Uncharted is certainly easy on the eyes.Cinematic is a word that's been used to describe video games since the transition to optical media back in the early nineties, although I don't think the inclusion of in-game cutscenes is what it takes to give a game the qualities of film. No, what Uncharted does is something much more impressive – throughout its course the game captivates players with a believable world and relatable characters, inspiring one to truly care about the story and its outcome. Although Uncharted's graphics are a tad too stylized to be called photorealistic, they certainly are impressive. The player gets a real sense that they are exploring a tropical paradise as light trickles down through the jungle canopy to cast rippling shadows on the ground below. Even more impressive than the lush environments are the game's main characters – Naughty Dog's heavy use of motion capture is evident, and the end result is some of the most lifelike human movement I've ever laid eyes on in a video game.
Can a game have too many explosions?
Definitely.Although there are a few plot holes and bits of silliness, Uncharted's script is outstanding. Characters' conversations are believable, and despite the story's campy nature, it's great fun for the most part. Players take on the role of Nathan Drake, a modern-day Indiana Jones who's hunting for the treasures of El Dorado. Joining him is Elena Fisher, a film producer and an able adventurer in her own right. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see a female character in a game who amounts to more than a set of physically improbable proportions – we haven't seen such a believable (and modestly-dressed) woman in gaming since Jade in Beyond Good and Evil. Both characters are phenomenally acted throughout, and their humorous back-and-forth is more than a tad reminiscent of the great screwball comedies of the 1930s.
Players are forced to confront two enemies as they trek through the jungle: rival bands of "treasure hunters" and the environment itself. Most of my favorite moments were had finding paths through the wild or the myriad ruins which await exploration. The game's controls are a breeze to master and make navigating the landscape and shooting at bad guys fairly painless. Still, I do wish Naughty Dog would have made the game a bit less combat-focused. Although the controls for combat were easy enough, it becomes a bit of a chore about halfway through the game – enemy A.I. is pretty abysmal, and any challenge comes from the sheer volume of bad guys present in each encounter. I've never been one to judge a game on its body count. In Uncharted's case, less definitely would have been more.
Despite its linear story arc, Uncharted actually has pretty high replay potential. By collecting the treasures scattered about the jungle and meeting various challenge requirements, players earn credits towards numerous game unlocks and Easter eggs. Although far too many of these challenges are combat-related, it's fun to unlock skins for the game's characters. Other unlocks include a weapon select mode, a mirror mode which reverses level layout and a plethora of "making of" materials.
Even with the foibles of its combat design, Uncharted offers far too much for PlayStation 3 owners to pass it up. Its jaw-dropping visuals, enveloping audio (the DTS soundtrack is a real treat) and a well-written script come together to form a complete package the likes of which I haven't seen in quite some time. Where most developers strive only to entertain their audiences, Naughty Dog has captivated.