In 2004, Jason Rubin announced during a speech at a D.I.C.E. conference in which he berated publishers for not treating developers better, that he was leaving Naughty Dog. Andy Gavin soon announced afterwards that would be joining his longtime friend in leaving his position as co-head. This would leave successors Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra and the rest of the team with a challenging decision for their next game, they decided to go a more cinematic route with more realistic art styles and game flow, outside of their safety zone with the likes of 'Crash Bandicoot' and 'Jak and Daxter'...
They would be heading... into Uncharted waters.
'Uncharted: Drake's Fortune' is a cinematic action platformer that pays homages to lots of adventure stories in all kinds of media from all generations, while either waving the ride of popular play styles or attempting modernizations to more classic gameplay.
You follow the adventures of Nathan Drake, a supposed decendant of Sir Francis Drake, in solving the mystery of the famous explorer/pirate's equally supposed discovery of El Dorado. Aided by veteran and mentor figure, Victor "Sully" Sullivan, and documentary T.V. show journalist, Elena Fisher, you explore, solve puzzles, fight pirates and mercenaries, and take leaps of faith from one dangerous plateau to the next.
The gameplay mixes hardcore cover shooting with a modern take on cinematic platforming, instantly reminding you of the likes of the original 'Prince of Persia', 'Out of this World/Another World', 'Heart of Darkness' and the like before it. The controls feel a mixture of smooth and "realistically" rough as you traverse through jungles and ruins while trying to explore, platform and fight to survive. Fighting enemies are basically arena based as most of it occurs in conveniently set locations that provide avenues of strategy on how and when to take cover in order to take out admitted "onslaughts" of foes headed your way each fight. Enemy A.I. is really good, even on the easy setting; they attempt to flank you, they dodge bullets and they immerse you in feeling like they REALLY hate your guts, it's well done. Puzzle solving is a letdown, they're few, they're simple, and they mostly involve platforming. Even though the game is linear, it encourages exploration and basking in the beautiful enviroments so that you can see where to go next or look around for hidden collectible treasures. The cinematic platforming is part of the charm of 'Uncharted', aided by a seamless blending of tons of animations, proprietary physics effects and precise "impact lasers" if you may, the flow of momentum was some of most realistic ever seen at the time of release.
For a 2007 title, Naughty Dog shines in the visual department for consoles as a good chunk of 'Uncharted: Drake's Fortune's' eye candy stands the test of time. Humorously though, even as the team tried their hardest to move on to realistic decors, ND's signature angular geometry and charismatic crooked eyebrow raising remains. The only visual portions that feel dated now have to do with particle effects, lighting and that horrible screen tear with a sampling of slow loading textures. Everything else still matches up to current 7th Gen. games just fine, from shiny textures on moistened rocks, to your own character getting wet in the nicely reflected water. It was the first time I really considered to myself "hmm, it may not be 'Toy Story', but we REALLY have taken a step up from Reboot on consoles at least" (DON'T laugh, it's still something to consider, especially back then.).
The story flow is wonderful, just like a perfect popcorn action flick. The characters are brilliantly brought to life by their motion capture actors and writers, so charming and down-to-earth on the hero-side, and brilliantly over-the-top on the villain-side. The games pays TONS of homages to existing movies and games while taking a few liberties at said homages with a few interesting twists. The premise is a nice touch, adding a fantastic mystery to a real life figure of history, as it piques a lot of interests on such subjects.
This game is one of few PS3 titles that offers 5.1 Dolby Digital, 5.1 DTS, AND 7.1 LinearPCM, the audio effects and amazing score provided by Greg Edmonson are all PERFECTLY timeless and give that ABSOLUTE immersion of being in a movie. It gives a total package that will confuse any casual onlooker of whether it's game or movie.
Before trophies came to PSN, 'Uncharted: Drake's Fortune had it's own proprietary achievement system, leading to unlockables such as extra skins, different visuals and behind-the-scenes material. It gives a lot of replay value beyond the quality of the adventure itself, even if there IS no multiplayer available. Also, 'Uncharted' made history as the first PS3 game to have trophies via patch, although you would've had to start a fresh new game at the time to achieve them after the update.
All in all, 'Uncharted: Drake's Fortune' stands the test of time as one of the all time PS3 greats. If you're looking for a start up game on the PS3 to really show you a smidgen of what the console can offer, even at the dawn of the 8th Generation of consoles, you can't go wrong with 'Uncharted: Drake's Fortune'.