Returning To Uncharted Land: Drake’s Fortune

Welcome to what will most likely be a three part series of articles – This one of course focusing on the first game in the Uncharted franchise, Drake’s Fortune (One), followed by Among Thieves (Two) and ending with Drake’s Deception (Three.) This means I have a very generous month to run through the Nathan Drake Collection before Fallout 4 comes out. If I still have time to spare, then I’ll reward myself with my eighth playthrough of The Last Of Us. Now, on the PlayStation 3 I finished Among Thieves and got about an hour into Drake’s Deception, the great part is, I remember almost nothing of either. I’m not trying to say they’re forgettable, Uncharted 2 is fantastic, it’s just been a very long time. I’m actually really glad though, as now I can experience the entire series from arguably a new-player’s perspective. People dream of video game lobotomies and I’m glad mine occurred for a run through of every Uncharted game..

I’m going to leave a small side-note before starting this article. Naughty Dog is great at creating sheer beauty; their titles are so damn picturesque, similar to that of any other game on cinematic steroids. It’s because of this I’ve decided to take as many screenshots as possible on my journey through the Nathan Drake Collection. I’ll litter them throughout this post and give a link to the album here. Although, it is my first time using any kind of photo mode, so bear with me on the angles and overall quality.

Having never played Drake’s Fortune, it really is refreshing to see the origin of Nathan Drake’s smarm. He’s a sarcastic, yet charming man-child who makes remarks at everything he possibly can, a bit like if Lara Croft wasn’t so dull. Unfortunately, my only comparison graphically, would be Uncharted 2 on PS3, or maybe The Last Of Us. Out of fairness, though, we’ll stick with franchise, not developer. I don’t want to say “The game holds up surprisingly well” because that implies I’m putting it beneath the rest. But you have to understand, the other two games are going to look better, that’s a fact. That’s okay, though, we don’t have to panic, the game still looks incredible. I mean, have you seen the water? From rapids to puddles to waterfalls, the water look amazing. I don’t know if those are my low expectations talking (I’m sorry, Drake’s Fortune), but I’m very impressed by the graphics.

I don’t know what exactly it is they remastered. Obviously the graphics have been up-scaled to some caliber, I just don’t know the specifics. It’s certainly possible that some of the mechanics have been tweaked, although I’m fairly certain swimming and fast-covering didn’t make that list. You really can’t fault Naughty Dog, they’ve remastered an eight year old game which honestly looks great. However,  Drake’s Fortune understandably isn’t going to be where we get the meat of our graphical meal. This is why, in terms of visuals at least, I’m looking forward to playing through two and three.

One thing I’m remembering about Uncharted is the body count. I’ve now finished Drake’s Deception and wow – The amount of people Nathan Drake has killed is unbelievable. Sure, these guys struck first, but pacifism is just not in this man’s vocabulary. Forget Sir Francis Drake, I’m pretty sure Nate is a descendant of Adolf Hitler. The guy gives no shits; his goal is of course finding the statue, yet he clearly gets some kind of thrill out of being borderline genocidal. At one point he actually tries to use the line “I couldn’t live with your death on my conscience” and the audience just sits there, baffled at the acknowledgement of a conscience. I would love to know any other video game character you think could even compare with the amount of people Nathan Drake has killed, it’s ridiculous.

On a lighter note regarding our main protagonist, this is Nolan North at his absolute finest. You can literally hear where he’s taken parts of Nathan Drake and put them into other games, like Deadpool for example. One quote that made me laugh was something along the lines of “La da da, they took my map, shot my plane down and left me in the middle of nowhere, great start, Nate, good job.” The humour to me comes from the fact he is his own audience. No one really finds him funny, or even laughs for that matter. He may get a chuckle from Sully, but he’s usually just talking smack at gun point. His comedy is based upon making himself laugh, or even making good of a bad situation. Instead of being pissed about everything, he’s funny, he’s a smart-ass and that goes so well with the theme of these games.

After completing the first of three games, my biggest gripe is with the covering system. I can get past messed up swimming animations, or some of the weird facial expressions Nate makes. What I can’t get past is that, at times, he just will not go into cover. Maybe that’s too harsh, he will go into cover, but on the completely opposite side I hoped for. “Oh, you wanted me to crouch behind this box, safe from the enemy? Fuck that, I think I’d rather lean up against this wall and await the firing squad.” Another recurring factor is the game’s assumptions. Assuming you want to be facing one way, so your body will lean into cover, leaving the other half of your body completely exposed. Then, if you want to rectify this, you’ll have to leave cover and re-position. At a bad time, this can end in you taking a few bullets, which can cause crucial damage on some of the higher difficulties.

In fairness, I am on hard-mode, so I don’t know if this second remark is biased – I’ve found on a few occasions, some enemies have the amazing ability to shoot through objects. This could be a wall, a box, or just a column. The most common occurrence of this is as they’re running; the bullets won’t stop when an object is in their line of fire. Which is another annoying little bug than can have major repercussions.

Although not strictly action-based, one more area Naughty Dog do excel at is audio, or soundtracks. Soundtracks which play into the game’s atmosphere, pacing and environment so well. When exploring a cave or abandoned laboratory, it can be eerie. At other times it will mimic that of the animals residing in the jungle. It’ll get gradually louder when enemies are nearby by, quickly launching into a fully-orchestrated battle score for you to zone into and murder everyone. What I like is that it’s not just one transparent score to accompany the game, there are layers to it. These layers contribute to the game’s overall feel and more importantly, immersion.

I’ll wrap the first part up with talk on the trophies in the Nathan Drake Collection. Unfortunately they’re still at the Uncharted level of horrendous we know and love. They’re not difficult, just extremely boring. Kill “X” amount of people with this, kill people in “X” manner, finish the game on “X” difficulty. As I’m trying to collect as many as possible in one playthrough, I did notice something: at around chapter 19, the game just starts throwing trophies at you. The 50 kills are being reached, treasures are being found and you encounter an abundance of enemies to experiment with, so keep an eye out for that. There are some interesting trophies, too, such as the complete chapter “X” in “X” amount of time. Which sounds quite generic, but due to the openness of the levels can actually be quite a challenge. I’ve finished my overall mop-up of trophies in Drake’s Fortune and will now continue on to Among Thieves. However, one day I’ll come back to do three things: collect all the treasures. Finish the game on crushing-mode. And of course, massacre yet another generation of pirate henchmen.

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