So we come to Uncharted, my 3rd purchased, seventh played, and 2nd of two currently owned PlayStation 3 titles. Yes I had to write that down. Don’t ask me why. Since we’re getting down with non-relevant/useless information, I’m listening to a few albums as I write this:
Oasis’s Heathen Chemistry
Nirvana’s self-titled album
Final Fantasy X-2 Piano Collections
Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections
Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is developed by Naughty Dog, the people who brought Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter onto the PlayStation 1 and 2 platforms respectively. They break into PS3 territory with Uncharted and it’s one hell of a stunner.
The game’s received it’s fair share of anticipation when it made it’s debut as a trailer back at E3 2006. It being a PS exclusive — as are all of Naughty Dog’s titles — made expectations rise even higher. The trailer gave an impression of the game being the male version of Lara Croft and her Tomb Raider series. It turns out to be much, much more.
You play the game as Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter believing himself to be a descendant of famous explorer Sir Francis Drake, who historically isn’t known to have any children. Anyway, it starts off with the discovery of Francis Drake’s underwater coffin somewhere off the coast of Panama. It’s only contents: his diary. Just as Elena Fisher, a journalist who’s covering the expedition, begins to argue for her story a group of pirates attack. As the ship is about to blow up, Nathan’s friend Sully, arrives with his plane to save the two.
After going through the diary, Nathan learns that his ancestor was after the mythical lost city of gold, El Dorado. A series of events lead the trio to a bigger mystery and adventure.
Nathan Drake, Victor “Sully” Sullivan and Elena Fisher
Visually, the graphics are breath-taking. This may be the case with next-gen games nowadays but clearly a lot of effort went into the modeling, animation, texturing, lighting, design etc. You’ll begin by spending most of your time in the jungle and personally I find that’s where most of quality shows through.
Oooh look at that pretty plant
It’s not picture-perfect but it doesn’t have to be. I’d take a video clip of him just standing there for you to see the little subtleties such as the plants swaying in the breeze, light and shadows dancing everywhere and Nathan himself fidgeting about but using my handphone camera would just feel… weird.
Although the animations of him climbing isn’t as smooth as say, Assassin’s Creed (which isn’t fair considering how climbing in AC is basically the core appeal), the gold lies in the facial expressions. It scares me to think of how much time went into facial animations alone. Sadly though, you’re not able to see most of in-game unless you happen to have one large display. I use but a humble 19″ monitor, where I scrapped the idea of getting a second since that’s for my new PC I’m building after NS.
If there’s any gripe I have with Uncharted about it’s graphics, it’s that the jungle looks way too clean than it should be and that there’s barely any life in there except for a handful of birds every now and then. I’d expect a tiger to maul me from behind (Tomb Raider 2 anyone?) or something, but nope. Not even bird poop.
The setting varies throughout the game but you’d most definitely encounter a lot of water.
Ha-har, slippery moss won’t stop me and my god-like grip
Which is a good thing because water is fun. Mainly because you get to see Elena glistening wet. But in all seriousness, it really adds life to the locale. Like Elena, hahaha. OK I’ll stop.
The audio and music, which is often overlooked, is up to standards with the overall presentation. You do get the whole orchestra deal but it’s done differently, using varying instruments in a myriad of ways to add to the I’m-in-the-jungle vibe. As I was waiting for the first level to load, the music sold me to the fact that the game was going to be great. The clap of gunfire and explosions, your foes shouting at everyone including you, Nathan mumbling whenever he finds himself in a tight situation — they are all but accompanying pieces to the main score.
Is is, therefore, a great joy to watch the cut-scenes, considering how they were all motion-captured using actual stage actors and direction. Since there’s plenty of them and the visual quality between in-game and cut-scenes aren’t jarring at all, the whole thing easily draws you into the story which is wonderfully written.
…and then I pushed the button!
Gameplay-wise it’s very linear. Get to point A, kill some pirates, get to point B, rinse and repeat. That’s not much of a problem since the story makes up for it. You feel a grand sense of purpose for trying to get somewhere and it rewards you with a nice little cut-scene to show you what’s next.
All the characters have great personalities and it’s easy to grow fond of them. I suppose you could say Nathan’s your average treasure-hunting guy. Well… until he comes across non-average obstacles and flies through them, but I’ll get to that soon.
Like Indiana Jones, National Treasure and the like, how many can claim to be in the thrilling treasure-hunting business when there aren’t baddies? None! Because then it’d just be a Discovery Channel or National Geographic documentary, and we know you don’t watch those with friends on a home-theater. Well… most of us anyway.
No Mr.Bond, I expect you to- oh wait
Not much information is given on Gabriel Roman, the man and money behind the wave of pirates and mercenaries you’ll encounter. I assumed that he’s a treasure-hunter as well and is owed a large sum of money by Sully. I pretty much find him the stereotypical English villain.
He hires mercenaries for his wet work as well as Atoq Navarro, an archaelogist as well as Eddy Raja, a pirate who turns out to be Nathan’s rival as well as the one behind the attacks in the first chapter.
