Posted – 12.15.2007
Lara Croft may rule the roost when it comes to seeking out the nasty bits of ancient lore that lie buried beneath the sands of the past, but Naughty Dog’s newest title for the PS3 delivers a contender for the crown that is every bit as adventurous as Eidos’ franchised archaeologist. With Uncharted, the developers have taken a somewhat different approach to fortune hunting by laying the action on thick while keeping the actual puzzles to a bare minimum. What PS3 owners get is something that is a pure adrenaline rush from start to finish as they embark on a quest for an ancient treasure with an unlikely hero.
Nathan Drake, everyman adventurer, is purportedly the last living descendant of Sir Francis Drake, the famous…or infamous, as the Spanish would remember…privateer that raided Spanish treasure ships on behalf of England during the 16th century. But as Nathan discovers, Sir Drake didn’t die when he was supposed to as history says he did. Instead of finding the lead coffin in which he was buried at sea in, he discovers it empty…empty aside from a diary that contains the clues to his final adventure and to the treasure of El Dorado. With video journalist Elena in tow following his every move and his old, if not somewhat shady, friend, Sully, the three set out on an adventure to discover the truth behind the legend.
If you are looking for a great adventure story with great characters, entertaining dialogue, and ruthless villains a la “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, then Uncharted’s narrative should have quite a bit to make you feel right at home. Naughty Dog’s approach to Nathan Drake being an everyman fortune hunter and hero is well handled in his debut on the PS3, coming across as John McClane from Die Hard, as he faces off against an army of mercenaries and finds himself face to face with death at almost every turn. Sidekick Elena and Sully also have their roles to play and the voice acting and motion capture work bring all of these characters to center stage, making you almost reach for the popcorn that should be next to you as you watch the adventure unfold. The entire game comes off in this way, with twists and turns in the story, deadly surprises, and fantastic revelations with more than a nod and wink towards the Man in the Hat at the end.
Lush jungles, rivers cutting through the ruins of a 16th century city, ancient temples, and much more are dressed up in plenty of detail. If you have an HD television to enjoy this on, you now have something else to show off on it. Even the mercenary enemies that you will face off against in the game are just as varied not only in how they look but in what they’ll do. Sharp animation work and clever AI will send them rolling from cover to cover, take up positions around a corner to slowly lean out and take potshots at you, or coordinate their attacks with grenades and others coming up from the side to flank you. Nathan’s foes in the game are pretty smart, although they can tend to do the occasional stupid thing such as trying to shoot at you from behind a wall.
The action is just as solid, although Tomb Raider fans diving into this one will notice that Uncharted is filled with a lot more action than the platforming puzzles that they may be used to. Uncharted is all about the gunplay, the leaping, running, and platforming adventure that Nathan will be doing thanks to the simple controls and the smooth feel that it lends to his moves. A cover system which will be familiar to fans of Gears of War or Rainbow Six: Vegas is also implemented, allowing Nathan to hide behind whatever he can to avoid being turned into a punch card. He’s also pretty handy with his fists and knocking out an enemy in this way will cause them to drop a lot more ammo than they otherwise would from a headshot. Nathan can carry up to two weapons at a time with limited ammo for both, although he’ll have his pick of what to use from the mercenaries he takes out. Later in the game, though, the action can start to get repetitive as you rinse and repeat your way through one ambush after another. The funny thing is that Nathan will even comment on this from time to time, almost sharing the annoyance that you might be feeling after gunning down your three hundredth mercenary, but not enough to make some players wish that there was a lot more to explore than shoot.
You’ll also use a jet ski in the game for a little sightseeing on the waves with Elena watching your back. She’s not merely a sidekick along for the ride as she’ll actually try and do her best to help Drake out during his adventure, but don’t expect there to be too many opportunities for cooperative puzzle solving as she usually chimes in only when the story needs her to. But she’s also handy with a gun and doesn’t have too bad of an aim, but as the hero, you’ll still be expected to do most of the shooting yourself.
But with as much emphasis on action as there is, Nathan’s ability to get to where he needs to go whether it’s across a cliff face, down the crumbling wall of a seaside Spanish fortress, or through a forgotten catacomb of graves, makes it easy for the player to explore the world of Uncharted. There are still a few puzzles in the game that can challenge you and you will be using the diary that Nathan had discovered earlier to figure them out, although most of these won’t make you wish that you had bought the strategy guide. It would have been nice to have been able to actually leaf through the diary outside of these puzzles sequences when you are supposed to use it as it is filled with readable text that actually makes sense as opposed to random words or blurry textures.
In-game achievements are also available for the player to unlock, such as getting so many kills with one type of weapon or finding a certain number of special treasures that are hidden throughout the game for Nathan to collect. When you come to the climactic ending, you’ll also be able to play any of the chapters of the game over again in case you might have missed something, or view art and videos from the gallery as they become unlocked depending on how many achievements you are able to complete. Cheat codes, new costumes, and even the option to play the game in a sepia tone to give everything that old-school film look are only a few of the things that you can unlock in the game in this way giving players plenty to do afterwards. Getting through the main game can take only ten or so hours, but it can considerably longer if you want to try and finish up all of the side challenges in the game.
Nathan Drake manages to pull off a successful debut in Naughty Dog’s latest title, delivering a gripping story filled with plenty of serial pulp inspired action beginning with the opening theme and ending with the proverbial ride off into the sunset. It’s an fantastic adventure that PS3 owners can be proud to add to their library of titles filled with plenty to do and as close to being a treasure hunter as you can get without the malaria. The only missing from Drake’s resume is a college teaching stint.
– World 1-1