I’m playing the Uncharted series in its entirety. Once I’m finished, only then can I fully justify my negative opinions of it. Over the course of my journey I’ll post little snippets of how I’m doing and whether my opinion is changing.
What better place to start than at the beginning? Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. A game that I’ve never even seen in action.
I said that I was playing this game with a clear mind, without any previous thoughts or opinions. I did, I loaded it up without any prejudice whatsoever… but it’s just not very good is it? I’m around 4-5 hours in and I’m just so bored.
The combat is dreadful and isn’t enjoyable in the slightest. This wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t the main feature of the game. Everything about just feels dreadful. The cover system is the worst I’ve ever used, it feels clunky and unresponsive. Aiming/shooting doesn’t feel natural at all; I feel like the range of movement is limited and that using a d-pad to aim would be just as beneficial as an analogue stick. The guns are useless too, the best gun in the game seems to be the generic hand-pistol that you start with but it still takes at least 5 bullets to kill someone, thankfully headshots usually do the trick in one and that has been my saving grace thus far. The AK-47 is laughable too, it takes well over 20 bullets to the chest to kill a standard bad-guy. Even when I headshot these bullet-sponges they don’t seem to fall down. I know that it’s still early days for me, and that judging by the trophy list there are a few more guns to be found, but I hope things pick up from here rather sharpish. I’m constantly running low on ammunition and rolling around a battlefield scavenging for a weapon isn’t quite my idea of fun. It can be in some games; you know, that sense of panic as you scramble around thinking that anything will do, but it’s no fun when you’re doing it every other firefight. I’m a fairly accurate shot as well, I’ll have you know!
It’s not just the cover system, the controls and the guns that let the game down, but the enemy AI is the worst of the lot. They’re not the brightest and often just stand right in the middle of nowhere shooting me, it’s unrealistic and it ruins things. I want a tense gun battle where we’re each popping our heads over cover, where I’ve got to think about what my next move will be. Do I wait for them to reload? Do I lay some suppressive fire and then flank them? There’s no point in doing any of this; their clips are bottomless and they’re constantly locked onto you. Basically, it’s just a case of popping out of cover, and head-shotting your assailant before your health reaches zero. They’re so accurate and efficient in shooting that I’ve had to knock the difficulty down from ‘Crushing’ to ‘Hard’, I want to get through this game as quick as I can and having enemies run at me around corners already firing is something I could do without. I also get the concept of increasing enemy bullet damage and their accuracy for harder difficulties, but at least level it off. I die with 3-4 shots of an AK-47, whereas it’s going to take over 20 bullets from my AK-47 to put each guy down. It’s hurt my pride a little, but I’d rather just get this game over with as soon as possible.
2007 was a fantastic year for gaming but to me, and this is going to ruffle a whole load of feathers, Drake’s Fortune does not feel like a 2007 game, it feels so much older and unrefined. I’m just going to throw a couple of third-person shooters that were released that same year at you:
Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
Do you know what? I’d probably put Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune at the bottom of that list in terms of a shooter quality. Actually, I’d probably even rank Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools Of Destruction higher than it. Uncharted is by far a better game of course, but the combat side really does let it down; at least for me.
Right, that’s the combat rant done with, now for the other key gameplay mechanic: climbing. Climbing games are often rather linear in their execution and that’s no criticism. It was only when Assassin’s Creed turned up (also in 2007. See? I said it was a good year!) that the bar was really set, giving players pretty much free-reign over how different obstacles are approached. Not many games will be able to beat the Ubisoft series in this particular area, and I wouldn’t expect anything from the Uncharted series to even mount a challenge but Drake’s Fortune seems somewhat dated. I mentioned how most of the third-person shooters outperform this game of that same original release year, but climbing-wise I’d go even older. The likes of Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time (well, all of them actually), ICO, all of the Tomb Raider games, Devil May Cry and God Of War just to name a few all have better climbing sections in my opinion… some are a good 5 years older too! They all share a similar premise in that it’s usually a case of travel down this restricting and uninteresting path, climb this wall, fight a few waves of enemies, and repeat. They all share that linear way of doing things, but for whatever reason Uncharted’s attempt is just tedious and uninteresting.
After all of my criticism and all of that negativity, the game has it’s one saving grace: It’s narrative. The storyline, the character building and the fantastic voice acting are the only things that are motivating me to continue. As bored as I am of the actual gameplay, I constantly look forward to the cutscenes and Nolan North’s consistently charismatic performance is one of the few things that warrant sticking it through the tedious parts of the game.
I can see that there’s no doubt that Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is an attempt to rekindle interest in the franchise and to allow new players (like me) to experience it for the first time if they didn’t on PS3. I’ve been watching a few graphical comparison videos of this 2015 re-release of 2007’s version of Drake’s Fortune and notwithstanding the vastly improved frame rate and 1080p jump, objects do seem to be much more detailed. I wouldn’t say that they’re brought in line with today’s general standard, but they’re certainly better. The same can be said about the lighting effects and cinematic depth-of-field effects which can be seen on this comparative screenshot.
Apparently, not everything is a step forward. There’s a noticeable lack of motion blur, which might rob some action-heavy scenes of their thunder. Even so, it’s evident that The Nathan Drake Collection is as much about creating a consistent Uncharted experience as anything else. Everything looks as if it’s been spruced up so that you won’t feel like you’re stepping into a time machine when you play the older titles. All I can imagine for veteran players is that the series won’t be exactly how you remembered it, but it beats having to settle for upscaled versions of action-adventures that are starting to show their age.
So, I’m still plodding along and I haven’t quite thrown the towel in just yet. I came close though, the shooting sequences are really irritating. They break up the game and the story so jauntily. I’ve just finished the horrid Jet Ski chapter/mission and oh my, I think I’d rather contract leprosy than experience that disgusting piece of gameplay ever again. I hope that is the only Jet Skiing this game makes you do, because I swear, I’ll just call it quits right then and there.
But yeah, the story is great, the characters are even better and I can understand the popular acclaim the game has received; it’s just that these relentless, nonsensical arbitrary shooting portions are really getting me down. It’s clear that they’re just there to serve as a cheap tool to lengthen my game time too. Honestly, I’m so close to just watching all of the game’s cutscenes on YouTube and washing my hands clean of the stuff.
Roll on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves! Come on Sam! You’re nearly there…
Thoughts on the series so far…
It’s alright. The storyline is keeping my invested at the moment but without the characters and what they each bring to said storyline, I’m not sure that it would hold itself up on it’s own.
How this game managed to spin off and have so many successful sequels is beyond me, it looks like an average indie game I’d expect to find on the Xbox 360’s Live Arcade.