To say that Sony’s lineup of quality titles for the PS3 has been “lacking” can be considered a bit of an understatement. The system launched with a high price tag and a lack of compelling titles, leading many to believe that Sony may have dropped the ball on this generation. Many promises of “A-list” content were made, with three titles being mentioned specifically. In the same breath as both Metal Gear Solid 4 and Gran Turismo 5 came a title called Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. The previews of this game were so promising and jaw-dropping that most questioned the validity of what they were being shown. Although the former two titles mentioned have yet to be released, Uncharted made its debut on the PS3 during the holiday season of 2007 and it can be said, without hesitation, that it is the most fun one can have on the PS3 without Solid Snake or a customizable transmission.
Uncharted is a great big melting pot of culture. Within this title lives many influences from both gaming and film history, with Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, Pitfall, National Treasure, Gears of War, Romancing the Stone (for better or worse), Prince of Persia and Metal Gear Solid’s stronger features at the forefront of the title’s storyline and gameplay. Everything one would expect from an adventure game is present and in-your-face, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. One part adventure, one part run-and-gun and one part stealth infiltration mixed together with a plotline of a comic book miniseries as a base, and you have a delicious recipe for a gaming feast fit for a King! The only trouble is that the total experience will only last about 8 to 10 hours for an experienced gamer, so you may want to consider it an extended brunch instead.
The main thrust of all the previews this title had, and the main point of contention from those previewing it, was the graphics. Is this the way the game actually looked? Was this in-engine? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes. Not only is Uncharted’s graphics as beautiful as they were purported to be, but in some cases the preview didn’t even do them justice. A great part of the game is set within dense jungle environments, and the beauty of every surrounding is chilling. These are the kind of graphics that usually bring the term “photorealistic” to mind, and in this case it is completely justified. Those that were on the Sony side of the “PS3 a bomb?” argument may be on to something when they claimed that nobody has even the slightest idea of what the PS3 is capable of, since it will take a couple years for developers to learn how to tap its resources. If Uncharted’s beautifully realistic textures, water effects, and animations are any indication of what the future holds, the PS3’s capabilities are going to rewrite the definition of “awestruck.”
The player models are beautifully detailed and players will actually feel that they are watching human beings interact and emote, rather than just staring at someone’s “moving drawings.” The dramatic effects of gunfire, explosions, and the necessary physics that go along with it are equally as impressive, and players will find themselves giggling with glee when a pursuing jeep is blown to bits with the requisite flying shrapnel and bodies tumbling all over the place.
The audio design is of equal caliber. The score sounds like what one would normally expect from an Indiana Jones film, full of dramatic overtones and sweeping time changes depending on the on-screen action. The sound effects are dramatic and crisp, and the voice acting is perfectly suited to each character.
The gameplay style is nothing most gamers have not seen before. There are elements of infiltration and climbing (ala Prince of Persia) mixed with gunplay combat reminiscent of both Gears of War and Metal Gear Solid. The hordes of Pirates and thugs come at you wave after wave at times, and although it is great fun dispatching them, this can be considered the game’s best flaw. The AI of the enemy is fantastic in this title, some of the best AI ever seen in a video game to date. Enemies know when to duck, shoot, climb or flank you and you had better be prepared. It does, however, seem silly that so many are willing to just line up and be slaughtered the way these thugs do. You would think after the first 3 batches have been killed, the fourth would simply go home. This is typical of titles of this genre, but something within Uncharted makes a player feel like rolling his eyes when yet another group of fools tries to put down the main character. They also seem to be relatively resistant to bullets, as it can take anywhere from 3 to 12 shots to put down some of the more burly foes.
The pacing of the title is frenetic and the emotional equivalent to riding a rollercoaster. Once the game starts you are thrust into one harrowing challenge after another right up until the end. With all of the game’s strong features being thrown at you one after another, you will find yourself laughing and having a grand old time right up until the end. Uncharted also attempts to bridge the gap between Microsoft’s “achievements” and Sony’s as-yet-unimplemented “trophy” system by containing its own system of rewards for completing specific actions.
Uncharted is one of the PS3s first really strong titles. With it’s stunning graphical presentation and Indiana-Jones-ish-1930s-serial storyline, players will be compelled to complete the entire experience. Traverse an ancient ruin and dig up a priceless treasure to earn the $60 some-odd dollars you will need to purchase this game, as it is bound to go down in this generation’s history as one of the first crown jewels of the PS3.