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December 9, 2007
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
6/12/2007SonySonyNaughty Dog1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Cut-scenes are superb.
Naughty Dog are a company that should need no introduction - but in case you've been on the International Space Station for the last decade let me fill you in. During the PSOne era the company developed Crash Bandicoot which, for a number of years until Vivendi claimed the rights, was seen as a mascot on Sony's platform. When the PS2 came out the company moved onto Jak & Daxter which was equally stunning. With Sony's third generation system is here now and Naughty Dog are back with an all new game called Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.

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Have you ever seen better looking jungles?
The storyline in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is as follows... A 400-year-old clue in the coffin of Sir Francis Drake sets a modern-day fortune hunter on an exploration for the fabled treasure of El Dorado, leading to the discovery of a forgotten island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The search turns deadly when Nathan Drake, who believes he is a descendent of the famed explorer, becomes stranded on the island and hunted by mercenaries. Outnumbered and outgunned, Drake and his companions must fight to survive as they begin to unravel the terrible secrets hidden on the Island.

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Manning the gun on the jeep.
When the game first starts you're thrown into the deep end almost immediately. You've recovered the coffin, as well as its valuable content, but pirates are hot on your trail and it will only be a matter of moments before you are in a gunfight with surrounding enemy boats. After that opening sequence though, there's a few cut scenes to get through and the first hour or so on the island looking for Drake's Treasure is more exploration and platforming then action. In fact quite a bit of the game will involve platforming sections - but there aren't too many areas which aren't also swarming with enemies. After the first hour or so this game becomes quite the action title.

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Remind you of any other games?
There are two main modes of combat in the game - shooting or hand-to-hand. The first of those will certainly be your preferred method as it allows you to take out enemies with a bit more safety. There's a wide range of guns on offer from standard pistols, to more power Desert Eagles, Machine Guns to Shotguns, sniper rifles to grenade launchers. You'll find your favorite that's for sure and just to be safe you'll have grenades available as well. Each time you kill an enemy their weapon or its ammunition can be picked up. At any time Nathan can carry a light weapon such as pistol, a heavy weapon such as machine gun and grenades.

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Uncharted includes fist fighting too!
The second form of combat is hand-to-hand which took us a little by surprise. While most games will put this in as an afterthought there is a serious benefit to using this method of combat - not only will you save ammunition, but enemy ammunition dropped will be increased slightly so you can pick up more. Nathan is able to throw combos of punches as well as even performing running drop-kicks. Always satisfying.

While Uncharted is a brilliant game there are one or two very small annoyances - and we do mean small! Firstly the cover system could have been refined a little more. On some very rare occasions Nathan would attach himself to the wrong side of the wall, but rather then being able to slide around corners you have to come away from cover, and then move around to the other side. Still, by doing this the developers allow you to lean out from cover to fire at enemies.

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Taking cover behind the wall.
Ever since the first screenshots for this game were released we thought this may be something special, but the final product far exceeds our expectations. Animation for the cut-scenes has been motion captured, and it really shows with the smallest gestures being replicated in-game. Some of the extras even show split screen comparisons between the motion capture set, the early renders and the final product so you can see just how precisely it all matches. These cut-scenes are well directed with some dramatic camera angles and more importantly information to be used to continue the journey. Even in-game though the range of animations is impressive. While not as extensive as Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Nathan Drake can still scurry up rocks, hang off ledges, take cover behind objects, perform dives and rolls, and enter hand-to-hand combat. Each move is as fluid as we've ever seen and it really is a joy to watch him - as well as other characters - scurry around the various locations.

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Taking a cruise on a boat.
Speaking of locations Uncharted has some of the best we have ever seen. It's fair to compare this game to Tomb Raider - both in terms of locations and gameplay - but Uncharted wins hands down (well, compared to the XBox 360 Tomb Raider). From the lush jungles of the Amazon, to the German U-Boat, and the ancient ruins everything looks stunning. The game also manages to maintain a fairly steady frame rate, with only the very rate stutter here and there.

Effects in this game also deserve a special mention on their own. In our preview we rattled off some of the visual effects being used including Bump Mapping, Parallax Mapping, Blend Shaders, Global Illumination, Runtime Shadows and Real Time Shadows. Impressive, but what does it mean? Well let's focus on a couple of highlights. First of all we have the shadowing. Not only do the trees move in the wind, but the shadows move on the ground with the sun sparkling through the leaves above. It's remarkable that a games console is capable of such feats. Perhaps even more impressive is the glorious water effects. Certainly one of the hardest tricks to pull off in any game, or indeed movie, is realistic water. This game has it in spades. Not only with Nathan walk and swim through it, but there are also sections of the game which will see you jump on a Sea-Doo and even race up a raging river full of rapids. It's stunning.

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Try to spot Nathan Drake among the ruins!
Sadly there are one or two minor issues with this game. Yet again we have a game that has some screen tearing (where a part of the screen seems to update ever so slightly behind another part. It doesn't happen throughout the entire game, but it is present in a number of locations. It's annoying and I desperately hope that developers - and it's not just with Naughty Dog's title - learn to overcome this issue sooner rather then later. The game also has the occasional clipping issue here and there, but given the large number of objects in the screen that's somewhat understandable. Still, don't let these minor issues put you off this game.

As one would expect audio in Uncharted is also superb. First of all the dialogue really hits you as exception in both scripting, and actual delivery. Rarely do games have speech as good as this and while the cut-scenes certainly contain the bulk of the dialogue there is a wide range of lines while running around the levels - from both friends and foes. The music has been recorded at Skywalker Sound using their orchestra, and it is every bit as good as music found in major motion pictures. Finally the effects. There's plenty of gunfire, plenty of explosions and plenty of ambient effects. Everything is very high in quality. The final polish comes with the game offering not only Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, but also DTS 5.1 audio and while the differences aren't as dramatic as one may hear on a DVD or Blu-Ray movie there seems to be subtle improvements to the overall clarity and definition to the audio.

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Take out the enemy while he's exposed!.
Despite the overall brilliance of the audio there was the occasional area that could have been tidied up. Primarily there were occasions when water splashes sounded a little generic while footsteps also seemed a little light or non-existent in places. Extremely small things, but noticeable.

For months I have been awaiting the release of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune on the Playstation 3 and now that it is here I could not be happier. This is what next-gen gaming is all about. High production values, engrossing and entertaining gameplay and an engaging storyline to boot. If you own a PS3 then you must check out this game.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse.
GRAPHICSScreen tearing annoys, but everything else is exceptional.
SOUNDFantastic voicework, stunning orchestral music, solid effects.
GAMEPLAYOne or two minor hiccups, but this is pure entertainment.
VALUEAbout 12 hours to complete, but tonnes of hidden items to find, and some awesome bonus content.
OVERALLUncharted: Drake's Fortune is another must have game from Naughty Dog. In fact could certainly be a killer-app for the system - and you won't see this game on any other system but the PS3.

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