Game Night, Review, Video Games

Uncharted Drake’s Fortune: The First Step is Rarely the Best

Time for another unpopular video game opinion!

Naughty Dog is a pretty well-respected game developer. Every single one of their games has enjoyed critical acclaim from just about everyone! Everyone, that is, except for me. Sure, I love Jak and Daxter! That was the first game I had ever played! But that’s about it. I hated the Crash Bandicoot series and, while I do think it’s decent, I firmly believe that The Last of Us is overrated. But that’s a topic for later.

Today, I continue my rampage across Naughty Dog’s library. I’m going to tear into the opener of their third franchise, the game that sold PS3’s back in the early days: Uncharted.

Sure, this game looks and sounds amazing, the dialogue is great and the voice actors are phenomenal! But the story is mediocre and the gameplay is only fun about ten percent of the time! It’s clunky, repetitive, and endlessly frustrating! I genuinely don’t understand why people like this game!

It’s because of Nolan North, isn’t it?

Story: Chasing Your Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather’s Shadow

This is easily the best part of the game. The characters are great, though they lack character development, and the dialogue is wonderful! Unfortunately, it’s dragged down by wonky pacing, a jarring and genre-breaking twist, and an unsatisfying ending!

The game opens up with journalist Elena Fisher recording the expedition of one Nathan Drake as he breaks into the alleged coffin of his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. After a brief scuttle with some pirates, the two are picked up by Victor Sullivan, Nate’s mentor and partner in crime. Together, they all head off to find Francis Drake’s final, lost discovery: El Dorado. Along the way, they’ll fight pirates, mercenaries, and discover the horrifying truth behind the curse of the ancient treasure.

Again, I love the dialogue in this game! It all feels natural and witty! Plus, it perfectly captures every character’s personality! Nathan is a confident smart-ass, though he does know when to stop joking. Elena is a bombastic journalist with a taste for the dramatic. Sully is a witty old man with an affection for cash and women. Their exchanges are super fun and compelling, helped in a large part by the amazing writing and voice acting!

Unfortunately, I can’t give the same praises to the villains. These guys are horribly boring and forgettable! None of their dialogue has any charm and their voice actors, while competent, are far from memorable. Their personalities boil down to ‘greedy and evil’. In a game with such great character writing, it’s a damn shame that the antagonists are so damn boring!

The story’s pacing is also pretty bad. In the beginning, the story flows naturally at a perfect pace. Then it slows down to a miserably slow pace before breaking out into a mad dash in the end!

Speaking of which, that ending is terrible! The game takes a last-minute supernatural twist in the last few chapters (which was foreshadowed, but the foreshadowing is so bad that it makes you look back and wonder why they even bothered) and it suddenly turns into a Michael Bay movie! All the explosions! Elena gets kidnapped because of course she does! Nate goes on the warpath! None of our characters change in any meaningful ways, staying exactly the same as they were in the beginning! It’s a fucking disaster and I hate it!

So the story isn’t great. Luckily, it’s salvaged by the likable, if flat, characters and exceptional dialogue. It reminds me of an Indiana Jones movie. Only a bit less effective.

And made worse by the fact that I need to play the game attached to it.

Presentation: A Pretty World of Not Pretty People

To be fair, this game does look really good! Sure, the character models haven’t aged very gracefully. But those are saved by the amazing environments, animations, and music! Naughty Dog knows how to make a pretty game and that hasn’t changed here either!

Let’s get the worst out of the way: the character models. These don’t look awful; each one at least looks like a person and the facial animations are pretty nice. But the models themselves look more like clay figures than people. Again: not bad. Just aged. Especially compared to Naughty Dog’s later work in The Last of Us and even the later Uncharted games!

The rest of the game, however, still holds up really well! Granted, they may have been improved in the PS4 version, so I can’t speak for the original. But all of the environments are highly detailed and nice to look at. They’re a solid A+!

And the music! God damn, the composers fucking killed it! Each has a strong feeling of adventure, from the quiet and tense to the sweeping, dramatic orchestral! It’s absolutely incredible!

