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Developer: Naughty Dog
Website: Uncharted: Drakes Fortune
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune hit shelves officially on the nineteenth of November. As I reported earlier though, it’s been available since the sixteenth. So why has it taken so long to get an opinion on the game? Because I’ve been treasure hunting for a whole week trying to find all of those stupid gold, jewel-encrusted, silver-plated, enamel glazed, sugar coated, hidden treasures with their fine Corinthian leathers. Treasure hunting is an addiction and this video game takes full advantage of it with its beautifully rendered jungles, nail-biting platforming and exciting firefights.
Today I promise not to talk at all about Lara Croft or Indiana Jones as so many are tempted to do when talking about this game. Instead of playing as a quick-witted professor, or a busty British lady you play as Nathan Drake. Nate is the supposed descendant of famous explorer and pirate – well, explorer depending on how you look at history – as he goes in search of El Dorado. History 101 teaches us that El Dorado was the lost city of gold in South America, but Naughty Dog has different ideas about this famous lost treasure as Nate runs into pirates, mercenaries and some guy with an accent who all have a vested interest in this lost city of gold.
The story itself is very formulaic. You can pick up any story of a plucky treasure hunter and get the same effect. That’s not to say it’s bad though. The reason these stories have been told for ages is because the formula continues to entertain. The story in Drake’s Fortune is no different. Filled with action, twists and good old fashioned fun with guns, the plot of Drake’s Fortune is amusing.
The landscapes and characters are pulled together gorgeously. Even for a PS3 game it delivers amazing detail that was very well tested as I have yet to get even a frame rate drop or a glitch of any sort. There’s not even that telling difference in resolution of objects you can interact with. It all blends, and it all looks wonderful.
The problem with a uniformly rendered game, you expect everything to be usable and one hundred percent interactive. It’s not. Every once in a while there is a ledge you can climb or a rock you can stand on that has no purpose. Otherwise every piece of landscape you can crawl, climb or jump on serves a purpose and everything else is just window dressing. If you’ve ever been stuck in the jungle looking for treasure and being chased by guys with guns, as I so often find myself, you know that you can go the wrong way and get completely lost. This is never a problem for Nate. If you can climb there’s a good chance that either that’s the way to the next story element or to another hidden treasure.
The platforming is still insanely fun and so are the firefights. Sometimes they’re simplistic, but still fun nonetheless. You learn very quickly that the good weapons have very limited ammo and the cheap weapons can be used effectively if you know how, making for a very creative and wide range as far as combat in the game goes.
There’s even an insanely fun car-chasing element in the game where you’re the gunner and you get to blow up jeeps and motorcycles as they come after you. Then that’s replaced by a poorly made Jet-ski chase portion of the game where the supporting AI says “you drive, I’ll shoot.” That’d be nice if she’d actually shoot! You’re driving and shooting. What’s worse, to shoot you have to stop in the water, which very often results in death, but not stopping results in death too. So this is by far the most needlessly difficult part of the game.
Aside from a couple of flaws and oversights in gameplay, it’s a lot of fun to run around the jungle and get into inevitable firefights while unraveling a fun story. The combat is very versatile accommodating to many different styles of play.
Treasure hunting is an optional portion of the game. You can blaze through it and take the laid out path completely skipping this aspect of the game. But I highly suggest going on the scavenger hunt.
Treasure hunting is not just a “good for you” element in this game as it so often has been in the past. Naughty Dog thought to include rewards, extras and achievements. If you try to get all the treasure and choose to bring some serious skills to the table there is a host of extra features you can unlock that make the game so much fun for completionists. Something that I had a lot of fun with is putting the game into Sepia tones (old timey photographs) while I was in firefights once I unlocked it. There’s also a bundle of making of videos and conceptual sketches that you unlock as you get achievements and find treasure.
If you own a PS3 I highly suggest renting it and putting in a couple of hours before buying it. Even though it’s hard for me to get genuinely excited about it I will be putting it on my mantle next to the Cross of Coronado and El Changa de Plata for use at a future date.