When I bought my PS4 way back in 2017 (yes, I got to it very late LOL), it included Uncharted 4. I’d seen some clips of it and it looked like a pretty decent game, so I kept it. But I didn’t play it, because I’m the sort of person who can’t just start a series in the middle unless it’s a really disconnected series like Final Fantasy or Tales where the games do not have shared characters who change and grow throughout the series.
In 2018, I finally got Uncharted 2 on PS3, through a friend from whom I’d also bought all those Assassin’s Creed games I’m playing through. But still didn’t have one…and then finally last year I snagged the PS4 edition of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection on a sale! Yay!
And with my apparent rush to play all ten of my goal games in one month or something (seriously, I’ve now played SIX games in 2020 already! And finished 4!), I started Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune during my Monday off work for the holidays. Considering Naughty Dog is the developer behind my Game of the Decade, I may have gone into this with my expectations a bit too high for a game that initially came out in 2007.
So, let’s start with the stuff I enjoyed. The story was pretty compelling. The character of Nathan Drake is a decent one, overall. He has a sense of humor, a kind of boyish charm that keeps him from seeming obnoxious, and he isn’t super strong, kick-ass, or some incredible example of the human physique like many MCs tend to be (well, except sort of at climbing). He was also the one person who was like “you know what, we’re outgunned, this treasure isn’t worth dying for, we need to get the hell out of here.” So yay for actually showing some common sense at least! Not that it mattered in the end, since getting out wasn’t a cakewalk either, but it was nice to have an MC recognize the stupidity of fighting hundreds of armed goons with just two folks.
When I started the game, the first three chapters were deceptively easy, breezed right through them. The shooting mechanics weren’t hideous, I even managed to get the 5 headshots in a row trophy. I felt pretty confident in my choice to play on Normal difficulty. And then the story starts proper, the difficulty and tension ratchet up and stay up, with a few spikes higher.
That high strain kept me on the edge of my seat, the tension of the larger fight sequences and quickly realizing that while the game on normal was kind with ammo, it wasn’t excessively generous which meant wasting shots could leave you bulletless. Seeing as how Nathan is not that paragon of physicality, he had no stealth abilities and was a shitty melee fighter, so no bullets meant certain death.
This leads us to the large parts of this game that I found incredibly frustrating. The gameplay mechanics are downright aggravating and if you watch the stream of my playthrough (included below), you will hear a LOT of f-bombs, yelling, and insulting of the characters as I struggled to get through some of the larger sequences, many of which were just plain convoluted. The bad guys getting attacked by monsters and rather than focusing on them, they actually still bother trying to attack Nathan. I mean really? Really? And Nate’s two companions were completely useless in battle. At least they couldn’t die, but they sure didn’t help much at all. Even when one is supposed to provide “cover”, yeah, plan on getting through that on your own because if you rely on them, you’ll be dead faster than I can type this sentence (and I type 70+ wpm).
Playing this game felt unnecessarily restrictive as if the designers had been lazy, and rather than coding for a variety of options, simply made death the default if you didn’t do sequences the exact way they expected. Nathan can swim, except in at least two areas where it was clear they just didn’t want to deal with creating a place for him to climb out of the water, so suddenly he drowns in the same water he could swim in fine before?
The jumping and climbing also suffer severe limits, with no strong visual indicator of why two similar looking rocks were not equally climbable. One you can hop to, the other, nope they didn’t want you to go that way so it’s not. Coming off of several Assassin’s Creed games, which are of the same age, where I could pretty much jump and climb all over the place, made it feel even more confining and unnatural.
As I mentioned earlier, trying to pull off melee combat was pointless. Nate’s punches were often ineffective vs the other guys, and often trying it would lead to death and restart. So I felt really pushed to fight in a specific style: with the various guns you find along the way. And you better shoot from cover because the bad guys always have better aim even if you are zig-zagging or rolling, oh and several of them can destroy some kinds of cover shooting even if you don’t get the same effect with the same guns yourself…
The lack of any kind of stealth element or any real combat is just not very fun in this kind of game when you have an MC in a situation where stealth would be far more ideal in a lot of situations than just standing behind a wall and trying to shoot all 20 guys you’re now facing at once. And while the game seems to like you using grenades, I finally had to Google how because it never told me how to actually use the damned things!
I guess most frustrating of all was just the sheer difficulty of playing, particularly within the confines the designers crafted. There were multiple sequences I had to repeat, some as many as 5-10 times. According to the post-game stats, I died at least 104 times! On NORMAL mode! That’s just ridiculous!
Oh, I should note, this game is primarily an action-adventure, but towards the end, a horror element pops up that made me feel like I’d jumped from a more standard adventure game into The Last of Us, but again without the benefit of stealth. Facing off against 20 armed guys was bad enough, but multiple sequences with you in a circular room, these creatures pouring in, you restricted to just one gun that they wanted you to use, oh and two hits in a row you are dead? Yeah… The aforementioned friend who I got 2 from actually never finished Uncharted 1 because of it as he isn’t someone who enjoys horror games. Now I felt there were enough hints it was coming, but still, I could see his point. Especially when you have the idiot bad guys ALSO still trying to kill you while the monsters are trying to kill you both? *head smack*
Despite all those negative points, though, I still somehow actually enjoyed the game. It was frustrating, aggravating, profanity-inducing to all-new levels, and yet it still didn’t feel as hard to me as Tomb Raider had been on Easy mode. It isn’t one I’d ever try to Platinum or anything like that, not sure I’d ever even replay it, but I will play the next one 🙂 And it is blessedly short, my total time to finish the game was 9 hours, 38 minutes. Would I recommend it? Meh, if you like action-adventure and the negative stuff above isn’t a nope out, then yeah, I’d give it a whirl.