Review – Uncharted: Drakes Fortune

Rating - 10.0/10.0 - 10

I know this is an ‘old’ game, but I’m sure there will be people who have just dropped onto the PS3 scene who haven’t played it, so here’s one of my characteristically short reviews.

When the original Playstation was around, there was only one game to play if you wanted to run around in deserted places solving ancient puzzles… that was of course Tomb Raider. Unfortunately, I’m guessing because of publisher pressure, the game lost what made it great after number 4 was released. 5 was just a bit too short if I recall correctly, and it’s outings on the PS2… best not to mention them (with one notable exception… Anniversary, which is of course a major rework of the original Tomb Raider). Why shouldn’t we mention them… simply because they lacked what made the game great on the Playstation. The control schema changed to accomodate more moves… the puzzles didn’t seem as tough… the games weren’t as long… I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they just didn’t cut it. So for many years now, we’ve been waiting for a game to take up the mantle and fill the void, and well… in my opinion at least, that game (or series of games) is here.

Welcome Uncharted: Drakes Fortune.

For those of you who are long time Playstation gamers, you will no doubt remember such classics as Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter, produced by Naughty Dog. Well, they are the team responsible for Uncharted… a bit of a departure from Crash and Jak, but what a departure :-)

I’ve owned this game for ages, but I’ve never played it. It took watching a friend play through Uncharted 2 to get me in the mood, and well… was I in the mood! I’ve just finished playing through for the first time on the Hard difficulty (if you play through on hard, you will earn the first 3 difficulty trophies and unlock the Crushing difficulty level, which I’m now playing through). It is hard. Your enemies take a while to kill, at times ammo is almost extinct and you yourself… a few shots and your on your way to an early grave.

So, what makes me think Uncharted can fill the enormous boots of the original Tomb Raider games… well, lets see…

First up the environment… the gaming environment is huge and the detail is amazing. The vegetation sways in the wind, you can almost swim in the rivers and waterfalls, and you can hear everything from the birds in the trees to the roar of the ocean waves. Now this is nothing new I know, but it just makes the game that bit more engaging and believable. And best of all, it doesn’t appear to be as constrained by an arbitrary grid as Tomb Raider does, meaning the surfaces and faces you walk and climb on can be curved, like real cliffs for example.

The Story… you play the part of Nathan Drake, a distant relative of Sir. Francis Drake, on his quest to uncover El Dorado using clues left by Sir. Francis. The plot starts on a boat as Nathan recovers Sir. Francis’ coffin from the ocean floor only to find it contains his journal, and our adventure begins.

The puzzles… whilst there aren’t that many puzzles, this doesn’t detract from the game play as you’ll very often be looking for routes through the environment and the best way to despatch those that stand between you and the ultimate prize. The puzzles that are there rely on you decoding the information in Sir. Francis’ journal to get the solution. Once you have it, you’ll probably have to battle the environment to reach a successful conclusion. In short, one of the things that made Tomb Raider great is back in abundance in Uncharted.

The graphics and sound… as I’ve stated above, the sound is superb. Have one of your enemies throw a grenade near you… you’ll have ringing in your speakers just like it exploded a few feet from you. And well, the graphics… whilst they aren’t photorealistic (who needs that anyway), they are certainly filled with the atmosphere of the area you’re in. From misty mountain slopes in the forest to the dark dank depths of an old bunker, you certainly get the feel of being there.

Difficulty… I played through on Hard difficulty (it has Easy, Normal and Hard out of the box, with Crushing being unlocked when you complete the game on Hard). I played to complete it, not hunt for all the trophies and treasures, but in doing so I’ve scored about 60% of the trophies and two thirds of the treasures. It was hard. I had some major fights and died many times, but thanks to the checkpoints in game, I never lost too much progress. But, if you die in the middle of a big fight and you’re doing well… don’t expect it to go the same way when you are resurrected at the start of it… after a while I found some of the enemies changed their tactics, and in some cases you won’t restart where you thought you were, so be prepared. As I said, I’m currently playing through on Crushing difficulty and it is a major step above Hard in terms of how difficult it is. In hard, you can take quite a few shots before being close to death… in Crushing… one or two and you’re nearly in the resus room of the local hospital. The enemies are tougher and appear to be a better aim, so it promises to be a much tougher gaming experience the second time through.

There’s not too much more I can say. If you liked Tomb Raider and have been looking for a replacement, or if you’re new to the PS3 and fancy a game that has you thinking about puzzles, strategies (you’ll need them for some of the fights you’ll have) and whether to take the AK-47 with 26 bullets or the M-4 with 27 bullets, then give it a go. I can honestly say I’ve not enjoyed a Tomb Raider style game as much as this since I last played Tomb Raiders I, II and III many years ago. Truly an excellent game which is why I’m giving it full marks.


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