Finally got myself a PlayStation 3 (I’d link to the official site, but it’s totally retarded), and bought a bunch of “pre-played” (i.e. what you and I would call “used”) games along with it. One of the games I picked up was Resistance: Fall of Man, but the guy at the store claimed that it wasn’t really all that good, and that if I really wanted to “experience the PS3” I should get Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune instead, and I vaguely recalled reading about it after seeing a Penny Arcade strip about the sequel, so I did.
As you can tell from the title, I was not impressed.
Basically, the game breaks down into two parts: jump-and-climb and run-and-shoot. In terms of game mechanics and level design, the jump-and-climb part looks a lot like Prince of Persia, except not as good. In fact, it resembles PoP so much that I’d call anyone who told me it was not inspired by it a liar. Even some of the sounds—particularly the stone-on-stone sound you get when pushing a rock or opening a hidden door, the rattle of chains, and the “whoah” sound the protagonist makes when the ledge he’s hanging from starts to crumble—are so similar you’d almost think Naughty Dog had copied them outright from PoP.
Likewise, in terms of game mechanics, and somewhat in terms of level design, the run-and-shoot bits bear a strong similarity to The Getaway—once again, not as good, although they did add a reticle, which The Getaway lacks.
The most frustrating aspect is that motion is fairly limited. You can’t run, roll, duck or crouch (except against a low wall), and the controls aren’t nearly as fluid as in PoP. Then again, very few games have controls that can match PoP.
Next, the game is just too damn easy. I played through the entire game on “normal” in two sittings, or about twelve hours. I got a little more than half the treasures and a little less than half the medals. There were only two places in the main sequence where I had any trouble figuring out how to move on: the passage to the upper gallery in the church (an exterior staircase that I hadn’t noticed as I ran past it) and the statues in the library (it took me a while to realize that what mattered was their orientation, not their position). Only once did I resort to a FAQ: at the very end of the game (and by “the very end”, I mean the last twenty playable seconds), when I was getting tired and didn’t notice that Navarro reloaded every two shots.
Now a bit of the good: U:DF is highly realistic, in the sense that there are no skiffy gadgets, no superpowers, nothing that couldn’t conceivably exist in our world, except of course for the main protagonist’s improbable (but not impossible) strength, dexterity and stamina, and the fact that characters (protagonists, antagonists and grunts) recover from their wounds within seconds once you stop shooting at them. To be fair, the game wouldn’t be much fun if it ended as soon as you got shot, and finding medkits strewn around in pre-Columbian ruins would be more distracting, not less.
The sets and models are as realistic as one can expect in a video game, and some of the visuals—such as the view over the jungle from the waterfall early in the game—are gorgeous, though no more impressive than what you see in other contemporary games such as Oblivion or Half-Life 2: Episode Two.
One thing I particularly appreciated was that the main protagonist’s sidekick Elena Fisher looks and acts like a real woman. She’s anatomically correct (quoth K: “her boobs are smaller than mine!”) and dressed in sensible clothes (Bermuda shorts and a tank top over a T-back shirt) that get visibly dirty and sweat-stained as the game progresses. She’s believable in a way that Lara Croft will never be. Perhaps the game industry will learn something from characters like her and Alyx Vance, namely that a woman doesn’t need triple-D jugs and a chain-mail bikini to be sexy and engaging.
But all that realism I mentioned earlier went right down the toilet approximately 85% into the game. That’s when the zombies came out.
I’m not kidding. I’m making my way out of a vault where El Dorado is supposed to have been kept at some point when suddenly the zombies from I am Legend come crawling out of, well, pretty much everywhere, and I’m running around like a maniac blowing them away with a pump-action shotgun.
For the next hour, what was until then a straight action adventure turns into survival horror. Did I mention that I hate survival horror?
Later on, I’m running through a Nazi submarine base (pretty common trope in the genre, cf. Indiana Jones) trying to find the electrical generators. Uh, the place has been abandoned for sixty years yet the generators still work and there is still fuel in the tanks? Gimme a break…
On the other hand, if I’m going to complain about the generators, I might as well point out how completely unlikely it is that Nathan Drake would be able to locate a coffin on the bottom of the Pacific with nothing more to go on than a set of coordinates that were inscribed on a ring at a time where precise navigation was impossible because a reliable chronometer had not yet been invented, and would not be invented for another two hundred years…