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Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Review Rewind

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On 10/31/2011 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

It's a bit tough to play after Among Thieves, but it still proves enjoyable overall.

Even if you started with 2, give this one a rent and catch up on what you missed – it's absolutely worth your time.

When I first started playing Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Jesse Miller asked me if the game still held up after playing Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. At the time, I confidently told him "yes," but if you don't mind Jesse, I'd like to retract my response.

The beginning of the game set the stage for another epic adventure, similar to what I had experienced in the first game. Excellent voice acting, emotive characters, beautiful landscapes, and an intriguing tale focused around retrieving a lost treasure shortly after a member of your crew is murdered. What more could I ask for? I hadn't had a thrill like this since the first game. It's the equivalent of a popcorn flick like Indiana Jones. High energy, big action, and a distinct air of discovery -- except here you're in control.

Unfortunately, Uncharted just couldn't maintain the pacing, devolving into a slew of cover-based firefights with very little diversity. Even the enemies remained mostly the same throughout the game, with only three distinct sets, two of which varied very little from one another.

The sad part is that Uncharted isn't actually a bad game. Had I played it before its sequel, there's little question that I would've enjoyed it much more. As a matter of fact, one of its biggest draws – the cinematic presentation – lost its initial wow factor for this exact reason. As a rule of thumb, everything Uncharted does is done better in Uncharted 2.

What sets the two apart is mostly diversity. That's not to say that Uncharted has none. There are a few exciting deviations from the typical gameplay that stand as the most memorable moments in the game. Taking control of a mounted gun on a fleeing jeep is an intense experience that helps break up the more monotonous tasks. An intricate platforming puzzle that requires following cues on Drake's map is also fun, as is jet-skiing against the current on a rapidly flowing white water river. In the grand scheme of the game these are only momentary distractions.

In the sequel, platforming segments play a much bigger role and were crucial in diversifying the  experience beyond "pop 'n' cover third person shooter." You see such segments in Uncharted, which would've been great if the mechanics worked consistently. Over the course of the game I had widely varying levels of success in getting Nate to perform my desired action. It wouldn't be uncharacteristic for him to go careening off a cliff in an effort to hop to the next segment of land. Sometimes he wouldn't grab a ledge, though it seemed like he should. Other times he might even fall through the ground.

This is due primarily to his actions being entirely context sensitive. After pushing the jump button and a direction, the game handles the rest. This works mostly fine in Uncharted 2, but here there's no degree of certainty that everything will work out.

What does prop the game up is the simple fact that the third person shooting segments are engaging as are the vast majority of the intricately designed levels. These mechanics work without a hitch and require a high level of skill. Though at times frustrating, most enemies are bullet sponges, which forces you to perfect your headshot. Of course, pulling off constant head shots is extremely redeeming, which makes it easy to overlook the game's shortcomings.

This is all flushed down the toilet at the end of the game, however, when the story takes a bizarre twist. It's not clear why Naughty Dog has built this unreal twist into both of the Uncharted titles, but it's hard to suspend disbelief to accommodate these ridiculous twists. It doesn't help that this segment, like the twist in Uncharted 2, is the least enjoyable portion of the game. The enemies become a chore to defeat and the slow-but-steady aiming mechanics don't work great in conjunction with their fast movements.

I'm glad I played Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, as it has given me some great perspective on just how far the series has come with the release of Among Thieves. It only amplifies my excitement for Uncharted 3 and pushes me to revisit the sequel in preparation for 3. Of course, it's also great to be fully versed in the series and when it comes down to it, it was a decent, lighthearted romp through a beautiful world with a group of interesting characters.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




10/31/2011 at 11:29 PM

I felt like crushing was tougher on this than in number 2. Maybe I just wasn't as good at playing Uncharted at the time. I wonder if it'd be easier, now that I've platinumed number 2, but I'll never know, since 3 is so close to here.

Our Take

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

11/01/2011 at 08:48 AM

I had a feeling that the first game would be a bit of a letdown after the second - that's why I'm glad I played them in order. It's good to see how the series has progressed in that way. And like Anonymous above me, I felt that crushing was much more difficult in the first one than it was in the second.

Nick DiMola Director

11/01/2011 at 09:23 AM

Yeah, I can absolutely see Crushing being more difficult here. When it comes down to it, the second game had fewer fire fights and better mechanics. The combination of the two should produce an easier experience.

Just for some added clarity, I had never played this game before playing it here for review. Back when U2 came out, we received a review copy and it marked my introduction to the series. With 3 coming out, I decided it made sense to go back and play 1.


08/17/2012 at 10:31 PM

I absolutely loved the "bizarre twist" at the end.  The dramatic change of tone (it got downright creepy) and very different combat tactics required really spiced things up just when the endless pirate henchmen were starting to seem a bit old (and it's not that I didn't enjoy the earlier parts; combat was consistently fun throughout the game).

Playing through those last parts of the game on crushing was a huge blast (if a rather difficult one).

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