Uncharted: Drakes Fortune is a third-person shooter developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony for the PS3 in 2007. It was later remastered by Bluepoint in 2015 as part of the Nathan Drake Collection, which was released on PS4 in 2015. Bumbling treasure hunter Nathan Drake is joined by the journalist Elena Fisher on the hunt for the lost coffin of Francis Drake. The coffin turns out to be empty, but contains Drake's journal, which holds clues that leads to El Dorado. Tempted to find the treasure and follow in his ancestor's footsteps, Nathan ditches Elena and takes his friend Sully along for the treasure hunt.
I'll be frank. The story of Uncharted doesn't grip me at all, in spite of how many things it does right. It's simply a bland story with little meaning being held up by some excellent acting, motion capture and character interactions. It just doesn't hold a candle to the action movies it so desperately apes after.
I think the issue is just that to make room for the gameplay, the story has to stop itself constantly, whereas in a 90 minute film, there are only so many action scenes you can fit in before people get sore in their seats. There are quite a few set pieces, but most of them aren't noteworthy enough to be memorable in the same way that a single well-directed action scene in a movie would be. If you were to make the game into a movie, there are dozens of parts that would get cut instantly to give the best scenes more focus.
But even if the story was held together tighter, there's still the issue of what's on display here. As I said before, every character interaction is lovely, but that flavour doesn't amount to much if it doesn't serve a greater purpose. Nathan is a lovable smart-mouthed goof who fails through situations constantly, thus serving the game's set pieces well. But as a main character, he just doesn't fly with me.
It's not just because he casually murders like 120 people over the course of the game with a goofy disposition (that's played completely straight), but also because there's barely anything there beyond his lovable persona. The game almost rubs up against some decent themes a few times (like not letting your passions/greed get the better of you), but never goes further than that. So by the end of the game, Nathan basically shrugs and says "Well, that happened". Makes the whole thing seem pointless.
It's like they made the framework for a complete story but then didn't manage to slot in the parts that stick with you afterwards. No memorable villain speech (which is one hell of a waste, since they got Simon Templeman for the role), no killer plot twists and no introspective scene to make you really understand how the characters tick outside of the quips. It's an action movie with a lot of heart, not because it put in the groundwork for it, but because it carved a bunch of hearts out of other properties in the vain hope that it would help it understand what it's good for. At least the music is nice.
The game's cover-based third-person shooting isn't good enough for the amount of time the game dedicates to it. There are a bunch of interesting aspects to it, but I found myself constantly annoyed with how quickly you're back to a gunfight and how silly the sheer amount of people popping out of the edges of every combat arena is. The realistic set-dressing of the story is really at odds with what you're up against.
Nathan is allowed to carry two guns at a time, a handgun and a big gun, plus a handful of somewhat useful grenades. What you have access to is largely up to the level designer, as you're not allowed to hoard a lot of ammo. That means that you are incentivized to constantly scramble for guns around each arena, especially if you're using destructible cover. The game is at its best when you're running around wildly, punching people you accidentally run across (which rewards double ammo), find a gun you like and then promptly use it to run-and-gun in order to shoot a guy who has annoyed you during the battle.
Sadly, that approach to combat does not last, as the difficulty ramps up a lot through the addition of grenade gunners and instakill snipers around the midpoint. Once you hit that part, you really can't risk playing in a fun way, even on easy. You're just gonna have to bite the bullet and take long range potshots from cover in order to get through it. Replaying this has really made me appreciate the mobility on offer in Vanquish.
The remaster adds a new Explorer Mode, which drastically cuts down on the difficulty. I didn't play a lot of the game on that difficulty (I just tried a lategame setpiece and was amused at Nathan's sudden near-imunity to bullets), but I bet it's the most pleasant way to play the game, as its not worth mastering on higher difficulties. The remaster also does wonders to undo the lackluster framerate and motion blur of the original release.
As I said, there are some set pieces in there to break up things, but they aren't very engaging. One is brainless fun, while another has you drive a jetski and stopping constantly to shoot explosive barrels that can kill you instantly. There...really wasn't any point where I was excited to do battle with the challenges put forth by the designer.
Now, there isn't just gunplay to keep you busy while playing. There's also platforming. Platforming in the most reductive sense of the word. While you do jump a lot, the game isn't exactly spacially challenging. The best way I can describe it is simplified PoP: Sands of Time pretending to be realistic. As such, Nathan does not have outlandish acrobatic abilities like the Prince, but he still climbs his way through ridiculous situations.
It's just so...terribly linear and boring, while somehow still managing to kill me a bunch due to unclear direction. Here's how you climb in Uncharted: You push the stick in the correct direction to move and press jump when Nathan stops or when a ledge is about to fall to pieces. It would have been better if you just had to push the stick and have him climb automatically. That way, you'd save your controller some wear & tear while making it impossible to fall off a ledge and die from a fall that's shorter than one that was perfectly survivable an area ago because you misjudged the angle you needed to push the stick in.
And then there are the "puzzles". The quotation marks are there because I don't think the designer understood that a puzzle is meant to stimulate the brain. Instead, they ask you you participate in about 4 second's worth of image processing per puzzle. Every time Nathan runs into a puzzle, he says it looks familiar, at which point you can pull up Drake's journal at the exact page which tells you the damn solution!