You might be familiar with Naughty Dog studios through the excellent Jak & Daxter series on PlayStation 2 and PSP, or their hugely successful Crash Bandicoot games on PS one. Now Naughty Dog take their skills into the next generation with Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, a barnstorming adventure romp packed with more thrills, spills and danger than a Hollywood blockbuster movie.
You play Nathan Drake, fortune hunter, action man, and possible descendant of legendary explorer, Sir Francis Drake. On discovering a 400-year-old clue in the coffin of his ancestor, Nathan sets out to find the fabled lost treasure of El Dorado. Hunted by mercenaries and pursued at every turn by men who will stop at nothing to claim the treasure for themselves, Nathan must fight to survive as he uncovers the terrible secrets behind Drake's fortune.
Gameplay in Uncharted is a blend of 3D platforming and third-person shooter. The first thing you notice is just how fluid and lifelike the animation on the characters is. Thanks to some revolutionary motion capture techniques Nathan walks, jumps, runs and rolls like a real person. This ease of movement adds another dimension to the combat, too, as Drake can take cover behind almost any object by using the Circle button, and dive between cover points to stay out of the line of fire. This is in addition to the usual adventurer's array of standing and running jumps, as well as all the rope swinging, wall climbing and jet ski riding that you'd expect from a man of action like Nate.
Rumble in the jungle
The combat is slick and intuitive, switching to an over the shoulder view when Nate draws his weapon that allows you to target specific points on attacking enemies, or aim for environmental hazards such as explosive barrels to take out a big group at once. If all else fails, Nate is also pretty handy with his fists and can unleash a close range barrage of punches and kicks to knock out enemies. Stay stealthy enough and you can even sneak up on enemies and subdue them from behind without alerting others nearby. It's not going to be a walk in the park however; the Artificial Intelligence is some of the best yet created, with enemies working in teams to try and take Nate out. Snipers will try and pin you down while ground teams advance, enemies will use cover and react intelligently to near misses, and a lot of them will use grenades to try and flush you out of cover and into the open. Some cover can degrade as it gets hit as well, so you'll need to be constantly moving and have your wits about you if you're to survive.
It's the sheer scale and scope of Uncharted that has to be played to be believed though. The game's world is huge; lush, verdant and brimming with life and character. High ledges crumble dangerously as you traverse them, distant oceans shimmer gorgeously in the sunlight and you can almost feel the chill of the dark and atmospheric temples you'll be exploring. Uncharted draws on the power of PlayStation 3 to create a stunning game world that cannot fail to impress.
The best comparison to use when describing Uncharted is that it feels like you are taking part in a big budget, interactive adventure movie. The plot is excellent, a loving homage to the adventure romps of old shot through with danger, intrigue and mystery, and the voice acting is first-rate - you'll really come to care about the characters and their predicaments throughout the game. Add to this a fantastic score by Greg Edmondson (composer for the TV series Firefly), and some truly breathtaking set pieces and you're left with an adventure easily big enough to rival anything you've seen in the cinema.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune feels like Naughty Dog have taken the best bits from the best action games and stitched them together into one glorious whole that manages to be original and innovative, yet pleasingly familiar and intuitive at the same time. A must have.