What To Play: Back to the Roots in ‘Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’ (2007)
This classic first entry is still a great game to revisit.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a 2007 action/adventure game from developer Naughty Dog that introduces the now iconic hero.
Despite being the game that launched one of the strongest PlayStation exclusive franchises ever – which has now reached its fourth title on the PS4 – the popularity its debut has for some reason always been seen as something like the red-headed stepchild of the franchise, with many fans of the series citing the second game Among Thieves as the real entry point in the series.
The first game by developer Naughty Dog for the PS3, having previously produced some of the best titles for the previous two generations of PlayStation, such as Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter – the latter arguably being the closest the console had to a mascot – the original plan might have been to make another Jak and Daxter however the developer instead opted to use the power of the new machine to try something different. The new system finally gave them the ability to craft more realistic human models which had always been a limitation of the previous hardware.
Clearly drawing inspiration from the Tomb Raider series and certainly more keyly, the Indiana Jones films, this game introduces hero Nathan Drake (voiced by Nolan North), a combination of professional thief and treasure hunter who much like his obvious inspirations, travels the globe hunting for lost treasures and battling various villains along the way. This first adventure though sees him tagging alongside journalist Elena (voiced by Emily Rose) searching for the lost city of gold, El Dorado.
Combining elements of a platformer with a cover-based shooter, the mix is surprisingly effective, and in a circle of sorts, can recently be seen in the new Tomb Raider (2013) reboot. At the same time, Uncharted uses a cinematic style both in terms of its plotting as well as its action sequences, which really makes for an exciting experience to playthrough rather than giving you the feeling that you’re just working through a series of levels.
This immersiveness is helped greatly by the likeability of its lead, as right from the start, the opening sees him engaging in a heated shootout with a group of pirates while his boat is set ablaze. Drake comes with the right mixture of sharp wit and roughness that sets the tone for this reskinned, modern day Indiana Jones. Despite this, the originality of the plot helps us get past such minor quirks as thankfully he’s not battling Nazi’s, even if the finale takes place in an abandoned secret Nazi sub base.
Largely set in the jungles of the Amazon as well as the ruins of the old colony, there isn’t a huge variety in the locations and as such can at times feel a little tedious to have to work your way through another shoot out in the jungle ruins. Thankfully, things do get changed up for the final quarter, which mixes the action up between a secret Nazi facility and the temple setting as well as introducing a new enemy type who require a whole different set of tactics to deal with.
Seemingly able to adapt to any situation that is thrown at him, Drake equally gets access to a good variety of weapons to help dispatch his foes throughout the game. Most baffling though is how Drake comes with a great melee system, though he rarely gets chance to really use it, seeing how nearly every encounter is a firefight, making it far and few between that you’re actually be close enough to the enemy to throw a decent punch. Mostly.
While the action throughout might frequently be cinematic in its construction, especially with its jeep chase around the halfway point, some of the settings – especially the jungle locations – can come off feeling a little flat and lifeless, which is expected given it being the debut on the new system. The water effects however are clearly something the development team were proud off, seeing as how so much of the time you spend in the water with Drake’s clothes actually showing the right amount of dampness depending on where Drake is.
While the game might show some signs of ageing graphically, it still remains an enjoyable adventure, even if it’s since been eclipsed by its sequels. This entry makes a perfect starting point for newcomers, while completionists might at the same time find it lacking compared to what would follow.