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Uncharted

The North American game cover as seen in 2007, the year of the release.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is an action-adventure game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment exclusively for the PlayStation 3. Combining platforming and third-person shooter elements, the game charts the journey of protagonist Nathan Drake, supposed descendant of the explorer Francis Drake, as he seeks the lost treasure of El Dorado, with the help of friend Victor "Sully" Sullivan and journalist Elena Fisher.

Originally announced at E3 2006, the title was developed for about two years before being released at the end of 2007. Seen as a key title for the PlayStation 3 during the holiday season of 2007, the game was well-received by critics, many of whom cited its technical achievements and its high production values, similar to that of summer blockbuster films. The game went on to sell more than one million copies in ten weeks. On October 13, 2009, a sequel to the game was released, titled Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

GameplayEdit

Gameplay in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a combination of three-dimensional platforming and third-person shooter gameplay elements. Platforming elements allow Drake to jump, swim, grab and move along ledges, climb and swing from ropes, and perform other acrobatic actions that allow players to make their way along the ruins in the various areas of the island that Drake explores.

When facing enemies, the player can either use melee and combo attacks at close range to take out foes or can opt to use weapons. Melee attacks comprise a variety of single punches, while combo attacks are activated through specific sequences of button presses that, when timed correctly, offer much greater damage; the most damaging of these is the specific "brutal combo", which forces enemies to drop twice the ammunition they would normally leave. Nate can only carry one pistol and one rifle at a time, and there is a limited amount of ammunition per gun. Picking up a different firearm switches that weapon for the new one. Grenades are also available at certain points, and the height of the aiming arc is adjusted by tilting the Sixaxis controller up or down. The player can have Drake take cover behind walls, and use either blind fire or aimed fire to kill enemies. In common with the aforementioned game, Uncharted lacks an actual on-screen health bar; instead, when the player takes damage, the graphics begin to lose colour. While resting or taking cover for a brief period, Drake's health level — and subsequently, the screen colour — returns to normal.

The game also includes vehicle sections, where Drake must protect the jeep he and Elena are in using a mounted turret, and where Drake and Elena ride a jet ski along water-filled routes while avoiding enemy fire and explosive barrels. While players direct Drake in driving the jet ski, they may also switch to Elena by aiming the gun in order to use her weapon in defense, or to clear the barrels from their path.

The game also features reward points, which can be gained by collecting 60 hidden treasures in the game that glimmer momentarily or by completing certain accomplishments, such as achieving a number of kills using a specific weapon, performing a number of headshots, or using specific methods of killing enemies. In subsequent playthroughs of the game, the player can use these rewards points to unlock special options; these include in-game bonuses such as alternate costumes and unlimited ammunition but also non-game extras, such as making-of videos and concept art.

Regardless of which regional version is purchased, the game is censored when playing on a Japanese console to remove blood, which normally appears when shooting enemies.

PlotEdit

The game opens with Nathan "Nate" Drake (voiced by Nolan North) recovering the coffin of the explorer Sir Francis Drake, Nate's ancestor, from the ocean floor. He is assisted by journalist Elena Fisher (Emily Rose), who is there to record the events for a documentary. However, the coffin contains only a diary written by Sir Francis Drake, pointing to the location of El Dorado, the fabled city of gold which Sir Francis sought, proving that he faked his death as Nate originally believed. After their boat is destroyed by a band of pirates who have been tracking Nate, Victor "Sully" Sullivan (Richard McGonagle), Nate's old friend, rescues them; he and Nate, leaving Elena behind after fearing that her publishing the documentary would attract rivals, travel to a region in the Amazon, where they find ruins of an ancient South American civilization, and clues that El Dorado is a large gold statue, and that it was removed long ago. Searching further, Nate and Sully discover a long-abandoned German U-boat stuck in the Amazon river containing its dead crew and a missing page from Sir Francis Drake's diary that points to a southern tropic island where the statue was likely taken.

Before they can leave the island, Nate and Sully are accosted by Gabriel Roman (Simon Templeman), a competitive treasure hunter who has hired the services of mercenaries led by Atoq Navarro (Robin Atkin Downes), Roman's lieutenant and an archaeologist with knowledge of the statue. The two are working together to find El Dorado in order to compensate for money Sully owes Roman. Roman shoots Sully in the chest and Nathan escapes. Elena then arrives to rescue Nate and the two fly off in Sully's plane to where the statue is believed to be. Nate (left) talks to Sully on his boat, while Elena Fisher calls her station.

