Long before I owned a Playstation 3, I was excited to play Uncharted. All of the preview coverage of this game made it look beyond everything else out there. Alas, I was not about to drop upwards of $600 on a video game system at the time, especially when I had just gotten an XBOX 360. My excitement to play this series grew with the release of Uncharted 2, which many hail as the best game from 2009.
Now that I finally have a PS3 in the house, Uncharted was one of the first games I picked up. I just stopped at level 6 to write my impressions so far, which for the most part, are great.
For a 3 year old game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune for the most part still looks great. The jungles and tomb areas I’ve played through so far look lush and very detailed. The character models look really good and animate well, especially Nathan Drake. He has a few very specific animations that only occur in specific instances, which goes a long way towards making the game more realistic. The only time so far where I thought this game didn’t look so hot was the very first level. For some reason, I thought that level and its cutscenes looked noticeably worse than everything else I’ve seen so far.
The gameplay of Uncharted consists of third person action, adventure and puzzle-solving. The closest parallel I can think of is Tomb Raider, though I’ve enjoyed this more than any Tomb Raider game I’ve played. The game does a great job of pacing out the action so that you’re never doing the same thing for too long.
The shooting action is, as with the graphics, satisfying for the most part. The shooting mechanics feel good and the enemy AI is smart enough. It’s cool to see them blow up your cover and flank you. The problem with the shooting is that standard enemies can take way too many bullets to take down. Oftentimes, I’ll unload a dozen AK-47 bullets into an enemy’s chest, only for them to stagger backwards for a second and then shoot at me some more. In a game where you’re never carrying that much ammo, you’ll sometimes end up in caught in a gunfight without bullets. At this point, you have to resort to melee combat, which I haven’t gotten the feel for so far.
As with everything else in the game, the adventure elements work for the most part, too. The platforming and traversal elements of the game are pretty fun. It feels kind of like Assassin’s Creed or Prince of Persia in this regard. However, like those games, missing key jumps due to awkward camera angles or the mechanics not working the way you would want them to happens just enough to be frustrating at times. In cases where getting from point A to point B is clear, trying to figure out what to do next can be frustrating. Sure, there’s a hint system, but it doesn’t kick in quick enough and sometimes I think the game just doesn’t make it clear enough what you’re supposed to do in the first place.
In one very specific instance, I had to kill a guy shooting at me from far away with a turret. I shot him, then wandered around aimlessly till the game said “SHOOT THE BARREL”. From where I was standing, I couldn’t see the barrel when I attacked the guy. But shooting the barrel ultimately blew up the ledge in a way that allowed me to progress through the level. I appreciate the game telling me what to do in this case instead of forcing me to get help elsewhere, but there should have been a way to design that encounter so that I couldn’t break it.
The part of Uncharted that I’m enjoying the most is the story. It’s not going to wow anyone with anything new or inventive in terms of overall plot, but it feels a lot more movie-like in its presentation. The writing is great, the way the cutscenes and gameplay are woven into the story is great, and the voice acting is well done. In particular, Nathan Drake’s voice work as done by Nolan North is excellent. It’s no wonder that Nolan North has been in dozens of games since his performance here.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune falls a bit short of the lofty expectations I had for it. However, it’s still a great game thus far and I plan on playing this to completion. Based on what I’ve heard, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is notably better than this, which is further motivation to keep going. I’m hoping that the quality jump between the two games is like the quality jump between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2.