Developers: Naughty Dog
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment
Plot: Nathan Drake believes himself the ancestor of Francis Drake, following the famous privateer’s footsteps, hoping to find El Dorado.
Back in 2007, when Uncharted was first released, tomb-raiding was becoming sexy again. Lara had returned the year before, in a game that no one believed would be as good as it actually turned out to be, and Uncharted emerged in Croft’s footsteps. It is the male equivalent of Tomb Raider, proving that, in the gaming world, aggressive archaeology wasn’t a one-gender career plan.
And god, it is definitely the male version of Tomb Raider. While Lara’s games were more finely written brain-teasers, Nathan Drake’s Uncharted series is more of a pulse-pounding race to the end. After a few opening gambits, a bad guy is introduced to Drake’s quest to find El Dorado, and as soon as that moment begins, the puzzle aspect is slowly uprooted and replaced for an exhilarating third person action shooter. Drake is in a jungle, a damsel is in distress (the female figure here is just badass enough to escape the useless girl role, but her job in the game is clear), and hordes of gunmen need to be shot down. And for a long time, Uncharted becomes frustratingly single-minded. The PlayStation trophy list or Xbox Gamerscore proves just how action-orientated Uncharted is, every achievement essentially worked around how you kill the bad guys. There are some hidden treasures to be found, but they feel like an afterthought, rather than a decent attempt at making the game feel more archeology-based. The action is far from dull, killing your opponent easy enough to remain fun for the prolonged shoot-outs, but hard enough that you feel properly tested. It is just that the developers feel like they are too scared to take the game away from these fight sequences. Every new location is predictably crammed with more baddies to murder. With Tomb Raider, the majority of the games had this exciting sense of the next room having any number of fresh challenge for you. You never knew what was going to happen in this next tomb. There is none of that in Uncharted. You will get a pretty backdrop, but a routine shoot-out with some nameless bad guys. If you’ve come for the fighting, you will have delicious fun, as each new battle throws up new problems. A rocket launcher guy has the back of the room covered, so as the assault rifle users try to flank you, you have to avoid the missiles streaming past your head. The bad guys have laser sights to improve their accuracy. Or maybe your limited cover is an easy target for an opportunistic grenade thrower. The shooting is solid fun; perhaps not in the league of games that pride themselves on being third person shooters first and foremost, but fun nonetheless. It is just, as the game introduces this swaggering, charismatic hero, that dashing video game image of quips and badassery, you begin to expect more than another brain-dead game that puts the shooting first and leaves intelligence at the door.
It does pull itself together for the final hurdle. As the game sets itself in the rhythm of being a tomb raiding adventure grounded in some basis of reality, a third act villain really blows things out of the water. It is still predominantly action, but for the first time, the expectations of the game begin to feel pushed. That final segment really does up the difficulty ante, a tough slog to the end, but it is much preferred than the easy-going shooting that came before. There are a few puzzles (nothing strenuous, but at this point, we’ll take it!), some interesting shoot-out dynamics and a meaty couple of boss battles. That final shoot-out on the boat is tough and the finish is a decent conclusion to the game. The end verdict: decent enough, but at this point in the series, Lara is by far the more superior tomb raider.
Final Verdict: Action heads will love it, but the tomb raiding fanbase will be disappointed at the lack of versatility in the gameplay.