If you own a PlayStation 3 then it's likely you've heard quite a bit about Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. The third-person action-adventure title has been in development at Naughty Dog for a few years now and is the first PlayStation 3 game developed by the Sony-owned company. The game is a huge departure from Naughty Dog's previous work, but thankfully their knack for creating high quality games for Sony platforms hasn't been lost in the generational transition, and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is one of the best titles on the PlayStation 3.
Uncharted starts off by introducing the main protagonist, Nathan Drake, who claims to be a descendant of the famous adventurer Sir Francis Drake. Convinced of this, Nathan sets out to find the coffin of Sir Francis and when finding it empty, the adventure begins. At the start Uncharted feels solely like an action puzzle game, as there is very little combat and most of your time is spent solving some puzzles while trying to navigate through a tomb. But the action picks up and from that point on their is a more even split between action and puzzles.
One of the main things that differentiates Uncharted from other action adventure titles are the controls. The moveset is varied and easy to learn: aiming is done with L1 and shooting is done with R1, and the face buttons (X, Square and Circle) can be used to physically attack an enemy, which comes in handy if you're low on bullets or just prefer kicking someone. Cover can be taken behind just about anything in the game by pressing circle, and Nathan can also roll by pressing the circle button and using the analog stick. You'll also come across a few things in Uncharted which are context sensitive. Opening doors or pulling up ropes is generally done with the triangle button and climbing is done with the X button. The beauty of Uncharted is that there is no need to change styles while playing the game, taking cover is simple, climbing a vine is easy and if you make a mistake it is hardly ever a problem with the controls, but simply the fact you've pushed the wrong button or mistimed a jump.
While the adventuring in Uncharted is rather linear, there are quite a few times where the player gets the choice in how they approach a certain situation. Several times during the game you'll get a chance to see what is ahead of you, and if you're a brawler you may run in trying to brutally kill each bad guy, or if you prefer your explosives you may throw a few then run while the smoke is clearing. This doesn't make up for the fact that the game is linear, but there are a variety of ways to approach situations, so players don't end up feeling like they are forced to tackle a level in a specific way. Overall there is about a 50/50 mix of puzzles and combat, stopping the combat from becoming overly repetitive.
One of the things that makes Uncharted so appealing is the attention to detail, and seemingly small nuances in the AI add that extra level of polish to the game. Those who just decide to take cover and shoot from behind what looks like a safe brick wall will soon learn not to be so content - as you take cover enemy shots destroy a bricks here and there, but stay behind cover in the same spot for too long and a grenade will come your way, most likely destroying the only form of cover you've got. Enemies will shake things up too, they won't just take cover and come out three seconds later and do the same thing, they may move, throw a grenade or move to the other side of the wall. There are heaps of these little nuances throughout the game that will have player's smiling.
There are however a few quirks in Uncharted that are worth mentioning. At times the camera angle is fixed, which means it can be a little bit difficult to see exactly where you are going. Sometimes the AI has a habit of surviving after being shot four or five times. In one instance we'd shot at an enemy, watched him fall a few metres on his head and then get back up, before needing another two shots to finish him off. Thankfully a headshot is still an instant kill, so you'll be aiming for their heads most of the time. The AI also sometimes has a habit of doing some quirky things - at one point one of the enemies just ran around in circles as if being attacked by bees (we looked and their were no bees). While the game's checkpoint system means that if you die you won't have to trek back too far, sometimes the game will throw several enemies at you, and if you die while defeating just one of those enemies then you'll go back to the start of the whole section. It's not a huge deal but can be frustrating.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is very impressive visually. The environments are amazing and you'll wish for a photo option if only to take pictures of some of the beautiful landscapes in the game. The water looks realistic, the cut scenes are some of the best we've ever seen and the game even retains a smooth frame rate. We did occasionally encounter some screen tearing, but it wasn't too frequent. The soundtrack is equally impressive and feels rather epic, and after a few hours players will begin to notice small changes in the sound which indicate enemies are nearby or that the coast is clear. The voice work is also solid, with very little repetition in the comments and some great interaction between the characters.
Uncharted will take most players about eight to ten hours to complete. There are four difficulty levels in the game, and there are lots of bonuses to be found throughout the single player campaign, such as hidden items and rewards that are unlocked for fulfilling certain conditions (such as pulling off ten head shots). The single player campaign never lets up and throws in quite a bit of variation. It's also definitely worth playing through the game a second time, if only to find some of the hidden bonuses.
It's the little things that make Uncharted: Drake's Fortune such an impressive game. The surprisingly deep combat, impressive AI, immersive cut-scenes, lack of loading and smooth frame rate combine to deliver not only one of the PlayStation 3's best games yet, but one of the best games yet this generation. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a game that should be in every PlayStation 3 owner's library