Having been shot down near the island and separated, Nate works his way to a fort where he spots Elena's parachute. At the fort, he is soon captured by the pirates from the beginning of the game, who are revealed to be led by Eddy Raja (James Sie), an old rival of his. Elena rescues Nate and flee the fort from Eddy and his pirates. The two work their way through a long-abandoned port city and discover, through a log book in its custom house, that the statue was moved further inland; as Elena spots the supposedly dead Sully working with Roman and Navarro, heading north, they decide to follow him to the monastery. There they locate hidden passages, and rescue Sully, who survived thanks to Drake's diary blocking the bullet, and played along to fool his captors.

Nate and Elena find a series of maze-like passages below the monastery. In these tunnels, Nate overhears an argument between Roman, Navarro, and Eddy, who was hired by Roman as well in order to aid in the capture of Nate and the security of the island all with the reward of a share of the gold of El Dorado. Roman doubts Eddy's abilities to do his job further and ignores his superstitious claim that something cursed on the island is killing his men; Roman dismisses Eddy and his crew. Going through more of the underground tunnels, Nate and Elena find a passage leading to a large treasure vault in which they find Sir Francis Drake's body, assuming that he died on the island searching for the treasure. Before they move on, they encounter Eddy running for his life, chased by mutated humans possessing incredible speed and strength known as the "Descendants". After Eddy is killed, Nathan and Elena escape and find themselves in an abandoned German submarine base. Nate ventures out into the base to restore power to allow them to leave. During his exploration, he discovers that the Germans had sought the statue during World War II but that, like the Spaniards before them, learned that the statue was cursed and became mutated. Sir Francis, knowing the statue's power, was actually trying to keep it on the island, before he too was killed by the mutants.

Nate attempts to return to Elena, but finds her captured by Roman and Navarro. As Nate follows Roman and Navarro to save Elena, he reunites with Sully outside of the monastery. Under the monastery, Nate and Sully are captured at gunpoint and find that Roman has the statue. Navarro urges Roman to open it; inside is the Mummy of El Dorado. As Roman opens the statue, he inhales the dust from the rotting corpse and begins to mutate. Navarro shoots the mutating Roman, who planned all along to steal the statue and sell the mutagen as a weapon. Navarro then has the statue lifted out by helicopter as his mercenaries are attacked by the Descendants. Nate then jumps onto the net the statue is in and is taken to a tanker ship nearby. They crash land and Nathan fights Navarro, knocking him unconscious. As Nate pulls an injured Elena from the helicopter, Navarro regains consciousness. Nate pushes the helicopter off the tanker; the rope connecting the helicopter to the statue, which has become tangled around his leg, plunges Navarro and the statue into the ocean.

Elena and Nathan lean in to kiss, when they are interrupted by Sully, who arrives on a small speedboat, having escaped the island and taken several boxes of treasure he found in the cave and took from dead pirates. Elena reminds Nate that because she lost her camera, he still owes her a story. As the boat sails towards the horizon, Nate assures her he will not break his promise.

DevelopmentEdit

After completing Jak 3, Naughty Dog assembled their most technically-talented staff members and began development of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune under the codename Big. It was in full production for about two years, with a small team of engineers working on the game for about a year before hand. Naughty Dog decided to create a brand new IP rather than opt to develop a PlayStation 3 Jak and Daxter game; they wanted to create a franchise suitable for the new hardware, in order to develop such ideas as realistic human characters instead of stylized ones owing to limitations of previous hardware, as well as create something "fresh and interesting", although termed as 'stylized realism'. Inspiration was drawn from various sources in the action and adventure genres: pulp magazines, movie serials, and more contemporary titles like Indiana Jones and National Treasure. The team felt the sources shared themes of mystery and "what-if scenarios" that romanticized adventure and aimed to include those in Uncharted. A platforming segment, showing Nathan attempting to scale the outer walls of the Fortress.

