[Game Review] Uncharted: Drake’s (Mis)Fortune

I can’t help imagining that if I were to walk into an archeological college program with only my knowledge of the field from movies & videogames, I’d probably get expelled.  I can’t say I’ve ever studied the field in great detail, but I’m reasonably certain it’s frowned upon to blow up ancient structures & priceless artifacts.  And who keeps bringing in all these explosive barrels, anyway?  The natives?  Shouldn’t the gunpowder be inert by now?  And why do these greedy mercenaries never realize the value of the ruins they’re destroying?  It may not be as immediately profitable as a giant gold statue, assuming you can find a buyer for that in the first place, but you gotta think long term; books & television appearances & all that good stuff.  Stop blowing everything up!

In my substantial free-time while transitioning to a new job, I finally got around to playing the remastered version of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, part of The Nathan Drake Collection, a collection of remastered version of the first three Uncharted titles.  Having never played any of the Uncharted games before, I was interested to see if the games were as good as everyone says, so I put this female Lara Croft to the test.


Uncharted probably needs no introduction, but I will regardless.  In his first outing, we take control of Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter following the trail of Sir Francis Drake, hoping to discover the legendary golden city, El Dorado.  Things become complicated when several rival treasure hunters show up, forcing Drake to try to outsmart the mercenaries while dragging along a reporter.

Uncharted is very much an action-adventure game, leaning more toward the action end of the spectrum.  Drake will encounter many gunfights, broken up by some platforming, sprinkled with a dash of simplistic puzzle-solving.  Cover-based shooting in the name of the game, & most of the playtime is spent crouched behind a wall, picking at enemies with a variety of weaponry.

Narrative: I might’ve joked earlier about Drake being the female Lara Croft, but honestly I got more of an Indiana Jones vibe.  The game feels a lot like if someone made an Indiana Jones movie today with all the modern action movie tropes (Or maybe like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?  I never saw that one.).  So instead of having punch-ups beneath a moving airplane, Drake just shoots a lot of people & drives around on a jet ski.  Drake is more light-hearted to Indy’s dry straight-man act.  He even gets a somewhat-shady sidekick & nosy female co-lead.  And in the end, the bad guy gets killed by some supernatural curse, & the story ends with a helicopter crash followed by a punch-out on a boat.

EAvcck6XoAAgnZSIn case it doesn’t come across, I did enjoy the story… what was there, at any rate.  It’s very classically campy.  I found the main characters likeable, & their goal interesting; however… The plot as a whole felt a bit threadbare.  It’s very easy to forget your current goal as you get strung along from one open shooting arena to another.  I would’ve liked the story to have a bit more player interaction with it.  The usual pattern is that Drake will decipher something & conveniently find said contraption in the next room.  It kinda takes the fun of exploration out.  I don’t mind a linear story, but it just felt a bit passive.  There’s no finding clues or anything like that.  Drake will just comment on something, prompting you to pull out his handy-dandy notebook, then follow along the only path available.  It’s more Drake’s story than the story of the treasure, which makes sense, it just feels a bit rushed.

I’ve heard someone people complain about the sudden addition of supernatural enemies toward the end of the game.  But if we continue with the Indiana Jones comparison, most of them had a supernatural element as well.  I think the problem goes back to the lack of fleshing out details that plagues the rest of the game.  They could’ve done more to build up the plot & mythos, rather than just being like, “Oh, by the way, the statue’s really a coffin that curses people in some nondescript, never touched upon way,” in the penultimate chapter.  It’s just poor pacing.  I don’t think it would’ve been as much of a problem if there’d been some hinting along the way — some foreboding.

Overall, while a bit threadbare, the plot is serviceable enough, evoking memories of old adventure movies but lacking some of the pacing.  The characters are likeable enough & you’ll want to know what happens next to push through.

Score: 3

Mechanics: I don’t think I ever noticed before how boring cover-based shooting can be.  It’s strange, because one of my favorite games of all time is Mass Effect, where the combat is pretty much nothing but cover-based shooting.  I think the difference is there’s more to do while behind cover in Mass Effect.  If enemies aren’t cooperating, I can command a follower to blast their shields, or go invisible to flank them.  In Uncharted, you can’t do that.  You can only stay behind cover until someone pops out, like aggressive ADHD wooden ducks.  Even grenades don’t seem to be that effective at flushing people out.

