Unimpressed: Drake’s Fortune

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

8 thoughts on “Unimpressed: Drake’s Fortune”

  1. I liked Uncharted 1. I agree that the play mechanism was a bit wonky.

    Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has improved in every aspect. It still a shooter with a cover mechanism but much better than Uncharted 1. No survival horror, better gun and run, better shooting mechanism, better graphics, separated Co-Op play. It also includes a versus multiplayer mode.

    It’s still a B movie story but pretty good presented. Don’t know if you can rent games in your country but it’s worth playing. And no, it’s not half life :)

    Whats your PSN id?

  2. Sure we can rent games, but I wouldn’t—I prefer to buy my games (and movies etc), and I never trade them in, either. I probably will buy U:AT when it hits the pre-played shelves, because although U:DF didn’t blow my mind, it was enjoyable.

    I’m not sure I’d call it a “B movie story”, though. In fact, I’d say the story is pretty good, if you leave out the zombies and overlook Francis Drake’s historically improbable feats of navigation.

    My PSN ID is (drum roll) EvilDES.

  3. I find it strange that grown men play computer games. In the 1970s, in my 20s I played complex paper simulations of war games and worked on porting some simple games to available computers. For example, I ported Conway’s Life to an 8K 1401.

    I stopped playing computer games when my sons were born.

    Of course, your treatment of Schildt indicates that the category of “man” is disappearing, and is being replaced by the Troglodyte, hunched behind his computer, using fashionable software as an ersatz for knowing his trade.

    Or something.

  4. I find it strange that you have no idea how much entertainment you provide anyone who reads your unhinged rants… You should ask someone you trust (those sons you keep mentioning, for instance) to read what you’ve written here, on comp.lang.c and in other places and explain to you just how much of an ass you’ve made of yourself.

    What have I ever done to Herbert Schildt, BTW?

    Has it ever occurred to you that you have done far more to publicize Seebach and Feather’s criticism of Schildt, and to harm Schildt’s reputation, than anyone else on the planet?

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