Impressions: Uncharted

Ah, Uncharted. The second shell in Sony’s double-barreled Holiday assault (the other being Ratchet and Clank Future). When you’re swamped with grizzly marines (in space or otherwise) and loads of fast cars, it’s hard not to notice a game that takes us back to a simpler time — the days when a guy could just, you know, go find a jungle or ruins somewhere and hunt for treasure while getting shot at by ruthless, but comically inept mercenaries. It’s enough to make you dig through your collection and pull out your old copy of The Last Crusade, or maybe Romancing the Stone? Uncharted’s Nathan Drake channels good old Dr. Jones more than he does Michael Douglas, prone to folly as much as he is skirting through rough situations by the skin of his teeth. But a good-natured and resourceful hero is key to any adventure yarn worth its weight in gold. When you hear Drake sigh “Ohhhh boy” as a recently-tossed grenade tumbles to his feet, you know that Naughty Dog’s done their research.

Like many, I was skeptical that such a generic-looking hero could carry such an interesting premise, but Nathan really does have a likable personality that comes out not only in the dialog, but in his animations and facial expressions. His eyes widen as fear as he’s forced to leap from a crashing airplane, screaming “Crap! Crap! Crap! Crap!” all the way down. Sometimes he kicks down wrought-iron doors like a badass only to recoil and duck behind the nearest cover when neutered by the gang of badguys hiding just beyond it. If you try to leap up a slick wall, he’ll try to grab at it in a manner that’s endearingly pathetic. Nathan huffs and puffs after running around for awhile (like a girl, I might add) and his clothes actually get wet when submersed in water. The way he reacts to the environment really sells that this is a relatively ordinary guy stuck in an extraordinary situation; there’s the idea that maybe he really has bitten off more than he can chew.

Naughty Dog clearly spent as much time on the atmosphere as their character models. The jungles look fantastic and the lighting is amongst the best I’ve seen. There was one particular moment where I stopped and watched as the shadows shifted with foliage swaying in the wind, appropriately shading objects beneath. Everything feels organic, too. It’s never too tough to figure out where you need to go, but traversable surfaces blend with the environment just enough to break the artifice that they’re only there to get you from point A to point B.

For all of its visual splendor, gunplay is a big part of Uncharted, as well, and seems like it’ll make up a bulk of the game’s action. You’re thrown into several firefights throughout the demo and the first thing you’ll notice is that it feels a lot like Gears of War (though it’s technically not the first game to feature the “stop and pop” gameplay that it popularized). Drake can use just about anything for cover, and it’s advisable to do so, because sitting out in the open is almost always going to get you shot dead. Moving from cover to cover is painless and, quite frankly, necessary. Instead of always setting you up across from the enemy, the game regularly throws you into areas where the AI can easily maneuver around you, and it’s usually smart enough to do so.

It’s the kind of flanking and tactical prowess you’d expect out of a tactical, squad-based shooter, not an adventure game. The baddies will attempt to duck and dodge your fire, and if they feel that you’re turtling behind a wall for too long, they’ll get impatient and try to smoke you out. Naughty Dog’s set things up so that every encounter is as engaging as the last and there seems to be plenty of variety in terms of how you might approach any given situation.

Drake can also engage in fisticuffs if he gets close enough to an enemy to do so. The combos are simple, but satisfying, and usually take enemies down in one hit. The problem is that it can leave you vulnerable. Unlike other games, they don’t just sit around and wait for your animation to play. If there are other bad guys around, they’ll have no problem continuing to shoot your ass as you plant your knuckles on the face of one of their comrades.

Sad as it is, the demo ends quite suddenly and feels like it’s over just as it’s begun, but the game is only about a week-and-a-half away and it’s already left me aching for more. If there’s one thing I can say against it, it’s that I hope there’s a bit more actual platforming/puzzling in the final game. While gunning down enemies feels great, clever level design and acrobatics really make an adventure game. The balance just felt a tad off in the demo, but I assume that it isn’t terribly far into the game (Chapter 4 of ???).

Give it a shot for yourself on PSN. For foreigners who initially had trouble running the demo (it hit the US Store region-locked), give it a second chance. Naughty Dog has already fixed the download and it should now be accessible no matter what country you live in.

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~ by Cavin Smith on November 10, 2007.

6 Responses to “Impressions: Uncharted”

  1. haha…nice blog, ok alway stay cool

  2. lawl @ double-barreled holiday assault.

  3. Notice how there hasn’t been an update in a while? PS3 is teh suxor. lollolollololoollolol!!!!11!!!!!!!!1!!111!

  4. […] Cavin Smith Did an interesting post today on sonydrone.wordpress.comHere’s a snippet: […]

  5. Ps3 rocks my friends.
    Dont ask any questions about something else.
    only buy this stuff and be happy.
    Nice graphics, special games and more…
    If you dont believe it, test it !

  6. Awesome colour, I like the theme. PS3 is rocking.. Thanks for sharing for good post.

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