Shit dawg, I’m down with the bling.
When you think of modern-day pirates, you think of South-East Asia. So yes, Eddy and his crew are Indonesians. You can clearly tell they did a bad job with that though; the cut-scenes where the pirates speak all sound so awfully formal and polite that it made me laugh despite my 0.02% proficiency of the Malay language in general.
Let’s get on with the gaming part. It’d be best to think of this game as a cross between Tomb Raider, Gears of War and Indiana Jones. There’s platforming with puzzles mixed in with guns and a story, so that’s my analogy behind it.
Like all Naughty Dog games, Nathan is very responsive. The controls, while a little different from what you’d expect, are easy enough to get used to. Action buttons are assigned to the right shape-pad while weapons are on the directional buttons. The game is in third-person so the left-analog for movement and right-analog for camera applies. You fire with the R1 trigger which is common in most shooting games now but something I simply cannot stop being happy about.
Platforming is straight-forward and simple. Some people are unhappy with this but I’m good with it. I find the point of the game to be something like a movie and I’d be damned if I found myself stuck at a certain point having no idea what to do for the next several days (again, Tomb Raider anyone?). It does however feel a little cheesy at times and you’d wish it’d be somewhat harder so it seems as if it wasn’t just some annoying task you had to do. Towards the end of the game there are so many waves of gunfights I was relieved to find out that I had to traverse through a forgotten underground catacomb before the next fight.
Gold medalist for Standing Broad Jump, 2007 VG Olympics
It’s hilarious whenever Nathan does some physically impossible feat. Sure the animators did a good job of making all of it seem very hard for him, but nobody in their right frame of mind would make some of the jumps and lunges he does. Even then, nobody can jump up to another ledge more than a meter away using one hand. Damn who needs Parker or Indy. Give this man a whip and he’d be the next Spider Jones.
…that sounds catchy.
You can shoot from the hip but most of the time you’d want to be aiming. Doing so brings you to an over-the-shoulder view which seems to be all the rage now. I admit, I’m a sucker for Call of Duty‘s aiming system, ever since the first title, so I found it sloppy and unresponsive. But still it gets the job done.
LAPD putcha’ hands up mo’fugga!
Of course, running around firing like that is insane unless you have balls of steel like Duke Nukem. The game employs a cover system, which is a new fad I’m thankful for because it makes gunning people down all the more interesting when it comes to third-person shooters.
I don’t have much of a problem with the cover system really, but I have issues with the aiming. All in all I find my pistol + shotgun combination the best, despite the plethora of assault rifles that litter the ground. Grenades too are pretty useless. Sure they’re handy once in a while but more often than not, you’d usually be carrying the four of them on your belt, making you wonder if they’ll explode should a stray bullet hit it.
There’s quite a number of weapons for you to choose from. Seeing as how you have to travel light though, you’ll have to make do with only two weapons and limited ammo for them. Your default would be the PM pistol. In total there are 11 handguns, rifles and shotguns to choose from excluding one secret weapon you’ll have to unlock. Not something for me to be crazy about though, since I want customization.
The enemy AI is pretty smart, ducking and taking cover when available. Some of the things they do make you laugh so hard you get distracted and die, but it was all worth it. It stops being funny when the mercenaries later on do the exact same thing though. You’d expect them to be a little more professional and tactical than pirates when it comes to all-out gunfights. I suppose it helps that they do stupid things like jumping out of cover and randomly spraying left-to-right though as it does get harder during the last few chapters.
When things get up close and personal, you have the option of
swinging out your shotgun and laughing in maniacal glee as they fly and spin in the air engaging in a fist fight. It does have it’s perks as doing a certain combo doubles the ammo drop for that particular ammo. You can also chain them however you want, provided that they’re timed properly. There’s also the ability to sneak up behind them for a stealthy kill. These instances are pretty rare and it’d be in your best interest to simply open fire on them from a considerably safe distance. Behind good cover.
Did I mention some cover, like neatly stacked rocks (I have no idea why, pirates must be bored when they’re not looting) can whittled down at by gunfire or simply blown away by a grenade?
Of course if it feels and plays like a Hollywood movie, you’d expect to see some explosions right? Right! No action adventure is complete without them, you know it. Take heart though that you’ll get to see a considerable amount of big badda’ boom in this title.
Girl + Grenade Launcher = ???
Expect to see quite a few twists and some unexpected (or not) events taking place towards the end of the game. I assure you though that the game concludes with an ending worthy of movie praise.
If you’re a PS3 owner and haven’t played this game yet, you owe it to yourself to do so as soon as possible. I won’t be selling off my copy as it’s a clear example of what potential the console has to offer, as well as the sheer brilliantness of the game itself. Brownie points if you get to play it on a home theater like the way it’s meant to be played!
If you have finished the game, then take note that Drake’s Fortune is just the start of the Uncharted series.
Well this took me more than a couple of hours. Hope somebody appreciates it D: I foresee typos and other errors but I won’t be touching them unless it’s really serious.