Uncharted just might be the most fun you'll have with a videogame. More hype? Not so much. The first installment of a franchise is always an unknown quantity; Uncharted delivers with an adventure so engaging you'll have trouble putting down the controller.
You play as Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter that could give Indiana Jones a run for his money. The game (really an action-adventure-platforming-shooter amalgamation) pits you against hordes of treasure-hungry pirates as you traverse ruins and jungle in your quest to reveal the secrets of your ancestor Sir Francis Drake. Accompanying you on your journey are fellow treasure hunter Victor Sullivan (Sullie) and a sufficiently adventurous aspiring video journalist, Elena.
The mo-cap efforts and polished dialog pay off, making what might otherwise seem like a prefab story come alive in a captivating mixture of performance and gaming. Go ahead and compare it to a movie, Uncharted is the perfect example of how video games can keep those Hollywood studios on their toes. The characters are likable and entertaining, and we can all give a collective round of applause for secondary characters that can hold their own. You won't find yourself screaming at your television as you try to complete any "protect the inept buddy" escort quests. Instead of hurting your cause, Elena and Sullie will actually make your progress easier. Unbelievable.
The puzzles you'll encounter aren't overly challenging, just another facet to a game founded on action. Similarly, even the platforming elements act as a backdrop to the fantastic gun play.
As you come under fire from pirates and other shady types looking to do you in on your way to the treasure, you'll have to make use of the game's stunning architecture taking cover behind arches, pillars, trees or any other handy objects. Get good at it, because much of the game you'll find yourself pinned against a wall, popping out to pick off your reloading attackers. The enemy AI isn't anything to sneeze at, either; they'll try to flush you out with grenades, or flank you, or even attack head-on with guns blazing. This sort of unpredictable enemy AI really keeps the combat interesting.
In case you hadn't learned this already from other games, temples and ruins are just riddled with ledges, platforms, and chasms. Naughty Dog handily deals with the "where next?" problem through subtle visual cues. This sort of attention keeps the game clear of both garishly illuminated environment components and those frustrating moments trying traverse the wrong gap for fifteen minutes. In fact, the whole game progresses very swiftly, and you'll likely polish it off in under twelve hours. The replay value is in all the un-lockables, from headshots to treasures, all of which earn you points that you can use to unlock things like limitless ammo and more costumes.
Graphically it's easy to fall in love with the art style, the beautiful lighting and touches like Nate's water-logged clothes. However you will encounter some screen tearing and texture problems from time to time. Even mentioning it makes it seem like it's a bigger issue than it is: it doesn't add up to much of anything: it's just noticeable.
Just when you're getting sick of the waves of well-armed pirates Naughty Dog throws in a twist turning much of what you've learned on its head, and really making you work. With its breathtaking score, rich art style and lively storytelling, Uncharted will have you hooked on its varied game play from the start, and the open-ended conclusion will leave you hungry for the next chapter.