Is this a movie or a game?

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Gameplay
graphics
audio
value
fun
Genre
Reviewed On
PlayStation 3
Available For
Difficulty
Intermediate
Publisher(s)
Developer(s)
ESRB
ESRB

Drake Brings Heat To The PS3

I know quite a few people who shelled out big money for a PlayStation 3 last year and then went and picked up an Xbox 360 or a Wii (if they could find one) because of the lack of good games for the more expensive PS3. And while 2007 began with a lot of promise for the console, sadly many of the titles that people where waiting for got pushed back to 2008, or worse yet now have unspecified release dates. The only game left that could save the PS3 for 2007 was Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

That puts a lot of pressure on one game’s shoulders. The question is, can it live up to the hype, or is it going to be another game like Lair. The short answer is"yes it does live up to the hype, and does so in a big way.

You play Nathan Drake, a modern day treasure hunter and adventurer. Think of him as a modern day Indiana Smith. Along with a cigar chomping scoundrel of a friend Victor Sullivan (Sully), and newswoman Elena Fisher, Drake decides to go after his ancestor’s, Sir Francis Drake, fabled treasure.

The movie that follows, err I mean game, (but yes it does look that good) opens when Elena and Nathan recover the coffin of Drake from the ocean floor. But when they open up the box they find that it doesn’t contain a body, though it does contain a journal. And the adventure begins when they are almost immediately attacked by boat loads (literally) of pirates.

Next comes a bit of gun play where you see that Elena is actually helpful, and not just window dressing. As you fend off the pirates your boat gets damaged and you have to call you friend Sully in his plane to come get your butt out of the fire. It’s at this point that you realize you are totally hooked into the search for El Dorado (the Fabled City of Gold). And best of all, throughout the entire game, you never loose that feeling.

For the most part Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a third person action adventure, with quite a bit of shooting and puzzle solving thrown in to the mix.

What I found really great is that while there are a lot of jumping and swinging about, the game makes it kind of easy, or at least more forgiving then other similar games – I am looking squarely at you Tomb Raider.

You still feel the thrill of success, but there is far less frustration as you climb steep cliffs to make your way into a WWII German U-Boat that for some reason is stuck in a river in the middle of an island. When you yourself get stuck on a dubious puzzle, you can refer to Sir Francis Drake for some valuable clues, like the correct order to do things.

There are a lot of gun battles with pirates who inhabit the islands you will be visiting during your adventure, and they will shoot at you as you duck for cover and shoot back at them, trying to kill the many waves of bad guys before they shoot you, or toss a hand grenade that you just can’t dodge.

If the worst should happen, you will see the world shift to black and white, which means that you are almost a goner, and you should find some cover. Once the world turns back to color you know it’s safe to continue the gun battle. This Call of Duty 4 type of damage method is becoming more and more popular, and it works great for Drake, letting you know you are taking damage without the need for some goofy heads-up display.

You can have several weapons at any time from a pistol to a shotgun or machinegun. Oh, and you can get grenades as well. I found the biggest challenge was not running out of ammo, because that is when you have to run forward to scavenge some off of the dead, mostly under fire.

Other than a few minor glitches where I found myself sticking half in and half out of a cliff, the graphics in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune are fantastic, some of the best around for any platform. And with a great storyline that reminds me a bit of the old Tales of the Golden Monkey TV show, along with winning controls, the game really comes together to immerse you into the whole story.

But the graphics are truly the star here. As you travel along jungle paths leaping along ancient ruins, the light will just filter beautifully though the leaves and you feel as if you are truly there. And when you go for a swim, your clothing will actually appear to get wet, an effect I’ve not seen in any other game.

Adding to the whole package is some stellar voice acting by all the characters, without even a single bad one to spoil the bunch. From the main characters Nathan Drake (Nolan North), the beautiful newswomen Elena Fisher (Emily Rose), and the wise cracking Victor "Sully" Sullivan (Richard McGonagle) who tells stories throughout the game to the evil bad guys Gabriel Roman (Simon Templeman) and Atoq Navarro (Robin Atkin Downes), everyone deserves kudos here for a fine job. I can’t remember the last time every voice actor in a game got it right on the money.

There are four difficultly settings for replay value and sixty hidden treasures plus forty-seven medals that you can find, which allows you to unlock the usual run of pictures, and even more fun things like additional costumes and unlimited ammo.

If you can’t tell by now, I am extremely happy with this game, and I can’t see any reason why anyone wouldn’t. Developer Naughty Dog Software should be commended for blending a great story, a fun adventure, great sound and voice acting, and a beautiful setting together into my pick for the best PS3 game of the year.

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