Uncharted 1–3: Fortune Among Deception

The Uncharted series follows the adventures of world pull-up champion Nathan Drake as he travels around the world doing pull-ups until he finds forbidden treasure. When Drake isn’t doing pull-ups, he’s generally either shooting people or doing some puzzle-solving bitch work.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (+)

The first Uncharted game takes Drake to a Pacific Island in search of the lost treasure of El Dorado. He runs around the island doing pull-ups and shooting Indonesian pirates until he finds it. Then he realizes the treasure isn’t meant for human hands and proceeds to rip off key plot points from Indiana Jones.

The first thing you’ll notice from a gameplay standpoint is how thoroughly idiot-proofed this game is. Unlike the excessive, in-your-face idiot-proofing of Okami, the Uncharted games are idiot-proofed in more subtle ways that don’t demean the gamer, except for the hints that pop up if you spend 10 seconds without making measurable progress in any given area.

Whenever you pass through an area, the path backwards is conveniently destroyed. As a result, you get a cool destruction scene and can’t accidentally run the wrong way until you rage quit. The camera angles are almost always positioned in a way that intuitively pushes you in the correct direction. Random treasures are placed at dead ends to let you know you’ve gone the wrong way and reward you for your efforts. You have to appreciate how all the planning saves a ton of potential frustration.

The other bright spot of this game (and the series) is the variety of action scenes. Most of the gameplay involves shooting and pull-ups, but there are some jet ski and car chase battles that keep the action fresh.

The biggest problem with the game (and the series) is that there’s too much pull-up/puzzle filler. Nathan Drake’s true identity may be the long-lost brother of Vincent Brooks. After all the old school video games took jumping to its limits, perhaps jumping has jumped the shark. Now pull-ups are the latest, greatest way to defy gravity. As for the puzzles, they’re generally pretty easy, especially since Drake keeps an answer key in his pocket.

My other major gripe with this game is that many of the battles got repetitive. You’d start a battle in an area against five enemies. When you shot them all down, another wave of five would come out. After that, another wave would come out before you could move on to the next area. It would get frustrating to be pinned down in the same area. The subsequent games were genreally better about this. Ironically, this was the only game in the series without a painfully repetitive final boss.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (++)

In the best game of the series, Drake journeys to Nepal to find the secret land of Shambhala. This game took just about everything from the first game and refined it to ass-kicking levels.

    • The action scenes were amazing. Straight out of Hollywood.
    • In medias res
    • Awesome variety of battles: train, car, tank, helicopter, foot chases
    • Detailed, well-planned environments
    • Stealth fighting, viable hand-to-hand combat
    • More guns, cooler guns
    • Very clever dialogue (true of all the games but this one especially)

I considered giving the game a +++ but held back. First of all, the plot ripped off the first game (which ripped off Indiana Jones). Second of all, there’s still a bunch of pull-up/puzzle filler that weighs the game down. Finally, the final boss battle was repetitive.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (++)

Drake’s third adventure takes him to Yemen, where he does a decent job of not ripping off Indiana Jones. The game is great but a cut below Uncharted 2.

Hand-to-hand combat played a larger role in this game. It was incredible in the first chapter. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough moves to keep the hand-to-hand combat from getting stale. This made the final battle the weakest one in the franchise. A larger set of moves could’ve made it spectacular.

There were some random, trippy playable scenes that would’ve been better off as cut scenes. There’s no good reason to make Drake’s march through the desert playable. Same deal with pull-up filler. Pull-ups during fights and chase scenes kick ass, but pull-ups during untimed, non-fight scenes may as well be cut scenes.

This game has less variety in the action scenes. I’m guessing they had to cut a bit of the non-standard action to facilitate the multiplayer modes, which I never explored because I don’t have any friends.

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