Uncharted: Drake's Fortune review
From the creators of the excellent Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter series Drakes Fortune is yet another triumph for Naughty Dog.
Drakes Fortune follows the story of an explorer named Nathan Drake. On a ring passed down to him through the generations he finds coordinates to the coffin of his ancestor Francis Drake. After locating the coffin and finding nothing but a diary inside Nathan, friend Sully and reporter Elena continue the quest to discover the treasure left behind by his great grand father.
If your fond of games like Lara Croft, Prince Of Persia and God Of War and if you love films like Indiana Jones and National Treasure then you will love Drakes Fortune as it combines elements of all the above into one immersive and damn fun game. It has a mix of everything from platforming, shoot outs and even combat. The odd puzzle is thrown in for good measure too.
The Graphics are outstanding. The forests are beautiful and extremely life like. Every detail is added from the grass moving as you walk through it to the wind blowing trees and bushes side to side.
Take special note of the water effects and shadow effects. As Drake walks into water his trousers (pants to you Americans) gets wet gradually as he gets deeper into the water like real life. Shadows are also spot on. In one section Drake and Sully enter a dark tunnel. They turn on their flash lights and as Sully walks behind Drake you can see Drakes shadow cast perfectly onto the ground and walls.
The graphics truly are outstanding especially at the U-Boat section. Unfortunatly though the second half of the game brings you away from the lush forest and into underground passageways and bland crypts.The colours are darker and simply not as nice to look at. Don't get me wrong the graphics are still gorgous but you can't help feeling yourself longing to go back outside.
The cutscenes are equally as attractive. The characters look amazing and act realistically thanks to the technique Naughty Dog used. Each cutscene made use of actors to both act out the scene and the dialogue at the same time meaning that none of the cutscene characters were animated in a computer, they were mapped from the movements of real people. This technique also meant that there are no voice overs added in later. This makes the cutscenes much more believeable and life like because the characters move and act as real people do. Both actors that played Drake and Elena really brought the characters to life with some excellent acting and voice talent.
The Gameplay is top notch. Drake has a vast array of moves available to him. From shimmying along a ledge to swinging on ropes. His moves are not the impressive part though. It's the way he pulls them off that really stands out. Drake is a normal guy in extraordinary circumstances. So unlike Lara he doesn't pull off every move to perfection. Occasionally he might trip a little or stagger slightly after a jump. Jump to a platform and instead of landing a perfect jump he might loose his footing and his foot will slip causing him to stagger. All these imperfections makes the character feel like less of your usual hero that performs everything by the book and more like a character that does make a few mistakes here and there. He's a guy, he's not perfect. Another thing to mention about the platforming is how smooth it feels. You don't need to take a step back and line yourself up with a jump before running forward and jumping like Drakes female counter part. The ledge you're jumping to doesn't need to be directly ahead either. Drake can jump diagonally and grab a ledge just as easy as any other jump. It feels fluid and smooth and the platforming is a lot of fun. Shame there's not more of it though. The whole game seems more focused on the shooting then the platforming which is a major shame.
Aside from platforming there is the shooting and combat. Both are very well implemented. With Drake being a normal guy he can't just run around in the open shooting everyone. Instead he has to be carefull and find cover to hide behind so he can pick off his enemies one by one. Pressing O next to a wall causes Drake to press himself up against the wall. Then when you press and hold L1 Drake will peek out with his weapon aiming. Use the right stick to aim and fire with R1. Release L1 and Drake will return to the cover of the wall. That move is vital to your survival and you will be using it a hell of a lot throughout the game. There are many weapons that Drake gets his hands on during the game such as Shotguns, MP40, Sniper Rifles, Grenade Launchers, Desert Eagles and Grenades. The grenades are great to use. You use the Sixaxis to control the grenades arc trajectory to determine where it's going to land. It's responsive and easy to get the hang of. (The sixaxis is also used to keep your balance while negotiating narrow beams and logs and it's also used near the end of the game to shake off any mutants (yes there are mutants near the end).
Then there's the hand-to-hand combat. Occasionally you will be so close to an enemy that using your gun seems pointless when he's just 2 feet away. So by pressing square Drake will punch the enemy, follow it up with triangle and square again to finish them off in a dramatic sequence of hits. The Hand To Hand Combat is handy and good for when you're bored of shooting. You hardly ever run out of ammo though (even on the hardest setting) unless you're a really bad shot so it's unlikely you will ever be using your fists to save your life.
