My backlog consists of four Elder Scrolls games, seven Final Fantasy titles, five handheld Zeldas, and I haven’t even started on Kingdom Hearts yet. Welcome to my nightmare.
It’s weird for me to say that I’m completely prepared and ready for the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, especially considering I cleared the entire trilogy within some mad, two-week stint in December 2015. I wasn’t even binging any of the games! But it was a trio of games I went out of my way to avoid back during the PS3’s life, partially out of the fear that Naughty Dog would once again turn a seemingly great and promising franchise into another generic-ass party game like Jak X. Seriously, you went from open-world platforming in Jak and Daxter through to Jak 3, and then straight to bog-standard dirt racing in Jak X. Did you also forget how to count, you charlatan bastards? And let’s not forget The Lost Frontier, which was about as fun and polished as an enema, but I digress – I managed to get my hands on a copy of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection for the PS4. I first got to grips with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and I had just an inkling of what to expect.
However, before we get into dissecting this piss-swish, I want to make something clear. Every game in this series plays out like a movie. It provides a great cinematic experience with very Hollywood-esque voice acting, action sequences big enough to fill in Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal and Sly Stallone all at once, and the grand scores composed for the games would be considered a worthy soundtrack to accompany Nicolas Cage stealing the Declaration of Independence. With each release throughout the series, these factors – along with the scale of the games – only just improve on one massive bastard scale of pure EPIC. So with the first game in the trilogy, you can almost imagine that things were about as refined as sticking your hand in a mechanical organ and watching it being ground down in the hope that it will somehow play the Crystal Maze theme.
The story goes as such: Our dashing and smug hero, Nathan Drake, is looking for the treasure of El Dorado, along with professional Tom Selleck impersonator Victor Sullivan, and the hot but surprisingly resilient journalist Elena Fisher. That’s all that is worthwhile to say about the plot. Really. So the gameplay is your standard 3rd-person action-adventure, with heavy emphasis on the action. I went into this game expecting a playstyle in the vein of the old Tomb Raider series; I anticipated scaling ancient statues looking for that one secret switch that reveals a glorious treasure while making the walls bleed giant poison arrows, or brilliantly clever puzzles that wrack your brain like you’re some kind of moron trying to figure out how River Song actually fits into the Doctor Who universe. Of course, I also expected the odd firefight and great boss battles against your run-of-the-mill mercenaries or fantastical mythological creatures from ancient scriptures. Instead, all I got was a couple of boring puzzles, a lot of running around, and more gunfights than a neighbourhood in Chicago. Seriously, the amount of skirmishes in this game is ridiculous – being a veteran of stealth-style gameplay, I saw countless instances where I could have avoided violence altogether, but the game wasn’t having any of this pacifist malarkey, so I was forced to shove a bloodbath cocktail of .44s, grenades, and boomsticks down the throats of every single prick that even glanced at me.
Speaking of a bloodbath, this is another thing that irked me. Nathan Drake waltzes onto the scene and starts pumping bodies full of lead. He goes full-on Nate Dogg up in this bitch and makes each and every living body turn cold. I know I mentioned that the games follow a very Hollywood-esque style of presentation, and the kill-count is no different. Now senseless murder is one thing; everyone has a murderiffic episode during some games when the wind blows in a certain direction, but sweet Jesus, the bastard goes around murdering EVERYTHING in this game. Even the game will try and have you kick the bucket with some glitches; I tried to pounce on my enemies using the element of surprise, but upon opening the entry gate to the area stationed with mercs, Drake just stood there with his arms out like he had accepted the fact that he had really been a Luftwaffe fighter jet all along, and was subsequently shot to death for his heinous crimes. For the love of Chin-Chin, Drake, can you stop going on tumblr? Christ. There were other, more infuriating times when booby traps laid about the island required poorly-displayed QTE prompts to avoid Drake from being skewered like a piece of meat in some cheap kebab shop down in Dalston. However, these were few and not as much of a problem as opposed to the never-ending firefights.
When Drake isn’t killing people (a rare sight in itself), the game can entertain, in its own way. Drake’s Fortune takes place on an island, and the architecture is exactly what you’d expect of a treasure hunting game; ancient moss-laden ruins of corroded cities are a pleasure to traverse, climbing and running along narrow paths and dangerous hei– oh shit, another bloody skirmish. Sorry. Oh, there was a great speedboat sequence across a huge vista that looked gorgeous, with one segment that required the player to navigate their way up a waterfa– oh no, wait, I’m being shot at again. Crazy bastards. The scaling of buildings is no Assassin’s Creed, but the island is beautiful enough to marvel at the great landscape when at a height to survey your surroundings. But when you’re not searching or scaling, they’re really isn’t much else to discuss. You can collect little trinkets carefully hidden around the island to unlock different cheat modes for a new game +, if you can be arsed to play the bloody game again, but that’s pretty much it, otherwise. Oh, there is this strange section where you encounter grotesque monsters in some underground Nazi hospital which was quite unnerving but interesting nonethele– creeping Jesus, ANOTHER firefight. Why can I not play this game without being attacked?! It’s like walking through a council estate in South London with money glued to my face. Fine, let’s move on.
Aside from the standard gameplay, the story does do just enough to keep you playing on until the game’s end. Nathan Drake fights treachery and deceit to get to the bottom of the mystery of the cursed El Dorado treasure; his companions fight alongside him to try and stop the bad guys from stealing the massive ark of gold, and he ultimately gets the girl and all the treasure and drives his speedboat off into the sunset. K den. The graphics are gorgeous and are definitely done justice in the PS4 remaster; for someone who is a virgin to the series, it does make me realise how gorgeous this game must have looked upon its initial release in 2007, and also makes me realise how far the gaming world has come in terms of what the base standard of graphics should be in present-day AAA titles. The music is fantastically triumphant and heroic, and is exactly what is needed for a game like Uncharted; the voice acting is headed up by a stalwart cast, and they put in a believable performance that only adds to the game’s Hollywood appeal. It’s just a shame that the game’s praise is marred by repetitive gameplay and a lack of great puzzles.
Let’s hope Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is better.