Every once in a while, a game comes along that totally restores your faith in the medium - a game that doesnâ€™t present regurgitated content in order to try and sell a half-assed product to make money off the lowest common denominator. Every boring, clichĂ©d, and worthless war-based first-person shooter can almost be forgiven when these games come along. Uncharted: Drakeâ€™s Fortune is such a game.
Itâ€™s hard to know where to begin with Uncharted, as one can only say good things about it. It is almost a flawless game. From the moment you enter the game, the presentation â€“ the seamless merging of graphics, sound, gameplay, and character â€“ makes it clear that you are playing something truly special.
Perhaps, then, it is best to start with the premise of Uncharted. The game sees the player taking the role of Nathan Drake, a supposed descendant of Sir Francis Drake. After opening his ancestorâ€™s long lost tomb, Nathan sets about trying to capitalise on the secrets contained within. Unfortunately, heâ€™s not alone in this desire and itâ€™s not too long before the hunter becomes the hunted.
The most striking thing about Uncharted is how down-to-earth and real the entire experience is. Forsaking your typical girder-chewing, ten-foot tall beefcake of a marine or typical insecure, fragile, feminine teenage male who will discover himself while saving the world, Uncharted delivers a loveable rogue that is perhaps the most endearing character produced in a video game â€“ ever.
Although he can handle himself in a gunfight, Nate is unsure of himself at times as well. He often mutters to himself, scolds himself, and curses in disbelief. He often relies on luck and wit as much as he does on his physical abilities. Combined with some superb voice acting (the best the industry has ever seen), the result is a character that resembles Malcolm Reynolds or Han Solo. In fact, a friend of mine was at one point convinced that it was Malcolm Reynolds in this game.
Of course, the supporting characters, especially Elena, are all similarly believable and developed. The entire cast, their personalities and conversations, is proof that video games can easily equal movies as a medium. Even the gorgeous graphics engine delivers realistic facial expressions. When Elena cringes as Nathan sighs in disbelief, you actually feel it and empathise. No games to date, not even the graphically impressive Heavenly Sword and Ratchet and Clank games, have been able to deliver such realistic emotion. From the humour to the tragedy: itâ€™s all genuine.
Naturally, the graphics engine delivers more than just impressive facial animations. The lush environments are hands down the best any console game has ever delivered. Additionally, some neat graphical touches finally prevent the suspension of disbelief from being broken. When Nate jumps into the water, his clothes get wet. After a while of running around, his clothes will become dry. Jump into water only up to his knees, and only the bottom half of his pants will get wet. Itâ€™s a small detail, yet at the same time it is one of the most important. At every turn Uncharted often makes you forget that you are playing a game.
It is, however, a game â€“ and a damn fine one at that. It gets points for simply being something other than a first-person shooter, but it also gains points for taking a route seldom travelled. Sure, you can cite Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones, but after that you will come up short. Naughty Dog is keen to avoid these references, yet it shouldnâ€™t; it has created a game that surpasses these games and makes them look amateur. Indeed, it has set the bar for all PLAYSTATION 3 games that follow.
A blend of adventuring and action, Uncharted never falls into the trap that Mass Effect did: the two elements gel, rather than conflict. Each section (if such crude divisions must be made) comes at a time that it proves most refreshing - just as shooting becomes a little repetitive, the game will ask you to traverse a particularly pernicious ravine. Just as soon as you swear you never want to see another long jump again, the game asks you to pop bullets into the skulls of evil mercenaries.
Both parts of the gameplay are equally satisfying. Achieving a headshot gives a level of feedback that is rare in this industry, even with the Sixaxisâ€™ inability to rumble. Itâ€™s a truly satisfying experience, especially when full use of the gameâ€™s cover system is being made. Likewise, managing to grasp a few fingertips onto that ledge, a hundred-foot drop below, is one of the most nerve-racking yet relieving moments you can have. The game succeeds in making everything feel urgent, yet rewarding.
Nor is it particularly punishing â€“ and this is a strength. Miss a jump and fall down a ravine or take one too many bullets and perish and you will not have to see forty minutes of play be flushed down the proverbial toilet. Instead, the generous checkpoint system will usually see you immediately in front of the obstacle that caused your demise. In a day and age where developers confuse ruthless for challenging, Uncharted is an example of what to aspire to.
With its beautiful graphics, excellent voice acting, inspiring music, fantastic story and script, and amazing gameplay, Uncharted is nothing short of a winner â€“ itâ€™s Game of the Year material. Itâ€™s not a particularly long game, but itâ€™s so utterly enjoyable that you will want to play it far more than once. Uncharted is a game that reminds you why watching movies is a little old hat â€“ it provides a true, interactive cinematic experience. The bottom line is that if you donâ€™t like Uncharted, you simply hate fun. Purchase immediately, even if you have to buy a PLAYSTATION 3 to do so.