Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune PS3 Review

There has been many times in the past when we – the royal we, the collective gaming press – have called a game cinematic. However, if Uncharted proves one thing, it’s that we were all very wrong in that assumption. Yes, most other games have cinematic cutscenes to help you get into the story, but these cutscenes usually do more harm than good, ruining the pacing of the game, adding lengthy loading screens, breaking you away of that action at hand, and ultimately breaking the game up into a series of level based episodes instead of allowing it to feel as epic as it should. Thankfully, Uncharted seems to be quite the impressive rebuttal to those who found themselves annoyed by some, or perhaps a collection of these problems in the past.

Initial observations of the game are quite impressive, with the music and overall visuals setting a great mood, and managing to feel exciting right from the get go. Even the opening tutorial section, which sees you trapped on board a boat, having your first introduction to the game’s main enemy, and learning the basic mêlée and gun combat controls is well done, and still manages to entertain even though you are been taught how to play the game. From there things just seem to get better and better, seemingly upping the ante as every chapter passes. By chapter two you’ll probably be noticing how well the game is scored, with Greg Edmondson of Firefly fame putting in an extraordinary effort to highlight key moments with some fantastic orchestral pieces.

Chapter three highlights just how good the animation in the game is, with Nathan reacting well to all surfaces he is on, struggling to get up the incline of high steps, and balancing himself by resting his hand against a wall when he’s going through a tight doorway. Of course, the pinnacle of this animation is when Nath finds himself swinging on vines as he tries to reach the highest ledge of the tallest tower, so it goes without saying that the scope of the game is absolutely massive. And although you are following a linear path to reach the end of the game there is still a lot to see and do on the way there. Then as you go on the voice acting, the cutscenes, the denseness and realistic feel of the jungle, and natural feel of the adventuring aspects of the game all accumulate to make Naughty Dogs latest effort exceptional. In fact, I could go on about the impressive features for ages, but that would be spoiling things. However, I will say one more thing, and that is that all this is achieved without having to witness a loading screen throughout the course of the whole game. In fact, once you get by the 30 second load which occurs on start up then Uncharted is the most seamless experience you’ll ever encounter, and that could easily be the most amazing feature of all.

When it comes to mêlée attacks the animation is also highly impressive, as Nathan will perform a collection of differing context sensitive moves depending on where the bad guy is situated, so there could always be a new one to see even if you played the game for hours on end. Speaking of the combat, the gunplay is also top notch, with reloading and shooting intuitively mapped to R2 and R1 respectively. Also, with the restriction of been only able to carry two weapons at any time this allows selection to be mapped to the d-pad, so a left tap will always selects your pistol, and a right tap will let you chose your more powerful weapon; ranging from different rifles, to snipers, shotguns, and more. You can also then press down to select your grenades. Another nice touch is the way Sixaxis is used to alter the trajectory of grenades, and is actually more of a help than the hindrance than it may first seem to be. AI is also top notch, and taking cover behind the game’s beautiful architecture will need to be extensively used if Nathan is to stay alive as he is not a superhuman, and will die after getting hit with a few shots.

However, if there is one aspect that Naughty Dog has got spot on with Uncharted it is the inclusion of Elena Fisher, who acts as an Alex Vance style constant companion throughout most of the game. Not only is she a very likeable character, but she is also someone who is very capable of taking care of herself. As a result many of the game’s shootouts are given an exciting extra dimension as you fight through them with the AI controlled Elena by your side. Thankfully, she seems adept at making smart decisions, using cover, and actually helping to take down an enemy or two. Even when you have to go off on your own to unlock a gate for her to get past a particular section it never seems like that big a chore.

There are a few bits a pieces that feel out of place, although none are game breaking stuff. The chief point of contention would have to be that Nathan Drake is not initially a highly likeable character, as it seems Naughty Dog opted to give him far too much of an ‘everyman’ look to make him appeal to as many people as possible. Fortunately, he is also the kind of character that it is quite easy to grow to like, and this initial aversion is quickly rectified by his great personality and interaction with the other characters. The same goes for his companions and foes as they are quite an interesting group that are worlds apart from the carbon copy never-ending collection of samey, supped up, overpowered, unimaginative and at times balding characters that gaming culture is continually reintroducing us to.

Uncharted is the first and currently the only game available that has successfully implemented a true cinematic approach to proceedings. The camera, the disappearing HUD, the pacing, the twists, the humorous moments, the breathtaking views, the voice acting and the cutscenes are all pulled off to near perfection. Sure, some will complain there is too much shooting and not enough platforming, and then others will complain about the exact opposite, but when all is said and done you cannot deny that playing the game feels fantastically epic, and when you’re done you feel like you have played something truly special. You really can’t ask for much more than that.

The best PS3 exclusive the console has seen yet.

9.5 out of 10

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