I think the problem is an issue of balance & vision.  The game wants to be all action-oriented, with blazing gunfights & Drake ducking behind cover before jumping out, so enemies literally crawl out of the walls & swarm around you like angry bees.  Yet they had to keep with the growing trend of cover systems, so you end up stuck behind some rock if you don’t want your head blown off.  It’s poorly balanced, tedious, happens too often & goes on for way too long.  I dreaded any time I came to an open area after a platforming section & spied all the convenient chest-high walls.  In most cases, I adopted the pattern of running up to the closest enemy, using a brutal combo, then hiding until my vision stopped going gray simply to speed up the process.

417b9e2f0a0a2931ccce7846b9b0d816The shooting isn’t bad.  It works… it’s just not interesting.  Honestly, the most fun I had with the combat is when the supernatural enemies showed up & I switching to run-&-gun.  Because they’re the only enemies without guns & don’t use cover, they’re the only ones you can use this tactic with, & it’s a blast.  I had more fun running around like a crazy person just shooting wildly in the general direction of the swarm chasing me.  Why couldn’t they do more of that?  Or when I got to use the sniper rifle against just one far enemy?  The mercenaries are just a slog to get through.  And why can I shoot them three times in the face with a shotgun & they still don’t go down?  You’re not wearing armor on your face.

And then the quick-time events… I’ve never been too down on QTE’s in the past, probably because most the games I’ve experienced them in integrate them reasonably well.  But Uncharted shows its age in this regard.  They really do come out of nowhere, & with no consistency.  Obviously they’re meant to engage you in a quick action, like rolling out of the way of a falling pile of bricks, but there are more times when you have no control over the cutscene, or you use regular controls.  For example, there’s a few times when a platform starts to break & you use the same in-game controls to run & leap before you fall to your doom.  And don’t get me started on that final boss fight.  They’re just poorly implemented all around.

I wished the game was more adventure than action, because the platforming sections definitely fair better.  Both the camera & level design do a good job showing where you need to go next.  The controls are responsive, though I did jump to my death more than a few times because the controls hadn’t quite caught up with the camera & Drake jumped the wrong way.  The puzzles, while not difficult, helped break up the monotony of the combat, though I would’ve liked them to be a bit more thought-provoking.  And I appreciated the devs’ attempts to mix up the set pieces.  The jeep section was a lot of fun.  But not so much the jet ski.  It’s hard to pinpoint my exact problem with them in Uncharted, but I think I was expected more natural movement — like having to swing out & around to turn — only for it to just do a hairpin 90-degree turn into a wall.  I really came to appreciate the generous check points after that level.

Overall, while the platforming & set pieces are fun, there’s way too much monotonous cover-based shooting to slog through.

Score: 3

maxresdefaultAesthetics: Having never played the original version, I can’t attest to any uprezing, but it does look nice.  The scenery & architecture are great to look at, & really immerse you in the setting.  A shame the camera wants to look at the floor half the time.  There’s also something odd about Elena’s model in-game.  I can’t tell if it’s poor facial animations making her look flat, or that fact that even at the end her model is as pristine as in the beginning & that looks odd next to Drake’s battered model.

The voice acting is, of course, good, with a lot of recognizable actors.  I can’t say much for the music outside the opening menu theme, because none of it stuck out to me.  So that’s not great, but at least what’s there wasn’t obtrusive.

Score: 4

Replay Value: Average-ish.  After you beat the game, you unlock the ability to play individual chapters, so you can replay sections you like.  I did that to find all the treasures.  And there are a lot of rewards & tweaks you can earn for completing various challenges to mix up future playthroughs.  Personally, if I do play it again, I’m sticking it on Explorer mode & breezing through the combat to get to the fun stuff.

Score: 3



Overall Score: 3

Final Word: Uncharted has a reputation for being a cinematic series, & it certainly lives up to that; however, Naughty Dog failed to remember that those old adventure movies has more slow pacing & atmosphere than action.  The first game’s a bit too much cover-based shooting to slog through & not enough fun exploration & interesting scenarios.  It’s not bad, by any stretch, but definitely feels like the first in a series.  If you’re not a fan of shooting, stick it on Explorer mode to speed through to the fun parts.

– GamerDame

Title: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
Console: PS3, PS4
Rating: T
Developer: Naughty Dog, BluePoint Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: November 20, 2007 (original), October 9, 2015 (remaster)

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Filed under 3, Action, Adventure, PS3, PS4, Reviews, Shooter

Far Gone with NieR: Automata

There’s always a question when a new game in an established franchise comes out if it’s accessible to new players.  Usually this is less to do with grasping the mechanics & more to do with understanding the story.  Obviously, this all depends on the game in question.  Arguably starting a story in the middle isn’t ideal.  But not all sequels are directly related to the previous plot.  One could more easily pick up the story of a new Castlevania game versus staring with Metal Gear Solid 4.

