Check out our video review:
If you were to ask me what kind of “action adventure” titles I’ve played, I would immediately think of Uncharted, a series that centers on both action and adventure. Developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was released for PlayStation 3 in November, 2007. It was remastered along with Uncharted 2 and 3 and released for PlayStation 4 as part of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection in October, 2015. For this review, I played the PlayStation 4 version on a PlayStation 5 and this was my third time playing through the campaign. Uncharted first appealed to me because of it’s seemingly cinematic influences. I like action adventure movies and when this first came out and I discovered what it was about, it kind of tapped into the action adventure film fan in me.
The story follows treasure hunter Nathan Drake along with his friend Victor “Sully” Sullivan and their quest to locate the lost treasure of El Dorado. After the two abandon reporter Elena Fisher who they fear will attract potential rivals, their quest is hindered by mercenaries led by a criminal named Gabriel Roman who Sully owes a massive debt to. Uncharted does a great job at conveying a sense of adventure in terms of story and gameplay. The writing is solid complete with great dialogue and banter between Nate, Elena, and Sully and the voice performances are excellent. The story and the way the game is presented often reminded me of films like National Treasure and my favorite action adventure series, Indiana Jones, minus Crystal Skull of course.
Uncharted is a third-person shooter and story-driven linear action adventure game. It’s usually always obvious where you need to go. You will have to solve basic puzzles on your journey and you can always reference a journal which basically gives you the solutions. The campaign took me around nine hours to beat and I know it took me less time on my last playthrough years ago. It was taking my time to explore for treasure that extended this playthrough.
Uncharted does have a good amount of replay value thanks to the numerous difficulty levels and rewards. The original game featured four difficulties with Crushing being the hardest. The Nathan Drake Collection adds an even harder difficulty called Brutal which does need to be unlocked. As you progress through the campaign you’ll unlock rewards and the harder the difficulty, the more stuff you unlock. Rewards include skins, artwork, behind the scenes photos, render modes, and tweaks. The tweaks will alter the gameplay in various ways and can be seen as cheats.
Being a third-person shooter, you’ll get to run around, snap to cover, and shoot at enemies and in between these segments you’ll scale walls and structures, shimmy along ledges, swing on vines, climb things, and jump from platform to platform. It is obvious Nate is kind of magnetized when jumping and climbing around the environments in an effort to keep him from dying but that’s not to say I never missed a jump or ledge despite the fact I was certain I was holding the stick in the right direction which can be frustrating.
The Nathan Drake Collection does eliminate the use of SIXAXIS motion control that was present in the original game. It’s been a while since I’ve played the original but from what I read it was used to control grenade arcs and I remember using it to keep Nate balanced on logs and possibly other narrow platforms which I hated. I also remember struggling with aiming in the original game. I remember something feeling off and it resulted in frustration. I just don’t remember the specifics because it’s been so long. But I do remember it was a problem with Uncharted, specifically. When this collection came out, I had a much easier time aiming and the same goes for this playthrough. I had no problems with aiming.
As it happens, from what I read, Bluepoint Games, the developer that worked on The Nathan Drake Collection, adjusted aspects of the camera, movement, and aim assist so it matches that of the other games in the trilogy. For the most part movement and controls work well and I didn’t encounter too many issues. It’s usually always obvious what platforms and ledges Nate can grab onto. Although, there are some that look like they can be grabbed but they can’t and the result is usually death and that can be a little frustrating. However, I can’t say I encountered that very often.
Enemies run around, shoot at you, and will often throw grenades. Health does regenerate and you can perform melee attacks and chain attacks together to form combos and performing a brutal combo will force enemies to drop more ammo. You can also perform stealth kills but stealth is never forced upon you. Once you’re spotted, all enemies in the area will be gunning for you and then it’s time to find some cover.
You’ll get your hands on many traditional firearms including handguns, assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, a sniper rifle and grenade launcher. You can also lob grenades. The gunplay is pretty satisfying. Firing weapons does feel good and enemy animations often look over-animated which is comical. Uncharted is not a gory game but blood does appear when enemies are shot and weapons like the revolver, sniper rifle, and shotguns will send bodies flying backwards.
