Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The Pixel Diaries - Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Edition

I don’t want to go into the same amount of detail with this one as I usually do, seeing as it’s not particularly new or old enough to be considered a classic. I’m just a little late to the PS3 party. Nonetheless I’ll share a few quick opinions, seeing as this is a play ‘diary’ after all. Rather than doing the usual staggered posts as I progress, I decided to just finish the game and do an overall conclusion of the entire experience.

I enjoyed the game on the whole, mostly down to its lush tropical visuals and generally sturdy gameplay. It had some memorable moments, particularly scaling a giant concrete wall hundreds of feat above the ocean and some fun vehicle levels. But what stops it from being special is just how generic everything is. Its puzzles and environments are fine, but lack the beauty and attention to detail found in Ico. Its gunplay and hand to hand combat is in working order, but without the satisfaction and intensity of Gears of War. That doesn’t make it a bad or boring game, but I certainly didn’t feel like I got anything out of it by the end.

I think it needed a better art direction to set it apart. Looking at the early concept art found in the ‘Bonus’ section of the game, early character models of Nathan Drake and his enemies are cartoony, with exaggerated features more in kin with Naughty Dog’s previous outings in the Jak and Daxter series. I think this visual approach would have given it some much needed character, rather than the bland ‘uncanny valley’ it sits in now, though I guess Sony was in need of a showcase for their console’s graphical potential. I also would have liked more emphasis on exploration rather than combat, and perhaps some more creative uses of the environment other than simply climbing, leaping and swinging. Maybe some water rapids and even bungee jumping and hang gliding sections to add variety.

A solid game and a great introduction to the PlayStation 3’s capabilities, but an essentially familiar and forgettable experience in the long term. This is Naughty Dog’s franchise for this console generation, the same as Jak and Crash were to previous generations of the PlayStation, and they’re no strangers to change. Just look at the difference between Jak and Daxter and Jak II: Revenge. This gives me hope that they’ll achieve something new in the sequel. They’re certainly a very talented and creative team of people, so I have every confidence they won’t disappoint.

Expect a few more of last years PS3 titles to get a brief word in the coming weeks.

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