January 3rd, 2010
I feel like a ruthless thug after mercilessly bashing Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Banana Blitz is an awful game as justified in the post, but I really enjoyed Uncharted. For my ‘game discussion’ posts, I make an argument for the most standout, interesting or under-discussed part of the game in question. These posts only represent my view for the stance I’ve taken in that particular post. Frankly I could swing either way as these articles often don’t represent my entire opinion of a game (usually the dominate view though; it’s not a review, so to speak), which is why I often write multiple posts on a single game, analysing it from different angles. In which case my initial look at Uncharted was rather scrutinising because scrutiny was requisite of the angle I was taking.
On the other hand, sometimes I just wish to supplement the main argument with some general comments and observations which is what I’m going to do now. Here’s everything I couldn’t say elsewhere about Uncharted:
The treasure hunting aspect, whereby the player scans the environment for Resident Evil 4 style glimmers of light, ie. treasure, infuriated the pants off me and is likely what drove me to write my original critique. The unintended consequence of this mechanic is that it amplifies the environment’s role as completely passive.
On the other hand, Naughty Dog were rather adept at meaningfully presenting the player’s progress through the scenic landscape. Each unit of gameplay is all very well segmented by architecture and level design. Progress often leads Nate upwards, allowing the player to look over the rooms and hallways (ie. “units of gameplay”) that they’ve just completed.
“Jack of all trades, master of none”, what a perfect phrase to summarise the original Uncharted, props to the games review folk for this neat mantra.
As I mentioned on Twitter ages ago, the pirates speak English, Spanish and even Chinese. After the car chase sequence, Drake and Elena swim to shore to a muddy wreckage and a batch of pirates swarm in. At this point one of the pirates exclaims “I can see him” in Mandarin. I find this to be a bizarre inclusion as the pirates don’t resemble the Chinese and this is the only time in the game when Chinese is spoken; just a single, misplaced utterance. Makes one consider the whole ethnicity issue which is rampant throughout Uncharted. Seriously, a charming American protagonist murdering dirty, inarticulate ethnics. :/
Uncharted broke two of my expectations. Firstly, Uncharted was criticised for its short length which implanted the idea in my head that it’d be a short romp. Therefore, I played the game consciously working towards the final goal with haste, before I realised that there’s nothing wrong with Uncharted‘s length and somewhat rushed myself. The second thing was the diversity of the landscape, which I remember also being criticised by reviewing folk. Again I disagree, the shift from forest to catacombs to water-logged caverns and ancient ruins says enough, but even the jungle setting moved from day to night, even going so far to show the jungle in a less picture-esque, subdued light.
I’m still not terribly sure what to make of the zombies. Their purpose is obvious enough; to change the pace of the shooting which was wearing a little thin by that stage—but seriously, zombies? Naughty Dog really scripted these sequences in a survival horror manner, so they weren’t just re-skinned (or is that de-skinned!) ethnics either. From a design standpoint they worked decently, however contrived it was, from a contextual standpoint it’s a little outside the box.
Mad props must go to Naughty Dog for addressing two crucial flaws of the industry of late with this series: soulless protagonists and in monotone environment. I doubt that Uncharted’s technical praise would be so high if the rest of the industry weren’t so insistent on killing rainbows. The same must be said for the soulful story. Nate is lovable for his imperfections—Naughty Dog gets this which puts them leagues above the rest of the industry.
Considering that I’m so pleased about this game, let’s conclude with a humouress video for amusement: