Charting the PlayStation: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

I’ve never owned a Sony device before...besides my Walkman of course. Anyway, when it comes to home consoles, I’ve owned at least one from every major player in the industry from the last 25 years but until this past Christmas I had never owned a Sony system, mostly because I hated the controller. And I still do. But after last year there were simply too many reasons to stop ignoring Sony consoles. And thankfully somebody makes a wonderful device that allows you to use a 360 controller. It’s glorious. But enough of that, given that I’m new to the Sony ecosystem, I thought it would be a good time to give my impressions of some major Sony exclusives, spanning the PS2 and the PS3, starting with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t really like Uncharted. I take that back. I did like it, I just didn’t think it was very good. There are many games that are incredibly well received at launch and then quickly become black sheep. Sometimes I find this to be undeserved, such as with Deus Ex Invisible War. Other times I totally get it and this is one of them. When Drake’s Fortune was released, there was only one Gears of War on store shelves and Tomb Raider (after having been successfully resurrected once) was waning into obscurity. So I’m sure Uncharted felt like this nice big breath of fresh air. Sadly, fresh air becomes stale after while.

Before I get into the mechanics, let me first say that I really enjoyed the characters of Uncharted, especially Elena. She’s adorable. She’s also normal. She’s not unrealistically endowed, she’s not bulletproof and she not a damsel in distress (for the most part). Sully’s the least fleshed out of the three main characters but he also plays a smaller role. Drake? Drake can be annoyingly smug and he does kind of come across as a psychopath considering how cheery he can be having just killed some 20 guys. BUT, I’d rather play as a character who is inexplicably capable of letting countless men’s death roll off his back than a character who supposedly cares and is distraught by the number of deaths at her hand in a cutscene yet shows no remorse during actual gameplay. I’m looking at you, Lara.

Now, as for the mechanics of Uncharted…well, it’s just not a good shooter. Most of it’s issues are rather small but are then compounded together, making for a plodding experience. The aiming is loose, almost to the point of being what I would call “buttery.” But that wouldn’t be so bad if enemies didn’t require so many bullets to put down. That would not be so big an issue if ammo was more prevalent. Which, again, wouldn’t be too bad if you could take the same amount of damage as your foes. And even that wouldn’t be an issues if you weren’t shooting people for 95% of the game.

Considering that, my biggest issue with Drake’s Fortune is not even a mechanical one but one of pacing. I have no qualms with the overall story or how it's told. It’s a dumb summer blockbuster in video game form. If you’re playing Uncharted to experience a treatise on American storytelling, then you’re playing it for the wrong reason. No, my problem with Uncharted is that it never gives you a moment to breath. It all high-octane action all the time. The few puzzle sequences are so short that they’re not memorable and the rest of the game is you shooting guys in the face. There are little-to-no quiet moments, making the game feel rather one note. And that note is a little off key.

All that having been said, I still had a fun time playing Uncharted for several reasons. Even in 2014, Drake’s Fortune is still a good looking game. Sun beams filter realistically through the forest canopy, leaves move as you brush by them and the facial animations are still (sadly) better than many games released last year. And while visuals aren’t everything, it was surprising to see how well they held up. More than that, it was fun to play a game from 2007 and experience how far shooters have come in such a short amount of time. There’s no other genre that’s seen as much refinement or market saturation as shooters have. With as easy as it is to become tired of the genre, it’s nice to remember where shooters were seven years ago and where they are now. Like quite time events and motion controls, remember those? Those were a thing and now they’re mostly gone. Thank god for change.

So that does it for this month’s Charting. I’ll be back next month to talk about another Sony exclusive...maybe Jak and Daxter, maybe Journey… who knows.

Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.