Another gameplay element used for a couple chapters is the Jetski. The Jeep sequence was a lot of fun but the Jetski sequences are tedious and frustrating. It's not that it's hard because it's not, it's just that it's annoying. Drake drives the Jetski and Elena sits on the back shooting. Sounds fun but there's a catch. You control both Drake and Elena at the same time. So instead of speeding along the rapid currents while Elena shoots or visa versa we are forced to stop every few seconds so Elena (you) can shoot a Barrel that's in the way or an enemy that's shooting at you from the banks. Someone explain to me why hitting a barrel with a Jetski would cause it to explode. It makes no sense. Add to that the frustration of riding against the current upstream and you've got the recipe for a really annoying segment. If you stop accelerating to avoid an oncoming barrel the current takes you back a few meters all while trying to shoot an enemy in the far distance that seems to hit you with every shot.
Naughty Dog should've left the Jet Ski segments out or maybe made it so that we are riding shotgun while Elena drives.
There are also some puzzles throughout the game but they are pathetic. Probably the easiest and worst puzzles I've experienced in any game. The problem is that many of the puzzles only have one solution and it's usually solved by simply pressing triangle. For example, you enter a room with 2 candlesticks on the wall. You press triangle and Drake turns the candle upside down. You repeat with the other candle and a door opens. Not very mind taxing is it?
Another problem with the puzzles is the game literally tells you the answer using 3 methods. Firstly the Diary that Drake found in the coffin at the beginning of the game contains the solution to each puzzle. Secondly when you enter a room that contains a puzzle you are prompted to press L2. This makes Drake look at something of interest and then Drake will mention what needs to be done. A good example of this is a puzzle near the end. After a gun fight you find yourself in an empty room with circlular stone plates with pictures on them on the walls. You are prompted to 'Press L2'. Drake looks over at the plates on the wall and he says 'There's something in the journal about this', up pops the journal and it shows exactly what needs to be done to solve it. All the pictures that are on those plates are in the journal. The only thing you can do with these plates is press triangle and turn them using the left analogue stick. Another look in the journal and you see that some of the pictures are upside down. Simply go through each plate turning them as it instructs in the journal and a door opens up.
Sometimes Drake will talk to himself and tell you what needs to be done; 'I need to press these buttons in the correct order, there's something about this in the journal'.
It's a real shame that the puzzles are so damn easy and require little to no brain power at all. Changing the difficulty doesn't effect the puzzles either. They are as easy on the hardest difficulty as the are on the easiest difficulty.
The Replay Value is okay for the type of game it is. There are 61 Treasures scattered throughout the 22 Chapters and it may take a few playthroughs to find them all. There are also Medals to be earned for doing certain things like killing 3 people with one grenade and stuff like that. You earn Medal points everytime you complete a challenge and for every 5 treasures that you find. Medal points are used to unlock bonus material like Concept Art and Making Of Videos. You can also unlock cheats and costumes this way too. Some of the cheats are fun to try on your 2nd or 3rd playthrough such as Flip World which Mirrors the game world left to right making each level feel different.
Unfortunatly the game is pretty short. I've completed it 4 times now and achieved the maximum 1000 Medal Points but I only got the game last week. My first playthrough took me just over 7 hours. My second was the longest because I spent a lot of time trying to find treasures so that took me 13 hours. My quickest was my third playthrough with 6 hours and 26 minutes even though I was playing on Hard and my last playthrough which was the Hardest setting called 'Crushing' took me 7 hours and 15 minutes. So within a week I've exhausted the game and done everything I can do with it and now it's back on my shelve collecting dust. Was it worth 60 Euros? Yes.
To Summarise Drakes Fortune does have flaws. All of which are pretty minor though. The Jetski sections I mentioned were pretty short so it really is not that big of a deal and as for the puzzles, well I suppose Lara beats Drake with that regard hands down. I also found that there was way too much shooting and not enough platforming for my liking as the platforming sections were great fun. I wasn't too fond with the mutants at the end of the game either. They took away from the realistic setting of the entire game. Everything up to the mutants felt like real life events and the mutants suddenly made it feel like a fantasy world.
Even so, the excellent story, excellent sound, excellent graphics, excellent acting and excellent gameplay makes this a game to remember and a game you have to experience. It is short especially if you only plan on beating it once and not bother getting the Medal Points. If that's the case then a nights rental should be enough. However this is a great game to have in your PS3 game library and if the ending is anything to go by there will be a sequel.
I'm looking forward to it already.
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