Category Archives: PS3

[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.

220px-Uncharted_Drake's_Fortune

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


Breakdown

Untitled

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)
Advertisements

Leave a comment

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

F.E.A.R. the Classics

As I was downloading this game from Steam, I kept trying to remember the last time I played a first-person shooter.  And for the life of me, I can’t quite place it.  I know it hasn’t been anything during the modern console cycle.  I guess it would be Half-Life 2 & it’s continuations from The Orange Box back on the 360.  I did have a brief foray with E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy a few months back, but everything outside shooting guns was so incomprehensible that I put it down before finishing the “tutorial” level.  Shooters have just never really been my thing.  I’ve enjoyed a few in my time, certainly.  Half-Life 2 was fun, as was Doom 3.  Though to be fair, I typically play Doom by running around with the chainsaw, so calling it a “shooter” might not be fair.

(Post script, I think technically the last FPS I played was Spec Ops: The Line.  But that game was so anti-shooter that my brain didn’t store it as such.)

FEAR_DVD_box_art

F.E.A.R. (FPS’s just love their acronyms, don’t they?) is a game released way back in 2007 & spawned several successful sequels.  In its initial outing, players take on the role of a character referred to as the Point Man, a new recruit to the First Encounter Assault Recon team.  In possibly the worst first day on the job, Point Man’s team is sent to retrieve an escaped psychic commander, but quickly finds themselves embroiled in a plot centering around the worst corporate ethics since the Umbrella Corp.  All the while, Point Man keeps having strange hallucinations about a little girl in red who seems to have a massive chip on her shoulders.

Although many games have since taken inspiration from F.E.A.R.’s unique selling points, it initially touted three key features to jazz up the standard shooting.  The first was actually intelligent enemy AI, making for a more challenging shooting experience.  The second was what we now call “bullet-time,” but which the game refers to as “reflexes.”  Essentially, Point Man’s can mentally slow down time, allowing for better strategies for taking on the AI.  And finally, it billed itself as a horror FPS, meaning from time to time scary things will happen.


20180724162013_1Narrative: It’s difficult to judge a game’s story over a decade after the fact, because it’s hard to say if things were clichéd back then, or if the game in question was merely one of the pioneers of the trope.  That being said, I feel like I can say that the concept of ethically questionable super soldiers running amuck was nothing new even back when F.E.A.R. first came out.  Monolith at least tried to do something interesting with it, & I have to say I think this was my first time hearing this particular combination of ethically & scientifically dubious plot points.  Armacham, the company behind such decisions, is only slightly beat out by Umbrella Corp in that at least they were smart enough to merely bury their bad decisions instead of trying to infect the entire city to cover it up.  And looking back, the game does do a good job of pacing out the revelations of just how f-ed up the experiments actually were.  We begin merely knowing that they lost control of their clone soldiers because the commander who psychically controlled them went mad & started eating people.  We already know they probably deserve their fate for their stupidity, & this feeling only increases as the game progresses.

There isn’t much in the way of characters to speak of.  Point Man is your classic silent protagonist, & everyone else is merely a voice in your ear.  I will say that it’s nice to play a shooter where everyone on my team is unequivocally the good guy.  No ham-fisted betrayals, not even counting that one guy who turned the security system on me, because he worked for Armacham so I automatically expected it.  And despite the constant contrivance of getting Point Man separated from the rest of his team, it always fits with character.  He is the Point Man after all, meaning he’s meant to be on the front line.  I also enjoyed having characters & enemies acknowledge my capabilities rather than treating me like some rookie that has to prove myself.

Overall, while clichéd now, the story in F.E.A.R. is competently strung together.  And I have to give Monolith credit for just going balls to the wall with how insane the evilness of Armacham was.

Score: 3


Gameplay: I really had to change my mindset to get into F.E.A.R.’s combat.  Initially, I was annoyed by the shooting.  Being used to playing more narrative-focused games, I tend to view combat as an obstacle impeding me from what I really want in a game.  At first I found it boring.  Run down some hallways, enter an open room to have a firefight, rinse & repeat.  And while this pattern does persist throughout most of the runtime, I found something interesting happening about halfway through.  Something in my brain switched, & I realized that the entire purpose of a shooter is the combat.  Sounds obvious, I know.  But that merely shows how unaccustomed I am to the genre.

