Review – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is the tale of a psychopath who manages to gather a bunch of like-minded people, lacking in empathy, to murder their way to treasure. I couldn’t help but repeat this through my head as I blasted my way through wave after wave of shabby looking dudes wielding AK-47’s. No one here has qualms about killing people. Nathan Drake, the protagonist, goes at it like mere yard work. His father figure, Sully,  he probably taught Drake how to do it. The reporter, Elena, she doesn’t care about the impact a trail of dead bodies could have on her career; she happily blasts them with a grenade launcher.

It’s the polar opposite of Hotline Miami, a game that forces you to think about your actions. This is a game where puzzle solving is treated with the same lighthearted joy as genocide. You’re not supposed to question it; it’s kill or be killed, I guess.

They probably deserved it. (Image source: Mobygames.com)

KILL OR BE KILLED

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is the story of homicidal adventurer, Nathan Drake, as he murders his way along the trail of a treasure formerly pursued by his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. It’s El Dorado! Supposedly the city of gold, but in this game retconned to just a creepy statue made of solid gold. Along the way, he’s joined by the aforementioned reporter and father figure who are also driven by the same violent avarice. You’re the good guy in this plot, probably!

It makes about as much sense as an Indiana Jones plot, which is to say, not all that much. If you start asking logical questions, your only answer will be insanity. How do all these ancient mechanisms still function hundreds of years past their creation? Don’t ask. What kind of recruitment program does the bad guy run to have roped all these generic dudes into his plan? Shush now.

Speaking of Indiana Jones, Drake’s Fortune does little to hide its influences. It unashamedly takes the jump and climb gameplay of the Tomb Raider to the point where it’s almost offensive. All Drake needs is the ability to fire two guns while diving, and it’d be uncanny.

JOURNEY TO THE UNCANNY VALLEY

Actually, Drake prefers to do things from behind cover, a hallmark of the era. Combat is an energetic stop-and-pop, leaving you to wait for enemies to expose their fleshy butts so you can shoot them off. It’s pretty par for the course, but the one advantage it has is that the enemies are — maybe smart is not the best word for this — active? They move a lot, constantly trying to get close and flank you. It keeps things a bit more exciting than your standard cover-based shooting, but it’s also very bland by today’s standards.

Bland is probably the best way to describe the game as a whole. It certainly pushed the envelope for its time, featuring extremely detailed animation at every facet. When I played it back during its release period, it felt like there had been nothing like it. The graphics were amazing, the lighting was detailed, and the animation was head and shoulders above everything else. The production values were so high, it almost felt like something out of Hollywood. That ambition feels like it actually holds the game back.

That’s a grenade launcher on her hip. (Image source: mobygames.com)

DREAMS OF AVARICE

What you wind up with is a game that feels absolutely safe. It’s stitched together from classic formulas and presented through the eyes of a protagonist who’s as generic as vanilla yogurt. Not that Drake’s a bad character, but he’s your typical pretentiously grizzled pretty boy who slings out sarcastic quips in that playful Hollywood manner. He’s so inoffensive, it’s like he belongs in a boy band. His only flaw in this first game is his unquenchable thirst for blood and his rare clumsy moment that is played up for laughs.

For that matter, there’s so little tonal variance that when the game actually tries to be even slightly serious, it comes off as goofier than normal. There’s a part at which Drake considers quitting and just going home simply because he doubts his ability to kill all the dudes on the island, and you could slice that whole part out and not lose anything. It doesn’t tie into any sort of meaningful character arc, nor does it advance the plot in any meaningful way. It’s just some random crisis thrown in to extend runtime.

Otherwise, the game’s story isn’t one for someone who likes their narratives to make logical sense. Drake spends most of the game’s runtime solving puzzles to try and stay one step ahead of the bad guy, but the boss doesn’t need to go around turning wall sconces and pushing statues to stay in step. Often, you find yourself stepping through a secret passageway straight into the waiting arms of a dozen heavily armed dudes who just blasted their way in. Even with all your mysterious puzzle solving, the bad guy gets to the treasure first because, as it turns out, it was hidden under a table.

PRODUCTION VALUES

I’m probably making it sound like I hated Drake’s Fortune, but I really don’t. The combat was satisfying and reaffirmed my confidence in shooting people in the face, though it’s maybe a bit too shallow for its own good. There aren’t that many weapons or weapon types, nor is there much variation to enemies or environments to fight in. Likewise, the climbing is serviceable but suffers from the issue of sometimes not properly communicating if a ledge can be grabbed.

The high production values really help, though. Issues with the story’s lack of creativity aside, it’s a fun little adventure tale that does its best impression of Indiana Jones. It’s pretty entertaining to watch, and the characters, as blood-thirsty as they are, come across as likeable.

The game is reasonably well paced, throwing in set-piece moments whenever it feels like things are slowing down. It continually swaps between its climbing, puzzle-solving, and combat modes to keep things from getting stale, and it largely succeeds. Maybe it gets a little tiring to walk into a big open room with a lot of belt-high cover lying around, knowing that you’re going to get jumped by fifty dudes, but it works. It’s very predictable, but it works.

They should’ve chosen a better line of work. (Image source: mobygames.com)

SIC PARVIS MAGNA

Uncharted sure is a game. Even when it was first released, I remember being pretty lukewarm on it. When I decided to approach it again with the Nathan Drake Collection on PS4, I was concerned I’d be bored out of my tree, but fortunately that wasn’t really the case. I’m still pretty lukewarm but I can confirm that it is a game.

Which isn’t to say it’s a bad game, but by today’s standards, it’s extremely by the numbers. Numbers provided to it by Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. It follows the numbers really well though, and its high production values ensure that it’s constantly entertaining, and if being entertained is your only concern, you’ll probably love Uncharted. It’s the popcorn blockbuster of video gaming. It’s Speed. It’s the Speed of video games. Safe and kind of stupid, but also fun at the same time. Not exactly a treasure, but not garbage either.

6/10

This review was conducted on a PS4 using a disc copy of the Nathan Drake Collection. However, the author is familiar with the PS3 original. It was paid for by the author.

About Adzuken 158 Articles
Adzuken has been gaming for as far back as they can remember. Their eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer.

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