When writing a video game review, it’s important to get the readers attention in the first paragraph. Generally the first paragraph will either attract a reader to read the rest of the review, or send them to the bottom of the page to find out the score and move on. The best way to get the readers attention and get them to read on is to make a bold statement straight from the off. So, here goes:
Uncharted: Drakes Fortune is not only the best action adventure title ever seen (yes, better than all the Tomb Raider's) but it is by far the best title on the Playstation 3 to date. Got your attention? You had best read on to find out why!
Uncharted: Drakes Fortune (we’ll abbreviate it to Uncharted from now on) sends you on the treasure hunting adventures of Nathan Drake, who’s following the trail of his ancestor Sir Francis Drake. Nathan is specifically hunting for the legendary treasure of El Dorado. After discovering a diary in Francis Drakes coffin, Nathan sets off to a forgotten island in the middle of the pacific ocean to find it. Along with Elena Fisher - a journalist who later becomes a helping hand to Nathan – and Victor Sullivan – Nathans long-time treasure hunting partner – it soon becomes evident that they’re not the only ones hunting El Dorado.
Pretty much the entire game is set in the lush green rainforest of the island. The best way to describe the look of the island is to think FarCry. That’s not to say that this game is basically set in the same spot as FarCry was. Far from it. The jungle itself is similar in colour and atmosphere, but the humongous cliffs and ancient ruins spread throughout the jungle take it to a far greater level, one that we’ve definitely never seen before.
Whilst we’re on the subject of the graphics, we might as well mention just how stunning they really are. Over the last few months, we’ve started to see glimpses of the PS3’s graphical prowess shining through. Uncharted is the first title to actually show just how much can be done. Some of the levels in the title are simply staggering. I genuinely found myself standing and looking out to sea at the top of the cliff during the game, with my mouth gaping open as I watched the sea crashing against the rocks below and fading out into the sunset in the distance whilst a flock of birds amicably flew around. Words cannot express just how fantastic this game looks.
Let’s head back to the opening comment. If you’ve played the latest renditions of Tomb Raider, you’ll know all about the climbing puzzles that are now throughout the title, with Lara leaping almost seamlessly between ledges and rocks, with elegant animations to match. Now, take that amazing aspect of the title, times it by ten, stick it in the graphical excellence mentioned above, and then you’ll be somewhere near Uncharted.
There are plenty of occasions throughout the title to show off Nathan Drakes superb athletic ability. Crumbling ledges, well placed rocks and high hanging branches all lend to Drakes climbing. Although somewhat linear, there’s still a level of concentration required to work out which ledge to grab next, or which rock to leap to. To aid this, the developers (Naughty Dog) have placed extremely impressive cinematic camera angles during your leaping adventures, not only lending you a hand as to where to jump to next, but also giving you an impressive movie-like feel to the adventure. In fact, when I was playing this title at my family’s house, they all stopped, sat down and watched me play as if it were a movie – it’s really that good.
But it’s not all about monkey-ing around between cliffs, as Uncharted also boasts a rather impressive combat aspect also. In fact, there’s a very clever balance throughout the game between the puzzles and the combat. There never seems to be a lean towards one or the other. Nor do you feel as though one of the two is more enjoyable. Drakes shooting skills are as good as his leaping attributes as you get involved in numerous fire fights with countless pirates and rogues. By pressing circle near any wall or pillar, Drake will automatically push himself up against it for cover. You can then use that cover to either shoot blind around, or over, the wall (depending on the height) and you can stick your head out from behind the cover and aim.
The combat reminds me a lot of Gears of War, with the ability to leap between covers and shoot covering shots at your enemies feet to send them leaping for cover – giving you time to reposition. You’re also blessed with a plethora of weapons to use, from various hand-guns including a desert eagle, all the way up through Ak-47’s to grenade launchers! The AI are also quite intelligent. If you hit their leg, they’ll quick react and limp away behind some cover. Shooting the wall or floor near them will also send them scrambling for relief. Not only that, but they’ll reposition themselves regularly to keep you guessing, and will of course lob a few grenades over the top to flush you out.
If you find yourself head-on with an enemy at close range, you can get yourself into hand-to-hand combat, with a quick, well timed combo sending them spark out on the ground. There seems to be less emphasis on hand-to-hand, for the simple fact that if you’re in a fire fight, putting your gun away and getting into a fist fight whilst other rogues are still shooting at you is a bit stupid. However there are times in the game when a well placed enemy will leap out at you, forcing you to flex your muscles and punch their lights out.
It’s important however to also mention the few negative aspects of the game. Firstly, there’s no multiplayer. That’s not necessarily all bad however. The fact that there isn’t any multiplayer does mean that Naughty Dogs entire team have concentrated on the single-player section – something that is definitely evident throughout. Secondly, the animations on the climbing puzzles aren’t always as seamless as titles such as Assassin’s Creed. Occasionally you just feel that the huge leap you made could of look a tiny bit better with a smoother transition between animations. That being said, it’s not a major issue and in all honesty, I’m being a bit picky.
Finally, the single-player game isn’t the longest one around. It took me around nine hours to complete, which is respectable, but not stunning. I never spent a long amount of time searching in all the corners of the game for secret hidden treasures that are placed throughout, but I certainly didn’t rush. The fact that the game doesn’t dither in fleshing out the story is actually a positive point, creating a no nonsense, immersive storyline that’s good enough to be in a film.
It’s not often that I boast about a game as much as this one. The superb attention to detail, coupled with mind-blowing visuals, fantastic combat, immense climbing puzzles and a brilliant storyline makes Uncharted: Drakes Fortune the best PS3 title to date. If you don’t go out and buy this game, then you obviously don’t own a PS3, in which case – why are you reading this review? Quite simply: Buy this game.