Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4
Release Date: 19th December 2007
Notes: Review may contain plot spoilers. As the PS3 does not feature a screenshotting tool this review will contain official screenshots from the game’s website instead.
Uncharted: Drakes Fortune is the first major video game from childhood video game factory Naughty Dog to be released on the PlayStation 3. Taking a different direction from their previous stylised character platforming video game franchises Jak and Daxter and Crash Bandicoot. This is a third person shooter taking place in a pirate infested South American jungle with the protagonist Nathan Drake, a treasure hunting rogue on the trail for El Dorado.
The game starts with a gunfight in the middle of the ocean, this is the beginning of the tutorial, and it plays like you would expect for the early stage of a game. Slow pacing to introduce the game’s main mechanics. After this shoot out you are taken to a jungle area to learn how the platforming works. This is where the theme of the rest of the game is presented.
Ancient ruins and jungles filled with treasure and pirates make up the majority of the levels with some taking place is unexpected places. Interior levels are more interesting than their exterior counterparts mostly because each one is unique enough to feel new whereas the exterior levels generally tend to look the same as one another due to them all taking place in generic jungle areas. The one exception however is a level that is a mix of castle exteriors and interiors that the player moves in-between as they advance.
Exterior levels for some reason tend to have a lot more instant death points on their platforming paths, which would be fine if the game wasn’t riddled with clipping issues and bugs that cause the player to fall through the floor or pass through walls. These bugs however don’t just affect the player, annoyingly there are quite a lot of walls that allow NPCs to fire their guns through them at the player.
When exploring interior areas you will usually be presented with a puzzle of some kind to advance to the next area, the puzzles aren’t very difficult due to the game giving you the solution to said puzzle in the diary screen. These areas make for great quiet time though to search for hidden items or take a break from the game.
The plot goes all over the place but seems to pick itself up in the second half of the game. When Drake finally rescues some of his buddies before they set off to find the treasure that the game is named after. From this point onwards the game makes more and more plot twists in a surprising an unexpected way. They don’t feel out of place either due to plot points and items found earlier in the game that seemed to be out of place at the time.
Combat is probably the weakest part of the game, which is a shame because there sure is a lot of it. From inconsistent enemy damage to poor controls, the game appears to be artificially more difficult than it should be. Some enemies have the ability to kill the player instantly with their high damage guns, other times these same enemies do hardly any damage at all, making target prioritization pretty much pointless. The poor controls don’t make this any easier either, with choppy aiming and a very noticeable and inconsistent (making it impossible to adjust to it) input lag some combat sequences will take many more tries to finish than they should.
The player isn’t restricted to fine aiming and shooting from cover however, blind firing and running about is a surprisingly more effective way to deal with some enemies, especially ones that feel compelled to fight you in melee. You have to option of engaging them in melee yourself of course but due to the input lag mentioned above your results may vary. The input lag also affects the game’s quick time events, making it possible to die suddenly despite pressing the flashy button.
Thankfully the game has a checkpoint almost every couple of minutes so the constant dying due to bugs or other annoyances isn’t too bad.
Apart from climbing, shooting and puzzle solving, the game also has a few jet ski sections. Just like the climbing and shooting section though you will find yourself up against a lot of inconsistent enemy damage and occasional bugs such as invisible exploding barrels or enemies that somehow got their hands on instant death bullets.
The ending of the game is a grand old time with the best levels and puzzles in the entire game. At least until the final and only boss that is. This boss fight plays more like a trial and error timing puzzle than a genuine boss fight due to the boss having an instant kill weapon that shoots instantly the moment any part of your player model isn’t entirely in cover which seems counter to the design of the rest of the fight that contains generic enemy NPCs you need to shoot at which will of course expose your player model to the boss’s instant death bullets.
Following this boss fight the game ends with a satisfying ending cutscene and a teaser for the game’s sequel.
From start to finish the game takes about 7 to 9 hours to complete depending on difficulty and inconvenient bugs, the game crashed on me once in my play-through near the middle of the game requiring a full restart of my PlayStation 3 system.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune didn’t impress me but it has some enjoyable moments and it shows that Naughty Dog are capable of making a different type of game. The game has some pretty major flaws that need ironed out. It’s a decent game overall but it’s not a treasure.
Rating: Not So Fortunate
- Fun characters and story.
- Good variety of gameplay styles.
- Interesting locales and environments.
- Bugs, bugs, bugs.
- Poor controls and performance issues.
- Unfair and inconsistent NPC and boss damage.