After having played Uncharted 2 and 3 back around when they were still fresh, I thought it would be difficult to ever play the original considering how much better the sequels are generally said to be. To my surprise, I didn’t find it hard to get into at all. It might help that I haven’t touched the other games in years and don’t remember too much about them or exactly how they played anyway. When I first went through Uncharted 2, I wasn’t really too into the story or characters. Starting off this one immediately hooked me in because I got to see the origins of the relationships between some of them, and it was refreshing for me to go into an Uncharted game for once without worrying about important context that I might be missing.
I hadn’t appreciated the writing in Uncharted as much as I do now after playing this. The main cast has great chemistry with each other. The dialogue is great, and the voice actors did amazing work in bringing the characters to life in the way that they did. Elena was the only character who I thought had some weak deliveries, but her acting too was done very well overall.
The story starts off with Nate retrieving the coffin of his ancestor, an explorer named Sir Francis Drake, from the ocean floor of Panama. He is accompanied by a journalist named Elena Fischer who is filming the events for a documentary. When they open up the coffin, they find that Sir Francis’s body isn’t inside, but rather his diary which marks the location of a fabled city of gold called El Dorado. Of course, Nathan Drake being the treasure hunter that he is, and Elena wanting to record all of this for her show, along with Nate’s friend Sully who’s deep in debt with people who you don’t want to be deep in debt with, there was a lot of motivation for them to embark on their journey to find it. Things basically spiral out of control from there, especially since they aren’t the only people after it.
One of the first things I notice after I stepped foot into the forest is just how good the environments look. Uncharted was originally a very early PS3 game, but I played through the remastered version that is part of the Nathan Drake Collection for PS4. Bluepoint did great work in updating the graphics. It looks just about as good as I remember Uncharted 2 looking back when I played it on PS3. That may or may not be true, but the fact that I even think that says a lot about the job they did with the remaster. Not saying it’s up there were the best looking games, I just find it impressive how good Bluepoint managed to get it to look considering the original version, which looked good for it’s time, but is definitely dated now.
While Uncharted is a very linear game, it takes you on a journey that feels grand. You’re on one island, and the vast majority of the areas are connected by gameplay traversal. Certain areas also have an element of backtracking to them. These factors help the game feel like one big cohesive adventure, which is something that the sequels didn’t do as well since they had you jump from location to location through cutscenes more often. For being stuck on one island the whole time, there was still a pleasing amount of environmental variety. Certainly not as much as the other games had, but still more than I thought there would be.
As far as the combat sections are concerned, I played through most of the game as a standard cover shooter. Though, I had forgotten how useful hip firing could be in Uncharted, and being on normal difficulty, the encounters never urged me to play any more dynamically than I was until around the latter parts of the game. Drake felt a bit less mobile than I remember him being in UC2 and 3, and the cover system could get a bit finicky. With that said, it still mostly plays like a solid third-person shooter. There are around 14 different weapons that you can use throughout the game. You get them by picking them up off of the bodies of the goons you’ve killed, or finding the ones that are already placed around the area. I mostly preferred using the regular pistol over anything else in many scenarios. For me, it was the most fun to use when going for headshots.
Most of the enemies you fight through the game are pretty samey, but there are a few distinct enemy types that shake things up a little. There’s a grenade launcher scout that will pop up every now and then that can do some mad damage. There are also snipers that are distinguished by a bright red laser pointer that follows you around. I don’t remember ever getting hit by them once come to think of it. Even if you’re out in the open, simply rolling around will mess up their aim. It’s usually smart to take out these enemies first and deal with the smaller fry afterwards. The combat sections in general could have easily gotten tiring because the mechanics aren’t too vibrant, but most of the encounters went by pretty quick without much trouble. I never felt like they overstayed their welcome. Nothing went into the realm of being challenging on normal mode, so I’ll be sure to play Uncharted 2 on a harder difficulty setting when I get to it.
There were also a few jetski combat segments that could have been annoying since it’s a bit hard to control sometimes, but they were easy to get through so it never became a problem. I actually really enjoyed them. It was nice to tread the water while going through pretty looking environments. Aside from combat encounters, there are also almost just as many ambient exploration moments in the game. It usually involves looking around the area for places to climb and are pretty straightforward. The things you can grab onto are normally ledges or rocks of some sort that stand out in the environment. Many of them are usually discolored in a way that makes them noticeable. These sections bring some relaxation time in between battles, and prevents the game from feeling too combat heavy.
Among those ambient exploration segments throughout the game, a few puzzles pop up that basically involve looking at drawings in Sir Francis’s diary and matching up the monuments that you can manipulate in the environments with whatever is being depicted in the drawings. They are pretty simple to figure out, though there was one I was stuck on for about 20 minutes. I had the right idea, I was just executing things the wrong way. I suppose that’s where the challenge can come in, but they’re still reasonably basic. I remember the puzzles being by far my least favorite parts of Uncharted 2 and 3, but I didn’t mind them here. They contributed nicely to the treasure hunting vibe without feeling too intrusive.
This game wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for the writing. At first, I was hooked because of the characters and their motivations. The banter that they throw at each other during gameplay while going from place to place made traveling with them a lot more engaging than it would have otherwise been. I got invested in the characters, so when something bad happened to them, I was always really motivated to keep playing just to meet up with them again. The treasure hunting premise usually isn’t an interesting one for me, but story itself was actually pretty enticing. As it went on, there were multiple moments late in the game where I was almost about to think that the story was dragging on and wanted to see a resolution already, but things kept escalating and escalating in the best way possible, and made me glad that it wasn’t over. The general atmosphere change in the last chapters of the game is handled extremely well. There are a few good twists that keep the excitement rising and rising all the way until the extreme climax at the end. The final boss may be my favorite of any Uncharted game. Gameplay wise, that’s not saying much, because Uncharted games have never had strong final boss fights, but it was an awesome story beat to end out on, and the context of it definitely helped the fight feel a lot more intense than it actually is on a gameplay level.
I like to think of these games as an action packed rollercoaster that you just get on and ride out to the end. I enjoyed the story in this more than I had in the other Uncharted games, but that’s probably because i’m playing it starting from the beginning rather than jumping in on the sequels without the knowledge of the developments made in the original. Even though the combat is definitely weaker in this game than it is in the others, and is lacking in the epic set piece department that the latter two games are known so well for, those games still didn’t leave as strong of an impression on me as this one has. I’m excited to go through 2 and 3 again. I suspect I’ll enjoy them more now than I did then, and they should feel somewhat fresh since I barely remember the story from those games. The extra context I have now should definitely help.
Extra Notes –
Took me about 8-9 hours to beat.
Spoilery screenshot galleries of the 230+ pictures I took with the PS4 share button (because I’m a crazy person)