Uncharted Series Retrospective: Uncharted Drake’s Fortune

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is less than a month away. A revisit of the Uncharted franchise is necessary to see what Naughty Dog has delivered on thus far. Let’s take a look at Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

As someone who is only almost 20 years old, Uncharted is a nostalgic franchise for me. I started by playing Uncharted 2 in 2009. (Yes, I played Uncharted 2 before the first one.) I am glad I started with Uncharted 2 because it is a better game in every single way.

My third playthrough of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune that I did for this feature led me to be disappointed by the game. I remember always liking Drake’s Fortune but it was always considered the worst of the franchise for me. The visuals don’t quite hold up. Enemies take far too many hits to die and the environments can get stale. The swarms of enemies can get quite repetitive. The game has a lot of flaws but there’s no denying that the game helped put the PS3 on the map.

The PS3 wasn’t exactly doing so hot when it was first released on November 17, 2006. Why would it when it was priced at $600? Besides that, there wasn’t much software to back-up the so-called powerful hardware. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune helped to change that.

The PS3 was going to be taken seriously. At the time, Drake’s Fortune deserved every ounce of praise it got. It was a serious achievement. Naughty Dog always delivers and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But what happens when one of their games don’t really hold up?

It may sound as though I am purely negative toward this game, but I promise I still like it quite a bit. The banter between Drake, Elena, and Sully is wonderful. The shooting mechanics are still pretty great. The opening scene is perfect and feels as exciting as the opening of a Star Wars or Indiana Jones flick. The humor is on-point. If anything, Naughty Dog had the story-telling elements nearly perfected, it is the gameplay that has issues in retrospect. I am more apt to blame the hardware before I blame Naughty Dog. This is a studio that was still working out the kinks of a new piece of hardware. On top of that, I am willing to blame time constraints for the failures the game has.

Another thing truly worth praising is that Naughty Dog let’s us know who these characters are in an instantaneous way and it truly shows the talents of this studio. We learn that Sully is in debt and makes a lot of mistakes but messes with the wrong crowd yet is good-natured and loyal to his friends. Drake is the everyman joker while Elena is a bit stuck-up (for good reason) but good-natured. The fact is, I understand these characters within the first 5 or so chapters of the game, which is absolutely incredible. The writing is top-notch is the point I’m trying to make.

But when we do leave that opening sequence on the boat, the game starts to drag. It is Drake and Sully and you get to do somewhat mediocre puzzles as well as platforming that works only some of the time. Although, once we hit Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog does fix some of the platforming issues. The game does start to pick up once we hit the German war boat but then it is an onslaught of combat sequences, some of it being quite mediocre.

Although, we get lovely quick-time events, which may be my least favorite thing about video games ever because they simply serve no purpose beyond being frustrating. We also have one of the worst sequences I’ve played in such a popular game: the dreadful uphill water sequence where you shoot and drive a Jet Ski at the same time. It is almost amazing to me that this was even okayed by the studio to be in the game. The Jet Ski controls so poorly and makes me want to cry. You die constantly because you simply can’t kill enemies quick enough and exploding barrels are floating down the river at the same goddamn time. Listen, I don’t have a problem with any of this if the Jet Ski actually controlled well in any way whatsoever but it simply doesn’t. It sucks. It really, really sucks.

Anyways, we can move back to some more positive things. I still love the motif of greatness from small beginnings that has been apart of every Uncharted game. It gives the player something small, quotable, and memorable. It is clever. That’s the simplest way I can put it. The scenes between Drake and Elena are actually emotionally tense and they both have amazing chemistry. I already love these characters from the second I see them on screen and love them tenfold by the end of the game.

The game picks up even further (after slugging along for awhile) once the player arrives at the monastery. The visuals are beautiful and the combat sequences actually get more complex. The underground sequences pushes this even further, the combat gets more and more interesting. The enemies act smarter and the environments allow that to happen with more complex objects to hide behind.The treasure vault sequence is visually interesting but can be frustrating as all hell but that is a small quip toward the last 7 or 8 chapters of the game that are truly this game at its finest.

The bunker sequence truly shows off this game for what it is. I would gladly call this part of the game where the Spanish are revealed to be weird monster creatures (is this a strange metaphor for something, I don’t know) a precursor to The Last of Us. It feels like The Last of Us, just with a lot more spraying and praying. The way the story just takes you in absolutely crazy turns is just wonderful and it is effective in a lot of ways. It simply works. It is fun and I would assume that’s why we play games in the first place.

The boss battle kind of sucks though. It turns into a quick-time event. WHY WAS THIS COOL TO DO IN 2007? QUICK-TIME EVENTS WERE NEVER COOL, OKAY? I apologize for my anger. It sucks. Quick-time events will never be good. Never, never ever.

At least the ending has a nice sunset and Sully is there and Elena is there and things are happy. It’s nice and leaves you with a big smile as the fantastic Uncharted theme plays over the credits. It makes me want to forgive the things that simply don’t hold up in this game. Drake’s Fortune is not a bad game by any means. In fact, it is still a good game. Although, it was probably a game worthy of a 9 out of 10 back in the day, it is probably only worthy of a 7 out of 10 now. Some of the game design choices simply don’t hold up, but the story really does and that is what keeps this game afloat.

What do you think of Drake’s Fortune? Does it hold up? Are you looking forward to Uncharted 4? Let us know in the comments below!

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