Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Review
The following review contains minor spoilers for Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. It was reviewed from the Nathan Drake Collection, as remastered by Bluepoint Games.
Reviewing a game that first came out eight years ago is not an easy task. With the benefit of hindsight, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a necessary stepping stone into what would, in the following two games, become a stellar series. However, without looking at the two following games, Nathan Drake’s first adventure is one that could use a little of that Naughty-Dog-polish that we’ve come to love and expect.
As the game begins, the first thing that anyone will notice is how gorgeous the remaster is, and what a fantastic job Bluepoint has done in bringing everything up to present-day standards, save a few textures that pop-in and out – although I do wonder if these are remnants of the original game and not the fault of the remaster. However, what they’ll also notice as the tutorial and introduction begin is how clunky everything feels.
This, unfortunately, carries on throughout the whole game, yet is particularly evident in moments where a huge stream of enemies is coming at Drake, and the player is tasked with dispatching all of them. For a game that relies so heavily on combat, it really isn’t anything to write home about and it’s hard to explain exactly why that is to a person who hasn’t played it.
However, as I mentioned, this weakness only really comes through in the larger battle sequences, where wave after wave of enemy attack Drake. While the premise of these is very cool – and the reality isn’t all that bad – the frequency in which they occur until the game nears its end makes them always feel rather samey and not – as they should be – at all special. This also has a knock-on effect on the combat, making it all feel rather recycled and meaning there isn’t very much new material injected into it, save the addition of new weapons every-so-often.
Despite this, Drake’s Fortune is a lot of fun to be a part of, and I think this is largely down to the characters which it harbours. Nate, Elena and Sully are tremendous protagonist and ones which are superbly acted by Nolan North, Emily Rose and Richard McGonagle (respectively). I think Naughty Dog’s decision to use motion capture (as they have in every game they’ve made since) is one that pays off and really enhances the performance given by all of the actors: it helps make everything feel just that little bit more real.
I also love that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, something that is very refreshing in a time when many games seem afraid to let the characters joke around, in fear that it will detract from the experience. I’m sure that in many cases this would be the case, but Uncharted is an ideal place for this kind of thing: and we get it in bucket-loads. Whether it be a small quip from Drake to himself, or a joke he makes with Elena: they all add up, make the player feel included and – most importantly – are funny and definitely welcome.
You’ll notice that I haven’t talked about the story at all yet. Still, even after (spoilers) a month a three-quarters since I finished the game, I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s not that it isn’t there – because it certainly is – it’s just that it doesn’t seem particularly prevalent, and often sits on the back burner when the aforementioned battles are rolled out. This means that what is actually a very good and substantial story is often forgotten about, in favour of the much-weaker (in comparison) combat, which is a shame.
Avoiding spoilers, I have to applaud Naughty Dog in their excellent character development for Elena, and the fact that Nate and Sully feel so established already. I think this is testament to great writing, and is something that really shines through.
However, something I enjoyed less about the story were the main enemies, who don’t become obvious until near the end. Without going into too much detail, they’re remnants of people who came to the island on which the game is set and who turned into weird, slightly-mythological beings that are actually, despite their faults, quite scary. What I dislike about them is their inclusion in the game. I really wish Naughty Dog had stayed away from the supernatural, and leant more toward realism.
Now, at last, we arrive at one of the biggest problems, and something that seems to affect every instalment in the Uncharted franchise: the camera. Like the combat, it’s mostly fine, but on occasion, especially when semi-fixed, it can be hard to see where exactly one needs to go. This affects the whole game in places and really does take away from an otherwise incredible experience. Perhaps Naughty Dog should have followed Elena’s advice with a camera and let the player simply “point and shoot”.
Another huge problem – and one which is now infamous – is the addition of the “Jet-Ski” missions, where the player has to traverse rapids in a jet-ski. They’re frustrating, not at all fun and add nothing to the overall game. Let me break from my policy of not including the other two games in this review as I let you know that they most certainly do not appear again.