36210_full_2Once I realized that, & accepted that the combat was in big part the point of the game, I actually began to enjoy it.  No longer was it something to slog through, but relish.  And I have to say, despite being an older game, the combat in F.E.A.R. is still quite fun.  Two of the unique selling points I mentioned before play a huge part in that.  I haven’t played enough FPS’s to say definitively, but the AI did feel quite competent.  They don’t just sit behind cover, popping out occasionally for you to pick off.  They run around, try to get behind you, even toss grenades to flush you out.  It’s not perfect, & sometimes they’d still do stupid things like run around the corner to meet my shotgun.  But it made each encounter a little different.

Aiding in this, the bullet-time added an extra layer of fun & strategy to counter the AI.  Enemies too hard to flush out?  Pop into bullet-time & run out of cover to bring the shotgun blasting to them.  Or wait to line up a shot when they pop out.  Or detonate the grenade right over their heads.  The arsenal provided also lent to the enjoyment.  Of course you have your standard pistols & submachine guns.  But you’ve also got a gun called the Penetrator, a glorified nailgun that had the wonderful habit of pinning enemies to walls.  But my favorite, by far & away, was the laser gun that liquefied all the flesh off the target, leaving just a burnt skeleton, & had ridiculous sniping range.

But what about the third selling-point?  The horror.  Eh… I’ve heard other people describe it as it feeling like two separate games, & to some extent that’s true.  There’s almost an audible thud as the tone suddenly changes from shooter to horror.  In an open space with lots of pillars?  Get read for a shootout.  In abandoned offices with blood on the floor?  Expect something spooky.  It becomes predictable, & usually I didn’t find most of it scary.  Usually because I was looking the wrong way.

That being said, there were times when the atmosphere got to me.  Heavily influenced by Japanese horror, the game does understand the potency of quiet dread.  One standout moment was in one of the offices where I heard the phone ringing.  Having been conditioned at that point that voicemail is how the story moves along its plot, I followed the sound.  But rather than coming from any of the phones on the desk, it was coming from the ceiling.  Shooting at the tile sent a corpse falling on me.  Another good moment was after activating some control panel, the monitor showed the clone soldiers fighting before Alma (the creepy grudge girl) slowly rose into the camera’s view before it shut off.

20180730210343_1Thinking back on it, I feel that’s F.E.A.R.’s greatest strength.  It understands how to weave these moments into what you’re doing.  Both of those moments I just mentioned happened later in the game, & depended on you doing what you’d been programmed by the game to do.  And then they never happen again.  That monitor scene only happens once, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t stop to watch each camera feed to see if something similar would happen.  Another example is when there are two scares on a ladder back-to-back.  It never happened before, & it never happens again, but you keep expecting it.  Tension is the essence of good horror, & in knowing that, I realize just how much thought Monolith gave to this game.

Overall, while at times predictable & repetitive, F.E.A.R. can be an enjoyable experience if you give yourself to the moment.  It knows what it wants to be, & shows more understanding of what makes a good experience than most.

Score: 4


Aesthetics: At the time, F.E.A.R. was touted as having an impressive game engine.  While the models themselves are slightly aged, I will say that overall it’s held up quite well.  In particular, the physics.  Combat feels appropriately chaotic at times thanks to dust flying up, making it hard to see.  And there was more than a few times I startled myself by knocking over some bottle, or was mesmerized by the lighting changing because I bumped a lamp.  Sound design is pretty good as well.  Nothing spectacular, but it did help lend to the atmosphere.

Score: 3


Replay Value: Low.  As much fun as it was, I consider F.E.A.R. a one-&-done game.  There is some type of multiplayer with it, but I haven’t tested it out to say if it has any staying power.

Score: 3


Breakdown

Untitled

Overall Score: 3

Last Word: Despite its age, F.E.A.R. is at least a competently made game.  Although it won’t leave much of a last impression, it’s fun while it lasts.

– GamerDame

Title: F.E.A.R.
Console: PC, 360, PS3
Rating: M
Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games, Warner Bros. Games
Release Date: October 17, 2005

 

2 Comments

Filed under 3, PC, PS3, Reviews, Shooter, XBox 360