The game was first unveiled at E3 2006. From early previews of the game, inevitable comparisons of elements such as platforming and shooting between Uncharted and the well-known Tomb Raider series were drawn, earning the title the nickname of "Dude Raider". However, the developers saw their game as concentrating more on third-person cover-based play, in contrast to Tomb Raider's "auto-aiming" play and greater puzzle-solving elements. Throughout the game's development the staff tried to remain flexible and detached from the original design concepts; attention was focused on the features that worked well, while features that did not work were removed. The development team intended the game's main setting, the island, to play a big role in the overall experience. Feeling too many games used bleak, dark settings with monochromatic color schemes, they wanted the island to be a vibrant, believable game world that immersed the player and encouraged exploration.

In designing the characters, the artists aimed for a style that was photorealistic. The creators envisaged the main protagonist, Nathan Drake, as more of an everyman character than Lara Croft, shown as clearly under stress in the game's many fire fights, with no special training and constantly living at the edge of his abilities. Director Amy Hennig felt a heavily-armored, "tough as nails" protagonist with a large weapon was not a suitable hero, and decided a "tenacious and resourceful" character would portray more human qualities. Supporting characters Victor Sullivan and Elena Fisher were included to avoid a dry and emotionless story. Fisher's character underwent changes during development; in early trailers for the game, the character had dark brown hair, but ultimately the color changed to blonde and the style was altered.

The game went gold in the middle of October, 2007. A demo was then released on November 8, 2007 on the PlayStation Network before its final release on November 19 in North America. The demo was first placed on the North American store, and was initially region-locked such that it would only play on a North American PS3. However, this was later confirmed as a mistake, as the developers were apparently unaware that people from different regions could sign up for a North American account and download the demo; a region-free demo was released soon after.

Graphics and technologyEdit

Uncharted uses the Cell microprocessor to generate dozens of layered character animations to portray realistic expressions and fluid movements, which allow for responsive player control. The PlayStation 3's graphics processing unit employed several functions to provide graphical details that helped immerse the player into the game world: lighting models, pixel shaders, dynamic real-time shadowing, and advanced water simulation. The new hardware allowed for processes which the team had never used in PlayStation 2 game development and required them to quickly familiarize with the new techniques; for example, parallel processing and pixel shaders. While the Blu-ray technology afforded greater storage space, the team became concerned with running out of room several times—Uncharted used more and bigger textures than previous games, and included several languages on the disc. Gameplay elements requiring motion sensing, such as throwing grenades and walking across beams, were implemented to take advantage of the Sixaxis controller. A new PlayStation 3 controller, the DualShock 3, was unveiled at the 2007 Tokyo Game Show, and featured force feedback vibration. Uncharted was also on display at the show with demonstrations that implemented limited vibration compatibility.

Being Naughty Dog's first PlayStation 3 game, the project required the company to familiarize themselves with the new hardware, and resulted in several development mistakes. The switch from developing for the PlayStation 2 to the PlayStation 3 prompted the staff to implement changes to their development technology. Naughty Dog switched to the industry standard language C++ in order to participate in technology sharing among Sony's first-party developers; the company had previously used their own proprietary programming language GOAL, a Lisp-based language. In rewriting their game code, they decided to create new programming tools as well. This switch, however, delayed the team's progress in developing a prototype, as the new tools proved to be unreliable and too difficult to use. Ten months into full production, the team decided to recreate the game's pipeline, the chain of processing elements designed to progress data through a system. In retrospect, Naughty Dog's Co-President Evan Wells considered this the greatest improvement to the project. Additionally, the animation blending system was rewritten several times to obtain the desired character animations.

Trophies and Home integrationEdit

The game was patched on August 4, 2008 in Europe and North America to version 1.10 (which was resposible for breaking the game, a problem that Naughty Dog refused to fix and can seemingly be only remedied by performing a full hard drive format) to include support for the PlayStation 3's Trophy system. There are forty-seven trophies in the game that match the medals that can already be won in the game and one further trophy, the Platinum trophy, awarded when all other trophies have been collected; Uncharted was the first PlayStation 3 game to include the Platinum trophy type. Similar to other PlayStation 3 titles that receive trophy support via downloaded patches, players must start a new save game to be awarded trophies, regardless of how many medals they received in previous playthroughs. This was enforced because the developers wanted to avoid the sharing of save data in order to gain trophies they did not earn. The patch was described as "incredibly easy" to implement, owing to the game already containing preliminary support for Trophies via its Medals system; it was also stated that these hooks were already included due to Naughty Dog's belief that Sony would roll out the Trophy system before the game's launch in November 2007. Despite mentioning that the game was developed as a franchise and that it lent itself to episodic content, it was later stated that no content available via download would be made for Uncharted. However, the game will integrate with PlayStation Home, and the developers will support Home with additional content.

