Since I haven’t been blogging much, here’s an echo of a game review for the other blog I write for.:)
Naughty Dog as a game development studio has been around for more than two decades now since their founding in 1986. While they’re better known for their Jak & Daxter video game series, they scored a surprise and big hit with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune on the PS3 a year ago.
In order to properly appreciate what the scene was like a year ago though, one has to realize that the PS3 didn’t have very many big titles at that point, especially when compared to the XBox 360 that had already been released one year earlier, during which a number of well-received and popular titles had already been published for it.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is console-based action-adventure at its best. It has all the blockbuster production values, likable characters, amazing visuals, and all the nods to established icons of the game story’s genre . The story concerns a Nathan Drake, a (fictional) descendent of famous English explorer and privateer Sir Francis Drake of the 16th Century. The modern Drake is a treasure hunter, and in Uncharted, takes off on an expedition to recover the mythical treasure of El Dorado. Along the way, he’ll be supported by a cast of memorable characters, friends and foes alike.
What’s special about Uncharted? The visuals for one. While fans of the Metal Gear Solid series will swear that Hideo Kojima’s last magnum opus, MGS IV (with an upcoming review by GET staff Mr. Ng soon) is the most visually stunning game available on the PS3, there’re other gamers who’ll point to the year older Uncharted as an equally if not more visually impressive effort that uses fewer overheads, er, MGS IV loading times *koff*.
Simply put, Uncharted is replete with numerous moments where you’ll stare with eyes afixed at the screen taking in the visuals. Seeing what the PS3 can produce on screen will give you that sense of vindication of having spent a small fortune on a gaming console. Among especially outstanding scenes include the German U-boat run aground on a riverbed, a massive monastery that is hundreds of years old and in ruins, and a submarine pen that is a page out of a similar scene in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Animation was developed with the now ubiquitous mocaps, but still spendidly done nonetheless with eye, cheek movements and texture morphing on the faces.
The narrative in MGS IV is substantially stronger, with the story in Uncharted almost workmanlike. That said, the ingame story sequences in Uncharted are hugely enjoyable. They move along briskly compared to the occasionally indulgent story telling in MGS IV, with dialog that’ll make you chuckle and laugh on occasion, and carried through with a likable cast of characters. Nathan is assisted by a journalist, Elena, and a cigar-smoking companion, Victor, whose loyalties will seemingly shift in the course of the story. It’s probably a result of both the dialog script and also voice-acting that Uncharted is one game whose ingame scenes you’ll want to watch repeatedly, if only because they’re so well done and acted.
Heck. Even the characters resisting Nathan and his team’s efforts are likable. Of particular standout is the Indonesian (?) pirate Eddy Raja, voice-acted by James Sie. Sie’s comedic timing and with many of the game’s funniest lines, including a couple in what looks like Bahasa Indonesian, will have you laughing.
There’s a fair balance of platform-based and combat action in the game too. The platform based components and puzzles are pretty forgiving, so players looking for a bigger challenge would be better off with the Tomb Raider series. But they’re perfect for everyone else, including casual gamers.
The combat sequences in Uncharted don’t approach identical levels of realism or sophistication compared to some first-person shooters, but they’re still nonetheless enjoyable. Apart from four grenades, Nathan gets to carry just two guns at any one time; one side-arm and a rifle, and Nathan can only carry a limited amount of ammunition for both at a time too.
Fighting off pirates, rival treasure hunters and other critters isn’t simply an issue of charging head on too. Rather, your enemies will gun and duck for cover behind physical features of the terrain or buildings you’ll explore, and will in return typically flank or use grenades to flush you out.
Perhaps the litmus test on Uncharted’s appeal is to the untapped market segment of non-gamers. My wife for instance isn’t a computer gamer at all, but she got hooked on Uncharted’s platform scenes. She doesn’t possess much of the dexterity that PS3 gamers have when it comes to using the SIXAXIS controllers, but she enjoys having Nathan explore areas and solving puzzles on getting from one point to another.
The one down side though is the game’s comparatively short length. Experienced action game players will zip through Uncharted‘s 22 chapters (levels) in less than 10 hours. But even if one doesn’t replay the game through the different difficulty levels and bonus treasures for those who’re game completists, the 10 hours will be a tremendously fun ride.
Highly recommended for those who have PS3s.
– Dr. Foo CY, 6 Oct 2008