But that gets a little tricky when discussing NieR: Automata, which is a kinda sequel to NieR, which was a spin-off to the Drakengard series, which itself is known for having multiple endings & diverging timelines.  To put it into proper context, NieR follows the fifth ending of the first Drakengard that involves the PC & his dragon following a giant humanoid monster coming into our world, spreading a plague to mankind upon its death.  And then in NieR we learn that to save itself mankind split their souls & body to wait out the plague, but then the bodies began to think they were their own entities & began killing the “shades”.  So, yeah, it’s kinda confusing.


NieR: Automata picks up after the final ending of the original NieR an unspecified time later, following mankind having to flee to the moon when aliens used robots to invade, creating replaceable androids to fight the war for them.  Through several routes, we follow three of these androids, designated 2B, 9S & later A2, as they continue to wage an endless war against the machines.

Unlike the previous NieR, Automata was developed by PlatinumGames, & matches with the style of their previous games, most noticeably the likes of Bayonetta.  It’s very combat-heavy, with bombastic hack-&-slash action.  I’ve heard it described as a “spectacle fighter”, & that’s an apt description.  But it still maintains the feel of the previous entry by having a smaller open-world setting where you can travel around collecting sidequests that grant material to improve your weapons & combat abilities.

On a sidenote, can people please stop pronouncing it as “auto-ma-tah”, like a car.  It’s “a-tom-uh-tuh”, the same way you’d pronounce automaton, as it is the plural version, or autonomy, if you’re unfamiliar with the term.

Narrative: To answer the question posed previously, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary that you’ve played the previous games in order to understand Automata’s story.  It certainly helps, but the events from the previous game don’t really have a direct impact on the current storyline outside of world-building.  It provides some extra context in term of historical events & maybe even some characters, but you should find enough flavor text along the way to get a general grasp.  The game really is more about the androids’ struggle.

883956-nier-automata-windows-screenshot-interaction-between-2b-andThat being said, I don’t feel Automata explains its own story as well as it could, at least toward the end.  In the beginning, everything was good.  I could follow the plot, & things that didn’t make sense weren’t supposed to make sense, hinting at things not being what they seemed until later in the story.  But it wasn’t until the tower, the final mission in the game, that it kinda fell through somewhat.  Who was I fighting?  What was going on?  Where did these AI come from?  It made a bit more sense after reading some of the unit text that’s updated, but I feel if the player has to read it in a separate text blurb, it’s not good storytelling.

Other than that, I did enjoy the story for Automata.  It ask a lot of philosophical questions without being too postmodern about it, instead focusing on how those questions impact the characters.  It’s not navel-gazing, which I abhor, but instead shows how each person emotional deals with heavy questions with no clear answer.  To that end, I liked the characters, & how they evolve over time.  I liked that you don’t know everything going in, & discover along with them.  I also enjoyed the overall structure of the storytelling.  I knew going in how NieR made the player go through the story three times, revealing more with each playthrough.  And Automata followed that same pattern.  There are three “routes”.  Routes A & B are the same story, but told from 2B & 9S’s perspectives respectively.  Initially the plot is the same, but towards the end the characters are separated, so it’s nice to fill in the blanks between routes.  And Route C picks up after those routes, switching back & forth between characters to the finale.  Given that each playthrough isn’t unreasonably long, it’s a good way to tell the story, especially given the themes of history repeating itself & the utter futility of the androids’ war.  And I have to admit, I didn’t see that final revelation coming.

Overall, NieR: Automata has an intriguing story that mixes humor & melodrama as well as enjoyable characters, but can be a bit confusing at times.

Score: 4

Mechanics: If you’ve played PlatinumGames’ games before, you know to expect fast, visceral combat, & Automata certainly delivers on that.  There are a plethora of melee weapons to find & upgrade, & I liked that fully upgrading them adds special benefits, ranging from improved health to making your enemies fight for you.  Combat is very enjoyable, with a familiar flow for those who’ve played PlatinumGames’ games before.  Furious slashes, dodges & long-range attacks.  While I wasn’t as crazy about 9S’ hacking abilities replacing 2B’s combat options, it was nice that both characters have different styles that suit them.  9S is a “scanner” unit after all, versus 2B’s “battle” unit designation, so it makes sense, & prevent things from going stale on multiple routes.  The scanning mini-game is usually pretty fun & short, suddenly switching to a bullet-hell shooter type.