Future titlesEdit

Shortly after the release of the game, Naughty Dog's co-president, Evan Wells, stated that Uncharted had been developed as a franchise, and so a sequel was likely. It was later confirmed that the development team had put their work on the next installment of Jak and Daxter on-hold to work on Uncharted 2 for release in 2009. This sequel was revealed to be entitled Uncharted 2: Among Thieves in December, 2008 by Game Informer, and was rated a 10 out of 10 in a later issue of Game Informer upon its release.

Film adaptationEdit

Film producer Avi Arad has stated that he is working with a division of Sony to develop the film adaptation of Uncharted. In response to a question posed to Richard Lemarchand, lead game designer of Naughty Dog, on whether he would like to see a film adaptation of Uncharted, he replied "no comment."

Since then, Columbia Pictures has confirmed that an Uncharted film is being developed. It is to be written by Kyle Ward and produced by Avi Arad, Charles Roven, and Alex Gartner.

As of June 30, 2009 it was confirmed that the Uncharted film has been in production for the last year-and-a-half.

PlayStation HomeEdit

Naughty Dog has released an Uncharted space for the PlayStation 3's online community-based service, PlayStation Home. This space is Sully's Bar from the game. In this space user's can play an arcade mini-game called "Mercenary Madness". There are also three other rooms in this space: Artifact Room, Archives, and Smuggler's Den. There is an artifact viewer in the Archives room and the Smuggler's Den room. Also in the Archives room there is a video screen that previews Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The Artifact Room only features seating and different artifacts to look at. This space is currently only available to the users of the North American version of PlayStation Home and was released on December 11, 2008.

ReceptionEdit

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was well-received by game critics. Prior to its release, it was expected to be a commercial success and garnered praise from the media. Game Informer complimented the visuals and dialogue between the characters Drake and Fisher, calling them stunning and entertaining respectively. They further added that the production values appeared high, citing the level of detail and musical score. PlayStation Magazine echoed similar statements about the visuals and compared them to that of Crysis.

The overall presentation of the game received unanimous praise from critics, who recognized the game's high production values, describing them as "top-notch", "incredible" or comparing them to those found in Hollywood. When combined with the overall style of the game, this led many reviewers to compare Uncharted to summer blockbuster films, with the action and theme of the game drawing comparisons to the Indiana Jones film series. As part of the presentation, the game's story and atmosphere were also received well. The depth of the characters was praised, each having "their own tone". The voice acting was also received well, as the cast "nails its characterizations"; overall, the voice acting was described as a "big-star performance", "superb" and "stellar".

The technical achievements in creating this presentation were also lauded. The graphics and visuals were a big part of this, including appreciation of the "lush" jungle environments, with lighting effects greatly adding to them. The game's water effects were also appreciated. Overall, many reviewers commented that, at the time, it was one of the best-looking PlayStation 3 games available. Further to the graphical aspects, both facial animation and the animation of characters, such as Nate's "fluid" animations as he performs platforming sections were noted, although the wilder animations of enemies reacting to being shot were over-animated "to perhaps a laughable degree".

Criticism of the game included some graphical issues, such as texture pop-in and screen tearing. Of more concern were gameplay issues, including overall gameplay length being rather short, with reviewers completing the game in anywhere from six to ten hours, and some disappointment with the "not particularly memorable" vehicle sections; the inability to both fire weapons and drive the jet-ski was a well-noted issue. Further, some "frustrating, repetitive slogs" with regards to the "constant stream" of pirates and mercenaries, and "moving from one infuriating firefight to the next" towards the end of the game were cited as part of poorer elements of overall gameplay.

Uncharted received several accolades from web review sites such as Kotaku and IGN, who named it their PlayStation 3 game of the year. The game went on to sell one million copies after its first ten weeks of retail, and later became one of the first batch of titles to be released as part of Europe's budget Platinum range of best-selling titles.

Sony announced at E3 2009 that Uncharted: Drake's Fortune has sold over 2.6 million copies worldwide and was a hit for the PlayStation 3.

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