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Perfectly melding the worlds of Lara Croft and Indiana Jones, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a stellar action/adventure. With high quality writing and voice acting there were lots of little moments that made the game into an entertaining experience. Although I had to get used to the combat mechanics, the puzzles and presentation of Uncharted was immensely satisfying and breathtaking.
From the off the game can't help but impress with some stellar writing and voice work. All too often games fall down with wooden acting or poorly scripted scenes but Uncharted manages to tell its story with a matinee-like panache. Adding to this authenticity are the cut scenes which are mostly rendered with the in-game engine. This makes the game feel like a coherent whole rather than action and movie sections stripped together.
The writing is confident and distinct with each character having a distinctive tone of voice throughout. I was amazed also with the stellar voice acting. There are no big names here but the performances are to such a high quality that it feels like a blockbuster Hollywood film.
All too often games fall down with wooden acting or poorly scripted scenes but Uncharted manages to tell its story with a matinee-like panache.
Perhaps the best way to sum up all this is to highlight the subtle use of comedy. There are many moments throughout the game when writing and voice talent and visuals fade into the background, and I simply sat back and enjoyed the unfolding tale on the screen. Nowhere is this more evident than in some of the incidental comedy moments that pepper the game. Such is the confidence of the production that these difficult facets of human interactions really work well. The point where Drake turns round a bit too quick and bangs his head was a masterful display of comic timing and had me in stitches.
The game's theme falls somewhere between Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones, doing an excellent job of taking the positives from both those franchises. As well as implementing them to a high standard, Uncharted also has its own personality as well. The lead character is one of the most endearing personalities I've played in a game and is helped by some realistic animation and interaction with the environment.
Climbing up walls and negotiating ancient cities never looked so impressive and realistic than this. It's also helped by an intelligent movement scheme that automatically selects walking or running speed dependant on your environment. It's a simply touch but one that works well, and also gave me more control of entering and leaving cut scenes.
Shooting is controlled by moving into an aim mode with the left trigger then popping off a cap with the right. On top of this you can press circle to attach to environmental cover. There is also a nice close combat brawling combo system that seems a little heavy handed at first, but given some time really proves its worth.
Climbing up walls and negotiating ancient cities never looked so impressive and realistic than this.
Combat is towards the harder end of the spectrum and this is not just down to the number of bullets you have to land to kill someone (although that certainly doesn't help). Enemy artificial intelligence is the main factor in tripping up even the expert player. Give them half a chance and they will soon be creeping around behind to out flank you. These encounters, that provide the majority of the meat in the game, are largely enjoyable. But I did find certain situations repetitive and challenging as I was forced to tackle wave upon wave of henchmen. This is when the cover mechanic really comes into its own and mastering this was essential to further my progress.
Just like Tomb Raider, Drakes Fortune also leverages its fare share of environmental puzzles. These range from knocking big boulders off cliffs, to more intricate button pressing. On top of this there are some really enjoyable chase scenes. Here I was taking up position on a mounted gun on the back of a jeep, or even piloting a mini watercraft up a white-water river.
All this adds up to a varied and watchable experience. Although some people are going to baulk at the 8-9 hour running time, any more than this would have been detrimental. Having such a compact and high-quality experience meant this was far more enjoyable and impactful than longer games. The mix of combat to exploration weighed a little heavier on the gun play than I would have liked. But the excellent character work meant I was always eager to progress to the next chapter.
I can't help but think of Uncharted as my summer gaming blockbuster. It's a thrilling and enjoyable experience, rich with moments of humour and incredible action. Its characters and writing capture the timeless quality of a Hollywood matinee film, providing a lasting and memorable experience.
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