Known in the previous generation for the critically acclaimed Jak and Daxter series and the Crash Bandicoot series in the generation before that, Naughty Dog established themselves as a developer to watch in the formative years of the PlayStation 3. With Uncharted, Naughty Dog abandoned the cartoon worlds and characters that had defined their previous development and looked to reinvent themselves with a realistic third person action/adventure game. Would this gamble pay off? Absolutely.
Uncharted tells the story of Nathan Drake, ancestor of famed explorer Sir Francis Drake, who follows the family lineage of treasure hunting. Drake is assisted by Sully, his old mentor and partner, along with journalist Elena as he looks to uncover the mystery behind the golden city of El Dorado. To say anymore would be spoiling the tale; though the statute of limitations on spoilers has long since passed due to the age of the game, you still deserve to experience this fantastic story in all its twist and turns if you’re new to the franchise.
The story successfully blends realistic elements with a touch of the supernatural, much in the same way the Indiana Jones film franchise does. In fact, Uncharted’s story features many parallels to any of the first three Indiana Jones movies, which is a testament to how well-crafted the story is. Uncharted is the type of game where you can’t reach the next chapter fast enough just to find out what awaits Nathan and Sully next or to uncover the next twist in the plot.
Like Indiana Jones, the characterization of Nathan Drake and his companions is spot on and creates a hero you want to root for. Drake is a wise-cracking, always optimistic type of guy: he believes that every clue is worth investigating and his drive is infectious. Voiced by Nolan North, who hits every inflection and every emotion perfectly, Nathan Drake comes alive in a way so few video game heroes do. Sully, the “I’m too old for this” character, serves as a nice foil to Drake’s always positive attitude as does Elena, who serves mostly as a mouthpiece for the player, as she is experiencing everything in Drake’s life for the first time as are we. Elena’s primary role, at least in the first game, as to ask the questions that Drake and Sully already know the answers to for the benefit of the players and, in the context of the game, it works.
But it doesn’t matter how good the story is if the gameplay can’t hold up; luckily, the gameplay quality meets and even at times exceeds the quality of the story. Your heart will be torn due to the fact that while every cutscene serves to expand the brilliant story, it will take away from you actually playing the game.
Uncharted’s gameplay can be divided into two halves: the exploration half and the combat half. The exploration half can be compared to the old Tomb Raider games but with more fluidity; Drake has many more animation frames than the Lara of the past did and many more moves in his repertoire. Jumping from ledge to ledge and shimmying along narrow passageways will feel like second nature thanks to the tight controls. Eventually, the exploration will come to an end as the combat takes over. Luckily, Drake is a master of hand-to-hand combat in addition to being proficient in firearms. The combat in Uncharted is usually compared to Gears of War, due to the cover mechanics, the fact you can only hold two guns and that Drake’s melee is overpowered but leaves him highly vulnerable. Again, just like the previous comparison to Indiana Jones, this is a good thing as we can all agree that Gears of War is at the top of its class when it comes to third-person combat.
Uncharted is one of the most polished, well-controlled games on the PlayStation 3 so it’s one misstep stands out that much more: the shoehorned SixAxis controls. To throw a grenade, you must tilt the SixAxis controller up and down. Not only is this a pain to do in the middle of combat but it’s also highly inaccurate. As a result, it’s unlikely you’ll use grenades very often.
Uncharted does not contain any multiplayer, but the single player mode does feature numerous difficulty levels and a large amount of collectibles to find, enhancing the replay of the title.
Clocking in at ten hours, Uncharted isn’t the longest game around but it’s some of the best ten hours you’ll spend this generation packing in a great narrative, tight controls, amazing graphics and pulse-pounding, scene appropriate music. The game has broad appeal and if you enjoy gaming period and have yet to give Uncharted a shot, do so immediately. You’ll quickly see why Uncharted is only the beginning of one of the PlayStation 3’s most successful franchises.
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: November 19th, 2007
Release Platforms: PlayStation 3