NieR-Automata_201606_SS_Boss_02_ONLINE-e1466200507150I also thought that idea of adding chips to your androids for various benefits was a nice idea that fit with the characters.  Being living computers, basically, it makes sense that they can swap in and & different upgrade programs for various benefits.  Some are more passive, like increasing your health or damage output, but others let you slow time if dodging correctly, reflect damage back, or make robots “scream” when they die (for whatever reason).  You have limited space, but you can set up three different sets of chips, so you can have one that focuses on improving combat whereas another focuses on exploration benefits.

My only complaint with the combat is the lock-on system.  While it mostly works fine, I found that it can be hard to target a specific enemy when there are multiple on-screen.  It auto-targets the closest enemy, meaning when you run around (as you should in such a fast-paced game) it’ll switch targets even if you don’t want it to.  This is a major pain as you’re usually facing groups of enemies & trying to whittle down one specific one.  It also doesn’t automatically switch targets if the enemy you were targeting dies, so you have to release & then hold the trigger again.  Given that you’ll probably also be holding down the ranged button while switching between attacks and dodges, your hands will start cramping up pretty quickly.  I did find I could mitigate this by using the auto-fire chip, which will automatically start ranged attacks when in range & keeps you locked on, but you can only use that on Easy mode.

h8hylxju55b01On the flipside, I did enjoy that once you complete a sidequest during a specific route, it’s gone forever, so each route essentially has its own sidequests.  But if you don’t finish them within a that playthrough, they will show up again in the next, so if you’re underlevel you can come back later.  This is an entirely personal opinion, as I’ve seen some people complain about this feature.  Personally, I like not having to redo the same sidequest, as most of them are pretty basic.  You talk to a character to get the quest, then go & kill a certain enemy or collect a certain thing, then turn the quest in for a reward.  Although none of them felt pointless, & do contribute to your understanding of the world you’re in, they’d hardly exciting.  Some are even escort quests, so I’m personally very happy not to have to repeat them.  It might suck if you do, though, because that means you’ll have to delete your save data & start all over, losing all your level progress.  But for me, I liked it.

Overall, NieR: Automata has fast-paced, enjoyable combat that varies depending on the character you play as & a nice upgrade system, but the lock-on system could be improved, & some people might not like the more linear structure.

Score: 4

Aesthetics: Like its combat, Automata is a very stylized game that takes liberties with its presentation, matching that of its predecessor.  It likes to switch camera angles on you, mostly being from a regular over-the-shoulder angle, but sometimes going top-down, or even side-scrolling, usually based on the environment.  While this can be jarring, the changes do make sense & you can learn to read what you’re going to encounter.  If you’re fighting in a narrow corridor, it’ll go side-scroller, & you’ll be swamped from both sides.  If it’s top-down, you’ll probably have to navigate a space.  It’s both a mechanical & stylistic choice, & while somewhat frustrating does highlight the scenery brilliantly.

maxresdefaultIf you know anything about the Drakengard & NieR games, you’ll know they have amazing music, & Automata is no exception.  It’s one of those soundtracks I can definitely see people downloading.  It always seems to fit the moment, & even varies in subtle ways depending on the character you’re playing as.  I thought it was a nice touch that the music goes all 8-bit when you’re in the hacking mini-game.  Though the tracks do sometimes get stuck in a certain song until you leave a scene.  This isn’t usually a problem unless it got stuck on the one track I didn’t like, which was the “kiddy” song, as I called it.  The English voiceacting is also okay.  A bit melodramatic, but that fits with moment.

Score: 4

Replay Value: Very high.  As I mentioned above, the game has three routes you have to play through to get to the actual end of the game.  After completing the third route, you unlock chapter select, where you can pick a specific starting point, which is very helpful when trying to get all the other endings.  Did I mention this game has 26 endings?  Because I does, A-Z.  Most of them are “fail” endings that you can sometimes get on your own, either by not going directly to an important objective & “running” away or by pure stupidity (like taking out your OS chip).  They are pretty funny though, so it’s not a problem booting up a chapter & quickly getting them.  The game gets very snarky about it.  But there are 5 “real” endings.  And, as I said before, sidequests you’ve completed don’t respawn so it’s not a problem mainlining another playthrough to grind for supplies or trophies.

Score: 5



Overall Score: 4

Final Word: Despite some minor complaints, NieR: Automata is an fun, fast-paced action that doesn’t take itself too seriously while also touching on existential issues.  There’s a lot to love for gamers who enjoy action games.

– GamerDame

Title: NieR: Automata
Console: PS4, PC, XB1
Rating: M
Developer: PlatinumGames
Publisher: SquareEnix
Release Date: March 7, 2017


Filed under Action, PC, PS4, Reviews, XBox One