Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Since I've reviewed the third game and Golden Abyss, I figured I may as well review the rest of the series.
Drake's Fortune is the first game in the Uncharted franchise, and you can definately tell it was the first. While it isn't what I'd deem a bad game, there are some things that work and some that don't in terms of the gameplay.
Players assume the role of Nathan Drake, a modern-day treasure hunter who is marketed by Naugty Dog as an ordinary man despite having better commando skills than any soldier in video games and platforming abilities that Mario and the like can only dream of. A supposed descendant of Sir Francis Drake, he's currently searching for the fabled treasure of El Dorado along with his partner and mentor, Victor "Sully" Sullivan. However, the same treasure is also being searched for by a rival fortune hunter/mob boss. There's also a love interest in the mix, and the story is a pulpy little tale about Drake having to keep himself and his friends alive while he races all over the island to beat the bad guys to the treasure. I'll just say right here that the story is about the best part of the game, and I'd say it's still the best story in the series at present. It is inspired by the pulp stories of old like Indiana Jones, but with a modern spin. It works, and if you're a fan of the genre it is a real treat.
With the premise covered, I will just jump right into the gameplay. Uncharted is a third person shooter that also places a heavy emphasis on platforming.So what works? Well the gunplay overall works. The controls are pretty good and easy to get the hang of, gimmicky shoehorned Six Axis controls not withstanding. The platforming works...for the most part. That's not to say there weren't some cheap deaths due to this, but overall it works. While some fans would disagree with me on this, I really like that the game is very linear. Straightforward, and you don't have to worry about getting lost. If linearity isn't your thing there are plenty of open world games already. What doesn't work? I would say the biggest problem with Drake's Fortune is how sheerly repetitive it is. Basically, it's just one big shootout after another, over and over and over again. Each shootout has hordes upon hordes of enemies and you can't advance until you kill them all, only to walk into the next room or area and engage in another big bullet bonanza. I've wondered how Drake even sleeps at night, as I think it's safe to say he has the biggest body count in video games, hands down. Occasionally you will get a brief break via a platforming or puzzle solving segment, but before you know it you're behind cover trading bullets with enemies again. What makes it feel so monotonous after a while is probably because the environment virtually never changes, the whole game takes place on the island and its various temples and such.
Aside from that, the enemy AI can be pretty ridiculous. The game does have adjustable difficulties but I'm talking about the default, Normal difificulty. Even on easy, the bad guys can take a frustrating amount of damage. They're not wearing bullet proof vests or anything, they're mostly modern day pirates who can take shotgun blasts to the chest despite not wearing shirts. Because they can take insane amounts of damage and are unfortunately pretty adept at taking cover, each shootout can take a while to clear.
Graphically, I would say it's perhaps a slight step above PS2, if that, but this is a 2007 game so one can't really hold graphics against it. They're good enough, and even with all that said the animation on the characters and their movements as well as facial expressions is pretty well done. Mostly because ND prefers to do motion capture to animate their characters in these games.
The voice cast is also very quality. Nolan North breathes life into Nathan Drake, and the other characters are very well done as well. Especially the hilarious Eddy Raja character. The music, once again, is also top notch. The main theme song is pretty catchy and sets the pulp action adventure atmosphere even better. During relaxed gameplay segments the music is mostly ambiance and during tense sequences like major shootouts and the set pieces like the jeep chase, it's exciting and adrenalin pumping.
As a whole, Uncharted is a charming game with a rich atmosphere and universe. The feel and vibes that this game and the series give off is that the cast and crew really enjoyed and had fun making it, a feeling not felt with many games today. The overall presentation is great and basically everything is awesome except the actual gameplay which is decent, albeit repetitive. Fortunately, they did much, much, MUCH better with the gameplay in the sequel. As for this though, it's held together by a great story, a colorful cast of characters, and great atmosphere. If you want to play it for yourself, it's easy to find it bundled with the sequel for about 20 bucks, which I would say is a great deal. If you can't find the bundle, it's still worth picking up at the modest price you can find it for now but it's questionable whether you'll want to do a second playthrough or not.