Released in the year 2007, PlayStation 3 exclusive Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune brought developer Naughty Dog into the most recent generation of console gaming. Published by Sony Computer Entertainment of America, the first Uncharted is a mix of third-person shooter and 3D platformer. Players take on the persona of Nathan Drake who is the descendant of one Francis Drake. Francis Drake is rumored to have found a long lost treasure that could possibly lead to the finding of the lost city of gold, El Dorado. The game opens with Nate and the main female protagonist, journalist Elena Fisher, recovering the coffin of Francis Drake from the ocean floor. Quickly, things turn sour as the two are ambushed by a group of pirates who are on the hunt for Nate. A shoot-out ensues, but the pair are quickly saved by Nate’s mentor, Victor “Sully” Sullivan. After the trio are safely away, Nate reveals to Sully that there was no body in Francis’ coffin. There was only a journal Francis left behind, which Nate believes could lead to “Drake’s Fortune”. Sully and Nate quickly ditch Elena, and the adventure takes off from there.
As previously mentioned, the gameplay of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a combination of action-adventure elements and 3D platforming in a third-person perspective. Platforming elements allow Nate to jump, swim, grab, and move along ledges, climb and swing from ropes, and perform other acrobatic actions so that players can make their way along the ruins in the various areas that Drake explores. When facing enemies, the player can either use melee and combo attacks at close range to take out foes, or can opt to use weapons. Melee attacks comprise a variety of single punches, while combo attacks are activated through specific sequences of button presses that, when timed correctly, offer much greater damage. The most damaging of these is the specific “brutal combo”, which forces enemies to drop twice the ammunition they would normally leave. Nate can only carry one pistol and one rifle at a time, and there is a limited amount of ammunition per gun. Picking up a different firearm switches that weapon for the new one. Grenades are also available at certain points, and the height of the aiming arc is adjusted by tilting the Sixaxis controller up or down. Uncharted lacks an actual on-screen health bar; instead, when the player takes damage, the graphics begin to lose color. While resting or taking cover for a brief period, Drake’s health level, indicated by the screen color, returns to normal. The game also includes vehicle sections, where Drake must protect his jeep by using a mounted turret, and where Drake and Elena ride a jet ski along water-filled routes while avoiding enemy fire and explosive barrels. While players control Drake in driving the jet ski, they may also switch to Elena by aiming the gun in order to use her weapon–either the grenade launcher or the Beretta, depending on the chapter–in defense, or to clear the barrels from their path. The game also includes sixty treasures for gamers to collect, and one “mysterious relic” which, as in other games in the Uncharted series, is an Easter egg related to Jak and Daxter. The difficulty level of Uncharted is player-set, but even on the normal setting players may find the latter sections of the game increase in difficulty where the player is expected to defeat massive groups of enemies that can kill Nate in one or two shots. In terms of graphics, the game is still able to hold up, but within the next few years will look very dated with textures that do not fully load until after a few moments of looking at them.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was an acknowledged success, receiving high praise from many notable game review establishments, in addition to many game of the year nods. It began one of Sony’s most successful franchises of the current generation and spawned three highly regarded sequels, with the possibility of a movie in the works. The first two games are currently available in a dual Greatest Hits pack, which should serve for gamers who are looking for a cheap deal on two games beloved by Eastern and Western gamers alike. Naughty Dog is currently working on their second franchise of the current generation, entitled The Last of Us. The Last of Us promises to be a third-person, survival horror game set in a post-zombie apocalypse with mechanics similar to the third Uncharted. Players can expect The Last of Us in late 2012 or early 2013.