clocks in at around 8-10 hours, but it is enjoyable pretty much from start to finish.
Most gamers will find that the basic game-play in Uncharted treads familiar ground. The game is essentially a mix between Tomb Raider style action adventure gaming and a third-person shooter such as Gears of War. It’s certainly not an even mix of the two gaming styles however. You’ll have a decent amount of puzzles (they are usually environmental puzzles that are fairly straightforward) to solve and there are even some God of War style moments when you’ll need to press the correct buttons when prompted to. Throw some vehicular combat into the mix and you pretty much have Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune in a nutshell. It’s a bit of an odd mix but mostly it comes off really well. The game even manages to use the motion-sensing abilities of the Sixaxis controller quite well (thankfully it doesn’t over use it).
The game is definitely more of a third-person shooter than anything else. Personally I had mixed feelings about this. I would like to have seen at least as much of the platforming elements as the action sequences. My disappointment was tempered however because the platforming sections of the game aren’t that great, in fact it’s barely challenging at all, and some of the shootouts you find yourself in are really intense. The AI is actually quite impressive and makes good use of cover and the weapons available to them. At times the AI feels quite ruthless and you’ll find yourself having to do several action sequences multiple times, which can be a little irritating especially as death means that you have to do the whole shootout sequence all over again. To make matters worse you’ll usually have to hit enemies multiple times before they go down, which is both unrealistic and frustrating.
Whilst I appreciate many won’t be bothered about the quality of the game’s storyline, it’s a shame that it wasn’t more interesting. Initially the storyline comes across as a quality one and straight from the off it’s gripping. Initial impressions give you the idea that you’re going to be in for a really high quality action adventure game. However, as the game progresses the quality of the storyline drops off quite dramatically. It gets to a stage where it simply feels like you going from one shootout to another with no real substance in between. More effort should have been made to keep the quality of the storyline high, particularly given the general high standard of the game as a whole.
Several PlayStation 3 games thus far have been criticised for not looking as good as they could do. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with Uncharted and for the most part the game looks very impressive. For most of the game you’re in a lush jungle environment and it looks excellent, particularly when playing on a HD display. The character models look great and they animate quite well too, although there are a few rough animations in there that you’ll probably notice during the platform elements of the game. The few rough animations are easy to overlook however, as the facial expressions are very impressive and the game’s cutscenes are all the more enjoyable because of this. The frame rate isn’t perfect and it dips a little at times but it’s never distracting and certainly doesn’t spoil the game in any way.
Uncharted won’t cause too many problems for deaf gamers. The game is subtitled and deaf gamers will be able to follow the game’s dialogue. The subtitles don’t have any character portraits or names placed alongside the dialogue but it’s almost always possible to follow who is saying what. You won’t see any health bars for Nathan. As he takes damage the colour will begin to drain from the graphics and this is a warning to find cover until he recovers his health (which is signified by the colour returning to the visuals). You’ll know from which direction the enemies are firing upon you as the edge of the screen will redden to indicate this. You’ll also see grenade icons to warn you that a grenade has been thrown in your direction and that you’re close enough to be killed by the impending explosion. The game uses icons to good effect and you’ll be aware of what buttons need to be pressed and when you have to use the motion-sensing controls (usually to balance Nathan when he’s crossing some hazardous platform) because icons are used to signify this.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is arguably the best exclusive PlayStation 3 game to date. The game has some rough edges and some might not appreciate the imbalance between the difficult combat sequences and the stupidly easy platform game elements. It’s also a shame that the quality of the storyline drops off dramatically as the game progresses. That said, even with all of its flaws, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune does impress and it is one of the first games that really makes good use of the power the PlayStation 3 offers. Naughty Dog have a rough diamond on their hands with Uncharted and it’s certainly going to be interesting to find out what they have to offer next for PlayStation 3 gamers.