It’s just a damn shame I can’t appreciate it when I’m grinding through gun fight number eight hundred and sixty-nine.

Gameplay: Shooty Shoot All the Dudes

Ugh… Alright. Here we go.

The gameplay of Uncharted has three identities. One of which I enjoy well enough. Another that I can tolerate. A third that makes me want to jump off of a cliff.

Guess which one is the most prescient throughout the game.

The first one is a puzzle game. This one isn’t all that great. Most of the puzzles boil down to ‘look at journal for obvious hints, go up to things in a certain order and press triangle’. None of them are especially taxing or memorable. But they are what I had the most fun with. Stuff like this was always my favorite part of treasure hunting stories. It’s a shame that only about ten percent of the game is spent with puzzles.

The second is an Assassins Creed clone. Specifically with the climbing/platforming. In terms of fun, this isn’t all that great. All you do is hop around with the occasional bit of danger to spur you to go faster. It wouldn’t be all that bad if it weren’t clunky as hell! Sometimes it’s perfectly responsive! Others, you’ll end up having to retry a jump about seven times before you finally get it! Sometimes, you’ll just end up jumping off of a fucking cliff because fuck you the game said you tilted the stick wrong! It is far from an ideal way to spend twenty percent of the game. And yet, here we are.

And then there’s the third identity, which the remaining seventy percent is spent on. This is the one that makes me want to fucking die. That is the cover-based third-person shooter.

Far too much of the game is spent here for it to be so bare bones! There are five varieties of guns: handguns, shotguns, automatics (AK-47s and the like), the occasional sniper rifle, and grenade launchers. Each of the enemies will have one of these guns, plus some grenades. You need to get into cover and fight through the enemies until they eventually stop coming. Rinse and repeat over and over again until you move on to something more fun.

Here’s why this shit blows!

For one, it is super repetitive! The variety of enemies is absolutely pathetic! You’ll be shooting the same dudes with the same guns over and over again! The first encounter is exactly the same as the last one! It’s more repetitive than a fucking Dragon Quest game! Only without the charming variety of enemies!

Two, each encounter lasts for way too fucking long! Just when you think you’re finally done with one fight, another eight fucking dudes flow into the room! I hope you’re good at headshots! And if you’re not, don’t worry! You’ll get good at them!

Third: they keep happening back to back! Sometimes, especially early and late into the game, you’ll walk from one room with a fight straight into another one with another fight! It not only pads out the game, thus killing the story’s pacing, but it only makes it more repetitive and tedious!

Four: there is no variety in your strategy! You’ll be using the same guns and fighting the same dudes with the same tactics for the whole fucking game! You don’t unlock any special abilities or unique weapons that change how you approach to combat! Your skill set is the same at the beginning as it is at the end! The only thing that grew in any way was my lack of patience!

They try to vary things up with the occasional vehicle segment! Some of these are fun, such as the turret section on the car. Others make me want to claw my eyes out! Looking at you, jet ski! Unfortunately, you spend far too much time on the ladder than you do on vehicles like the former.

The combat in this game is not fun. At all. It isn’t challenging, it’s time-consuming. It tests your patience, pushing you to make a mistake in an attempt to just get it fucking over with! If you die, you need to do it all again! If you succeed, you get to do it all over again! Playing this game felt like running on a treadmill! The only real sense of progression that I got was when a cutscene happened!

Playing this game was suffering. I had just about as much playing this as I did Crash Bandicoot 1 and 2. That’s to say none at all! This game was functional and it ran great! But the core gameplay is so awful that none of that matters!

I can only hope that Uncharted 2 will be less painful. But if it’s anything like Crash 1 to 2 and Jak and Daxter to Jak 2… my hopes are low.

Conclusion

If you ask me, I think that Naughty Dog wants more to make a movie than they do video games. They have an excellent taste for cinematic storytelling and writing dialogue. But aside from one game of their library, I haven’t enjoyed any game they’ve produced on a gameplay level!

Personally, I can’t recommend Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. It’s just too damn tedious! It came close to being fun at times! But as my old orchestra teacher used to say, close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and thermonuclear warfare.

He was an interesting man.

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