Going For Gold - Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Review

As part of my ongoing quest to experience as much of the PS3’s esteemed exclusive catalogue as possible, it was an inevitability that eventually I’d come into contact with famed explorer Nathan Drake and crew. So is this merely a genderswapped Lara Croft in a generic Indiana Jones-style escapade? Let’s find out.

Presentation within this first entry in the Uncharted adventure series is decidedly cliche - not in a bad way, but it’s immediately evident from the theming that the title does not intend to take itself too seriously. Everything from the characters and their one-dimensional personalities to the heavily stereotyped villains is very textbook and breaks no new ground, but is admittedly executed very well. Naughty Dog have clearly got a handle on their realistic-yet-stylized third-person visuals, and character models scream quality.

You'll quickly get used to Nathan Drake's blatant disregard for health & safety.

Environments on the other hand were a bit hit-and-miss in my experience, with more densely enfoliaged areas looking a little washed out and jaggy sometimes, and textures on the whole appearing to be more dull than perhaps I would have liked, particularly in indoor areas. It’s a shame too because like I said the cutscenes are excellent, featuring great motion-capture work and it feels very reminiscent of classic action-adventure movies.

"...although she’s one of the blandest characters I’ve ever seen
in anything ever so it really doesn’t matter."

Drake’s Fortune accompanies established explorer/model Nathan Drake (voiced by Nolan North) as he attempts to track down El Dorado, the city of gold, as well as learn more about his ancestor, English privateer Sir Francis Drake. Voyaging with him are his longtime companion Sullivan with a keen eye for a profit, and Elena Fisher, presumably an aspiring filmmaker - although she’s one of the blandest characters I’ve ever seen in anything ever so it really doesn’t matter. Quite literally her entire character seems to revolve around her camera, and being a pseudo-romantic interest for Nate. That’s pretty much it.

Gameplay is fairly standard ‘third-person shooter’, very colour-by-numbers when all things are considered. General movement and shooting controls are executed well, but I had a couple of issues. Firstly, the camera is less-than-stellar in combat-heavy areas, and often trying to aim around a wall or pillar will result in a screenful of bricks. Secondly (and this is the big one) the 'snapping to cover' feature is just abysmal.

Now I understand that dynamic cover-seeking must be incredibly difficult to program but again, if you choose to implement it it will be scrutinised, and I genuinely think I’ve died more times because of it than being saved. You will inevitably snap to the wrong side of a wall or obstruction and be killed quickly, particularly in crowded areas. Lastly, while I appreciate that Sony may have wanted to showcase the motion controls in the DualShock 3 in the grenade throwing system, in combat having to rotate the controller vertically is just not fast enough, and I would have vastly preferred the controls from The Last of Us, for example.

Getting real tired of this 'lethal decor' movement

There are hidden relics to find in the environment throughout your adventure and some very light puzzle-solving to be done. I must note the very generous respawn system that does not penalise you much at all for dying, which does a good job of encouraging exploration. Additionally, hidden weapons are occasionally placed in the environment such as sniper rifles or grenade launchers, and enemies carry an assortment of different weapon types for you to take. This means that there are both long and short-range combat solutions to most scenarios, although a more stealthy option would have maybe been nice to see as well.

  Use clues from Francis Drake's writings to solve puzzles!

Use clues from Francis Drake's writings to solve puzzles!

Ultimately, like I said, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is rather average in most respects. Don’t get me wrong, it’s executed very well, and I can certainly understand why it sold as well as it did. It’s basically just a repackaged Tomb Raider with a new protagonist, and a heavily cliched story and cast, but you’ll certainly have a good time with it. The game took me about seven hours to beat, and there seems to be very little in the way of replay value other than the relics, but if like me you’re trying to sample the PS3’s back catalogue, I’d definitely recommend it. I’m more than looking forward to the sequel.

Author: Ollie Burton

Ollie is a student at Newcastle University in the UK studying Cellular & Molecular Biology. In his spare time he operates this website, is an avid gaming & film fan and plays in a blues-rock band, as well as editing for the University's student newspaper, The Courier.