Nate can only carry one sidearm, one primary weapon, and a handful of grenades. Firearms don’t hold a lot of ammo which is an incentive to keep moving during firefights. Sometimes enemies will rush you and they can be grenade happy so staying in one spot for too long is rarely a good idea. I played through the campaign on Normal and through a portion of it on Crushing before stopping due to frustration. The harder the difficulty, the more damage enemies inflict so you can die a lot quicker making some encounters feel like a tedious case of trial-and-error.
Many encounters in Uncharted throw waves of enemies at you. Foes exhibit average intelligence and much of the challenge comes from being outnumbered. A group of enemies will typically come pouring into the area from one or multiple directions and then after you wipe them out, another wave arrives. Many times, you’ll enter an area and have to engage the foes that are patrolling around and these situations are usually when you’re given the opportunity to perform stealth kills.
Uncharted does feature a small variety of enemies across three what I’ll call factions – pirates, mercenaries, and descendants. Compared to the pirates, mercenaries have better armor and carry deadlier firepower. Some enemies are equipped with laser sights which can be evaded by taking cover and rolling around. Throughout most of the game, you’ll encounter pirates and mercenaries and new and different types are slowly thrown at you as progress. For example, you’ll start out by engaging typical goons before encountering guys with grenade launchers, snipers and foes with better armor.
Unfortunately, the end areas are one of the game’s sore spots. This is when descendants are introduced and encounters start to feel very repetitive. Descendants are basically mutated humans and they arrive in numbers and will claw and jump at you. You go from area to area simply trying to not get swarmed by these things. Cover is basically useless when you’re stuck in a room with them because they will rush you and depending on where you are, they can appear or spawn behind you so it’s best to just keep moving. And this is kind of how the game ends. Run from area to area evading and shooting descendants.
To change things up now and again, Uncharted features some set pieces and scripted sequences. There are some segments that have you driving a jet ski and shooting enemies and explosive barrels floating in the water. For some reason, you can’t aim and accelerate simultaneously which is odd because Elena is the one doing the shooting and Nate is the one driving. Other than the jet ski sequences, there’s a cool driving sequence where you get to man a turret in the back of a jeep and blow away enemies as Elena drives the jeep through the jungle.
Uncharted will take you through jungle areas, a drowned city, monastery, and temple. Getting lost would be very hard to do because as mentioned earlier, the environments are very linear. The only reasons to explore are to find weapons, ammo, and treasure which acts as a form of collectible. Bigger firefights are often set in more open areas but most of the time you’re navigating through small areas and along linear paths and there’s always a specific way to progress. You will have to solve some puzzles but they’re few and far between and very simple. The Journal you can reference ensures they’re not too hard to figure out.
The original game was a looker for its time. Other than some noticeable pop-in, I have no major complaints with the visual presentation in this remaster. This remaster does includes visual improvements including enhancements to textures, lighting, and effects among other things. It’s also presented at 1080p. Uncharted is a colorful game and features some beautiful backdrops and a lot of neat details. This remastered version does come with a photo mode which enables you to pause the game and adjust various settings for taking pictures. On the audio side, many weapons sound powerful, explosions are loud and the soundtrack is excellent. The action is accompanied by a lot of dramatic and orchestral tunes, many of which ramp up during encounters and this remaster does support surround sound. On the technical side, I did play this on a PlayStation 5 and the game ran at a smooth sixty frames for my entire playthrough. I did not notice any drops or encounter any noticeable bugs.
I like Uncharted and I like this remastered version more than the original. It looks better, it plays better and I don’t have to play it with the DualShock 3. I’m not huge fan of that controller but that’s a topic for another time. I played through this remaster on PlayStation 4 years ago and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it because I remembered being rather frustrated with the original. Regardless, I was excited to jump back into it for a third time for this review. I like the story, I like the characters, and I like the gameplay overall. However, Uncharted is far from a flawless game and I do think the sequels are much better. The encounters get repetitive and some of the fun kind of dissipates towards the end. Uncharted is not filled with as many set pieces and lets say exciting moments as its successors. It’s primarily a run and gun third-person shooter with segments of running, jumping, and climbing to break up the action.
I would recommend Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune to fans of action games. It’s a good action adventure title. It’s not perfect but even in today’s world, it is above average and still holds up rather well. I would also recommend this remaster over the original. In my opinion, all the improvements and changes are for the better and make it more enjoyable to play. Definitely check it out.