Video Game Review – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS3)

It’s safe to say that most Indiana Jones games that didn’t use the SCUMM engine weren’t particularly very good. Well, shortly after the launch of the PS3, one of the first PS3 titles to come from a 3rd party developer (though from a first party publisher) was Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, a game that tried to have the Indiana Jones style, but with some modern sensibilities, and a modern setting. When the game came out, the game got good review scores, was considered to be a system seller, and frankly did well enough to get a sequel which came out last year. So, I’ve played the game, and I like it – but does it have that good Indiana Jones feel?

General Information

Title: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
System: PS3
Release Date: November 20th, 2007
Game Type: 3rd Person Action Game

The Premise:

Nathan Drake is a treasure hunter, and a descendant of famed explorer and privateer Sir Francis Drake.  While diving for Drake’s grave site, he discovers that Drake didn’t die when everyone thought he did – and not only that, but he had information about location of the legendary city of El Dorado. So Drake, along with his friend Sully and intrepid reporter Elana Fisher, head out to find El Dorado, and discover (wait for it) Drake’s fortune.

Content Notes:

This game was rated Teen by the ESRB. That said, the game does have some blood when characters are shot, though there’s no gore or nearly as much blood as you’d get in a Mature rated game. Additionally, there is a lot of profanity in cut-scenes, but nothing worse than s***.

The High Points:

Most of the platforming segments of the game, with their parkour like navigation, control excellently, and they’re animated even better. No, seriously, all the animations for the platforming segments mix together perfectly and seamlessly, even when you are quickly jumping from a ledge to a vine to a handhold, and on to a ledge. It’s also important to mention that I never got lost in the game with a few exceptions. Part of this has to do with the game’s very helpful hint system which does of a good job of pointing you in the right direction if you haven’t started going in that direction after a certain period. The other part of it though is due to the game’s intuitive level design.

Also, the game’s combat was very fun, to play. I never felt like I died because I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do. It helps that when you’re fighting alongside an AI companion like Elena or Sully, they’re never get in the way. You always feel like they’re contributing, without the characters being extremely more competent than you in combat, or otherwise giving the impression that you don’t necessarily need to be there.

I do feel that the game does capture the Indiana Jones feel, though the game is set in the present day, and without Nazi’s as the bad guys. They also (thankfully) don’t take the obvious route of making Nazi 5th columnists as the villains, nor do they take the route of making terrorists the villains – instead picking a villain that’s closer to Walter Donovan (a type of villain that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull lacked). In many ways, Uncharted is closer to Indiana Jones than Tomb Raider was.

The Low Points:

The few moments where I did get lost were absolutely infuriating, and I did have one point in the game where I was simply not able to progress without the assistance of a FAQ. If I was playing this game when it came out, I would have ended up slamming my head against my desk. This problem is aggravated by the fact that checkpoints are spaced a little too far apart for my tastes – especially when you’ve got a situation where you’re fighting multiple waves of enemies in a short period of time. I had several occasions during real tough fights, where I’d manage to get through the first wave, and then die either at the beginning or part way through the second wave, and had to go through the first wave all over again.

The Scores:

Originality: Plot wise, the game isn’t very original, and by not very original, I mean that the McGuffin has a lot in common with the McGuffin of Raiders of the Lost Ark, while our hero is using an aid (Drake’s Diary), which serves many of the same purposes of the Grail Diary from The Last Crusade, with the villain having certain elements of Walter Donovan from the latter Indiana Jones film. 3 out of 6.

Story: The story was pretty good. It wasn’t incredibly deep, but I kept wanting to know where the story went next, and when we did get a twist, it really did catch me off guard. By the way, it wasn’t the “Sully’s Still Alive” twist – it was the “El Durado Creates Ghouls” twist. 4 out of 6.

Graphics: One of the complaints about console games in this generation (admittedly one mainly focused on Unreal Engine games – which this is not), is the trend of “real” being brown. While a lot of time is spent in ruins which trend towards brown (and other earth tones), the majority of the game is spent in jungles and other wild areas, which are depicted with a great deal of color. 5 out of 6.

Sound: The voice acting and music is excellent (with Browncoats possibly being pleased to know that the score is by Greg Edmonson, who composed the score for Firefly). The sound effects are also well done, and they I really found that I was able to keep track of enemies by sound, even with my bog standard TV with just stereo. 4 out of 6.

Playability: As I mentioned on the high point, all the controls in this game are rock solid. Even better, the camera is perfectly placed, in the platforming segments, where (with the exceptions of the segments where I got lost), I can always find where I need to go, and I had everything I needed to make the jumps. 6 out of 6.

Immersion: I never particularly got bumped out of the game very much by the controls or the HUD. The game’s levels also feel very organically and logically connected together, in the same way the levels in the Half Life games are. Additionally, the digital performances of the game’s characters are believable, and well acted both in terms of the movements of the characters, but also in terms of the characters facial expressions (which is something I haven’t seen very often), and all of this without falling into any problems with the Uncanny Valley. 5 out of 6.

Overall: This is, frankly, one of the PS3’s best titles thus far, if not one of the best titles of this console generation. 6 out of 6.

In Total, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune gets 33 out of 42.

EDIT: When I originally wrote this review, I forgot to add the game’s graphics, and this threw off the game’s score. I’ve added a score for the graphics and adjusted the total score to reflect this.

2 replies on “Video Game Review – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS3)”

  1. I got this game because people were raving about Uncharted 2, and I wanted something to play while waiting for Assassin’s Creed 2 to come out, and I figured I could get the first Uncharted for cheap (I did, found it for like $10). I liked it a lot – I’m seriously NOT a gamer and this is one of the few I enjoyed. I think Uncharted 2 is even better, though.

  2. I got a PS3 shortly after the 120GB Slim model came out. I got Uncharted and Uncharted 2 for dirt cheap ($10 for UC1, $40 for UC2) on Amazon during Black Friday week. I wrote a review on Amazon about UC1 and, after having played UC2 I can say along with Jethro above, UC2 blows an amazing game out of the water. Everything that was so great about UC1 (which I plan on playing through again when I get my HD TV) was cranked up to 11 in UC2. The environments are spectacular and the story is fantastic.

    While UC2 is better in my opinion, they are both the best games I’ve played in this generation. I haven’t played many games in recent years but you’d be hard pressed to find better games right now than either of those.

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