|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|
Uncharted nicely breaks up the barely-catch-your-breath gunplay with puzzling and platforming. The former is fun, but not especially taxing on the brain as Nathan has access to Sir Francis Drake's hint-heavy diary (puzzle purists might find some fault here), but the latter is a Prince of Persia-meets--Lara Croft blast.
Scaling cliffs, climbing ancient structures, leaping from one brittle hand-hold to the next all make for fantastic platforming that's intuitive and never frustrating; unlike many finicky-controlling platformers, if your lifeless body ends up at the bottom of a chasm, it'll be your fault, not the game's mechanics. The action is further varied by some fantastic shoot-and-drive vehicle sequences; one sees Drake manning a Jeep's gun turret while sidekick Elena drives through an edge-of-your-seat sequence, and another has you zipping about on a jet ski, occasionally stopping to take out henchmen with Elena's grenade launcher.
All the death-defying fun in Uncharted is punctuated by Drake's so-real-its-scary animations; whether he's teetering along cliff sides, swinging from vines or dangling from ledges, he looks great. In fact, Naughty Dog took such great pains in delivering Drake's realistic animations that even when he's doing something as simple as ducking behind cover or running up stairs, the subtle shifts in his weight and body language make him look as real as any actor on the silver screen. Seemingly small touches, like Drake's natural motion, serve to make Uncharted a bar-raising effort. Detailed facial animations bring the cut-scenes to life, characters actually appear drenched upon emerging from water, and ambient sounds complement the film-quality orchestral score; whipping winds, chirping tropical wildlife, and waterfalls that, from a distance, bellow a low roar, but upon closer approach emit ear-cracking crashes, all add to the experience. Even the story, often an afterthought in games, is a twist-filled ride that could give Indiana Jones' next big screen outing a ride for its fortune and glory. Of course, a story is nothing without good actors to deliver it, and Uncharted succeeds here as well. Many games, even the good ones, star cookie-cutter protagonists, but Drake feels real; you'll watch him and follow his story as you would a television or movie character. He's likeable, fallible, and exudes an every-man appeal that's so refreshing in an industry continually pumping out space marine clones. The supporting cast is equally believable and engaging. Drake's female sidekick, Elena, deserves her own spinoff game; she's cute and plucky, and unlike many of her peers, doesn't exploit the boob-and-bimbo dynamic.
If we had to change anything about Uncharted, we'd ask for another thrill ride in that Jeep--who says on-rails gaming isn't fun? We also might tweak the SIXAXIS implementation a bit. We loved adjusting our grenade trajectory, but the log balancing left a bit to be desired; a tiny gripe in an otherwise exceptional game. From the adventure-filled gameplay to the pristine presentation, each of Uncharted's twenty chapters are polished to perfection and will leave you counting the days to the inevitable sequel. Despite packing a lengthy campaign, you'll hate to see it come to an end. Thankfully, collecting Xbox 360-like "Achievements" to unlock goodies--including Elena as a playable character--make a second play-through a no-brainer. Like a lost city of gold, Uncharted is well worth seeking out.
CCC Freelance Writer