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300 Word Review – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Uncharted is a game that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Its spiritual cousin, Assassin’s Creed, couldn’t decide whether it was an open-world game, a platformer, or finally, an ARG. Drake’s Fortune on the other hand veers between over-the-shoulder shooter and CG film.

As a shooter the game is competent but unimaginative, incorporating the controls and cover system from Gears of War. Unfortunately, it fails to realize that what made the firefights in Epic’s game interesting was the strategy that went into moving from cover to cover, slowly flanking your enemy. Shootouts in Uncharted are usually just a beautiful version of Hogan’s Alley, with your character, Nathan Drake, taking shelter behind a box or pillar on one side of an area, and the enemies, hiding behind their boxes and pillars, exchanging volleys until someone peeks out at the wrong time.

As a CG film it does admirably, creating likable characters and a story that feels like a loving homage to the pulp comics of the ’30s and ’40s. However, it’s the mix of the movie and the game that makes Uncharted a little unsettling.

There’s a reason that Indiana Jones uses a whip: it is very hard to feel for the plucky, underdog hero if he spends most of his time mowing people down with an automatic weapon. With each successive cutscene featuring a wry remark from our hero after narrowly escaping death, or flirting with his female sidekick, I became more aware that in my time playing him I had killed literally hundreds of people. As a rule I’m not against killing people in video games, but in the end it was the incongruity between my character’s portrayal and what I was allowed to do with him that left a bad taste in my mouth.

6 Comments

  1. Bob wrote:

    Indiana Jones never carried a gun, you say? Sounds like you missed the funniest scene from “Raiders.”

    Sunday, March 9, 2008 at 4:24 pm | Permalink
  2. Teo wrote:

    You forgot to mention that every person he does kill happens to have a different skin color.

    Uncharted: White Supremacy.

    Monday, March 10, 2008 at 11:36 am | Permalink
  3. Charles Joseph wrote:

    Haha, yeah I was thinking of mentioning that, but I decided not to spend the words. It’s another very disturbing part of the game though!

    Monday, March 10, 2008 at 3:33 pm | Permalink
  4. Nash wrote:

    Bob, that’s what made the scene so funny. He almost never uses a gun. And that scene was only ever shot because Ford was sick the day of the shoot – which was supposed to be a whip fight. Read up on it, I’m not makin this up. I think Charles’ point about incongruity between cutscene portrayal and player actions is really important universally for all games.

    I usually hate cutscenes, but that’s a generalization. I really hate the incongruity that Charles brings up here, which happens often.

    To me, cutscenes fail when…

    1) The character portrayed doesn’t feel like the character I play.

    2) The character in the cutscene is doing things I could just be doing in gameplay (action scenes in Gears of War, for example)

    3) When the main character’s move sets are drastically different when in cut-scene mode (a la Metal Gear).

    They succeed when they build character, advance plot in a way that could not have been achieved in gameplay, and employ GOOD dialog and direction (Kojima is a BAD director – he needs to go to film school if he’s going to insist on having movies in his game).

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  5. Bob wrote:

    We all know the story of that scene, Nash– that’s not the point. The point is that Indiana Jones has always been just as kill-happy as many other action heroes– it’s just that he usually used whips, machetes or Judeo-Christian relics to do away with baddies, instead of guns. This wasn’t really a moral consideration from Spielberg & Lucas– they just recognized that, all things considered, guns in movies are kinda boring. Things like whips, machetes and lightsabers are all much more physical weapons than clumsy, uncivilized revolvers, and involve much more exciting staging than just a series of coverage shots.

    Games, however, liven up gunplay. They’re no longer quite so static, because of the player’s active involvement. Therefore, there’s no real moral difference between Snake or Drake blowing away countless bady guys and Indy doing away with countless Nazis– Indy just does it with a tad more flair, because it takes a lot more to keep a passive audience interested. Games, in action scenes, have the luxory of being able to coast.

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  6. Charles Joseph wrote:

    I’d love to go through and count how many “bady guys” Indiana Jones killed directly. I mean, shot with bullets or threw off buildings or beat to death with his bare hands (which our friend Nathan Drake is wont to do occasionally). I only ask because playing Drake I killed literally hundreds of people. I got an medal for killing 50 of them with headshots!

    The point though is not that I think that Indiana Jones is morally superior to Nathan Drake, it’s that my actions as a player made me not really buy him as a character. At the same time his character in cutscenes made me uneasy about what I was doing in the game. Kind of made me appreciate the way Marcus Phoenix would yell “Eat shit and die!” right before he curb stomped someone. Seems a little more honest now.

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

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