|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Naughty Dog||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SCEA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 16, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matt Cabral
Justifying a pre-price cut PS3 purchase has not been easy. The path has been cluttered with regret (the lame launch line-up), disappointment (supposed - system - seller - turned - SIXAXIS - nightmare, Lair), redemption (the excellent Eye of Judgment and Ratchet and Clank), and finally, after spending a few days in the well-worn trail boots of Nathan Drake, full-on "who's jealous now, Xbox 360 fanboys?!" justification.
With the release of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Sony, in our book, no longer needs to defend or apologize for their previous PS3 mishaps; all is forgiven, even that lame "we don't need rumble, never mind, yes we do" debacle. Landing in the cyber spotlight alongside last month's Ratchet and Clank: Future Tools of Destruction, Uncharted shines brightly as the fledgling console's second system-selling sensation.
First things first: Uncharted is not Tomb Raider, Indiana Jones, or any of the relic-hunting wannabes that've followed in their footsteps; it's its own blockbusting beast. True, it shares many individual traits--puzzling, platforming, fighting, shooting--with those franchises, but the sum of its spelunking similarities culminate in an experience entirely worthy of its own action figure and, of course, sequel-spawning franchise; hell, a film adaptation wouldn't even be much of a stretch seeing that the game is practically a playable movie. This isn't especially surprising considering Uncharted comes from Naughty Dog, developer of the successful PS2 series, Jak and Daxter. But the fact that they avoided the easy and obvious path, not delivering the first PS3 chapter in their well established franchise, is impressive. We're sure a next-gen Jak is in the PS3 pipeline; and like a hungry Ottsel, we'll happily lap it up when it arrives. But in the meantime we couldn't be happier that Naughty Dog took a chance on this new, soon-to-be-classic IP.
The first thing you'll notice in Uncharted are the gorgeous visuals. Lush jungle landscapes, creepy caves, and stunning set pieces--a German U-Boat teetering atop a waterfall's edge is a highlight--are all complemented by some of the best shadowing and lighting effects we've seen in this gaming generation. Whether you're exploring a torch-lit cavern or scaling a sun-soaked cliff side, you'll continually be floored by the realism yielded by these effects. This attention to detail extends to the game's use of water as well; postcard-perfect waterfalls and ocean backdrops are like nothing you've seen in previous games. What the ground-breaking BioShock did for claustrophobic liquidy effects--trickling pipes, leaky windows--Uncharted has done for larger scale water representation in games. If Uncharted doesn't succeed in making you want to become a real-life treasure hunter, its pop-off-the-screen tropical splendor will at least have you longing for a beach-bathing getaway.
As pretty as the sites are in Uncharted, ogling them too long will likely spell trouble for the game's protagonist Nathan Drake. Puzzles, pirates, and long death drops riddle the beautiful landscape, so better save the site-seeing for your next vacation. These danger-dealing elements deliver much of Uncharted's perfectly paced gameplay. The pulp fiction-fueled story--which we won't spoil for you--has you tracking the lost city of El Dorado, so as you can imagine, it's no cakewalk; the aforementioned pirates, as well as some other well-armed parties, are also interested in getting their greedy hands on the gold, making your adventure all the more dangerous. Your encounters with these various bands of baddies consist of fast action, bullet-whizzing shootouts, utilizing an intuitive duck-and-cover system. If you're at all familiar with Gears of War's stop-and-pop style of play, where you take refuge behind environmental structures, occasionally sticking your head out to get a bead on the bad guys, then you'll feel right at home in Uncharted's frantic firefights. The system works great and is further enhanced by nice touches like blind firing and degrading cover. Drake, who can carry two guns--a smaller weapon such as a pistol or Uzi, and a stocked weapon like a shotgun or AK-47--and grenades, is always outnumbered, intensifying the already palpable against-the-odds immersion. But his quick wits and quicker fists--Uncharted also incorporates simple, but satisfying brawling--will see him through most bullet barrages. A typical scenario might play out with you diving from cover point to cover point as truly intelligent A.I. chuck grenades, flank your position, and chip away at the boxes, rocks, and trees you're hiding behind. As you pepper bullets at the bad guys--who can absorb several hits before going down, unless you land a head shot--you'll grab ammo from fallen foes and maybe even get close enough to a distracted enemy to take him out with an upper-cut or from-behind neck snap. Stringing together the various animations--shooting, ducking, fighting, rolling--makes for some fast-paced fun. And while the screen will occasionally go white, signaling Drake's death, you'll never be more than a nearby checkpoint away from getting another go at it.