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Why you should buy it: You like any one of the games Uncharted borrows from or you love great games.
Why you should rent it: You’re not a fan of any of the games Uncharted borrows from. You still call this game Dude Raider.
9.2What is This?

Buy It
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
Written by: Chris Selogy | Tags: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Playstation 3, SCEA, Naughty Dog

November 20,2007 – Upon first glance, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune may look like a fancy name for Dude Raider, but that’s just selling what the game truly is. Instead of a simple clone, Uncharted aims to be an amalgamation of a few great games combined with a movie-quality presentation that rises above the sum of its parts into quite a unique experience. As the fall rush of great titles winds down with the New Year, is Uncharted a title that can stand out amongst the crowded lineup or is it just a title that should be overlooked?

Uncharted definitely looks at the Indiana Jones movies for its main inspiration. The game’s star, young Nathan Drake, is a treasure hunter that manages to find the coffin of Sir Francis Drake, only to find out that his corpse is not inside. What he does find is the late Drake’s journal and the first hint of his journey to find El Dorado, the lost city of gold. He’s not alone on this trip, as Elena, a documentary maker, and Sully, Nathan’s close friend and father figure, come along to help him along the journey to find out what really happened to Sir Francis Drake and what, if anything, relation Nathan has to the famous explorer. Like Heavenly Sword before it, Uncharted divides the game up into chapters to feel more like a DVD. Instead of halting the gameplay once a chapter is done, Uncharted seamlessly transitions into the next chapter. Cutscenes are used to flesh out the story, but not frequently, as the game also initiates chatter between Nathan and his friends to keep you in the loop with what’s going on. The story’s very well told and the pace keeps the action flowing without unnecessary interruptions to take you out of the experience.

While it may seem like Uncharted is a weird mix of Gears of War, Tomb Raider, and Resident Evil 4, this melting pot of great gameplay mechanics makes for a unique gameplay experience. With this mix of cover-based gunplay and Tomb Raider-like platforming, the balance would be the key to keeping the game fresh and not monotonous. The great thing is that the game mixes in platforming and gunfights very well, so much so that it’s hard to stop after clearing an area and not check out what’s down the hall over through the gate. Platforming itself is a very simple part of the game, in that you’re just hitting the X button to jump across beams, climb up ledges, and jump across platforms to reach the next area. This also shows off the variety of animations that Uncharted boasts, as Nate isn’t an Olympic long jumper, so the way he barely makes these jumps and his sloppy landings show he’s still just an amateur. The puzzles also appear in platforming segments and add to the Indiana Jones references, as there will be rather simple puzzles and Sir Francis Drake’s journal happens to have the answer to them. These aren’t the mental challenges you may envision, just simply puzzles that you use the journal to solve.

The other major part of Uncharted is the gunplay, which also brings excellent AI into the mix. The great thing about the gunplay is that you’re not just traversing the levels and shooting the enemies that you come upon. You’re actually getting into a battle with them that forces you to actually fight to take your enemies down. They’re not just sacks of meat that act as target practice; they are actually intelligent enemies that challenge you by hiding behind cover, advancing towards your position if you’re not paying attention to them, and even tossing grenades to either kill you or scare you out of your hiding spot. These gunfights are battles that feel rewarding when you’ve come out as the lone successor over your foes. To the victor go the spoils in Uncharted, as you can then check out the guns and ammo that were dropped and make preparations for the next battle you encounter. Since you can only hold two guns at once, a pistol and a two-handed gun, it adds to the strategy to decide if you have enough ammo to bring the shotgun with you or if you should take the safe AK-47 with you that can hold more ammo. The cover is the big key to defeating these enemies as you’re not a tank, you can’t just stand out in the open for more than a second or two without getting shot at. With grenades and destructible cover, you also have to strategize with how you move through these battles so you’re not screwing yourself into getting surrounded by enemies. Some of the toughest battles just throw a lot of enemies at you, so you have to take your time and pace yourself or you’re not going to make it to the next area. This doesn’t even rely upon the difficulty you choose, as playing on easy instead of normal isn’t going to be as much of a challenge, but it’s not a pushover by any means. It’s satisfying combat like this that makes Uncharted feel like a great experience rather than just a game.

Adding to the gameplay is Naughty Dog’s attempt at their own achievements, called Medal Points. There are 1,000 of them, with the majority being awarded for collecting the treasures that are strewn about the game or killing enemies in multiple ways. As you complete the requirements and gain points, you unlock content like behind the scenes segments and artwork, but also gameplay items that can alter the gameplay and add longevity to the game. The use of achievements to give you actual rewards is the key to giving the game serious replay value, as unlocking new skins, which is essentially unlockable characters, or the ability to mirror levels add some interesting tweaks that can make the game worth playing through more than once, if trying out other difficulties aren’t enough. The treasures are hidden statues and trinkets that you can find around levels that add up for the Medal Points, though you also get to check them out in the menus to see the variety in treasure that the developers came up with.

If there’s an area of the game to praise Uncharted for, it’s the graphical showcase you get to enjoy while playing the game. Not only are the levels highly detailed and they look amazing, it’s the fact that within this realistic world, you’ve got a great use of colors and design that brings the game to life more than most action games do these days with their drab monochrome color schemes that tend to bore you more than excite you. It’s not just jungle that you’ll explore, but tombs, temples, monasteries, and more that keeps you guessing what the next place you’ll visit. Even with the grand levels being beautiful, the details add a lot to the impressive graphics in Uncharted, with the huge amount of animations adding variety to Nathan’s moves and really driving home the point that he’s not a superhero, but instead a normal guy that has found himself in an extraordinary situation. Even cool stuff like the fact that Nathan can actually get wet, so you can just stand around and watch him dry off. His legs don’t just walk through the dead bodies on the ground, as you’ll see his legs adjusting so that his foot will rest on the dead guy’s chest instead of touching the ground through his body. The cutscenes look great, though not as good as Heavenly Sword, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a lot of fun to watch. There are some small hiccups here and there, with the textures occasionally taking a second or two too late to pop-in occasionally and the water effects, such as splashing and the waterfalls don’t look as good as the water itself does. With those small flaws, the game really is one of the best-looking games out there.

Audio is another place where Uncharted stands out. The cutscenes would be nothing if the voice acting and the script were not well done, which Uncharted does really well. Nathan sounds like the everyday guy he is, as does the rest of the cast, and the dialogue fits each character greatly. Just seeing the characters converse as you move through levels adds greatly to the atmosphere of the game. The music is very good, though it’s not shoved in your face throughout the whole, and for good reason. The gunfights are filled with gunfire, grenade beeping, and chatter from the enemies who yell out their intentions and taunt you, while Nathan can dish out the one-liners when he sees fit. Having music playing at the same time would be a bit detrimental, but once the action dies down the music returns and adds a nice atmosphere to the game. Being in these exotic areas also lets you hear the wildlife that inhabits the jungle and brings a bit of authenticity to the game.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune really shines by borrowing elements of other games and making an experience all to its own that can be enjoyed greatly by those that give it a shot. There’s quite a bit of replay value with the achievements and the great experience you can keep experiencing multiple times through that helps alleviate any worries that Uncharted taking nearly ten hours to beat, which varies by difficulty and how quickly you progress through the game. If you have a PS3, you would be doing yourself a grave injustice by missing this game. Those without a PS3 will have to just admire it longingly until they can pick one up or force a friend to hand the controller their way.
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