Thursday, January 02, 2014

Review: Drake's Fortune

It's my contention that now is the best time to buy a PS 3. Not only is the system cheap and easily available, it's also mature, with all the streaming media options (such as YouTube) available that aren't available on the PS 4, for instance. If you choose to use the machine for playing games, PS 3 games are also dirt cheap. I picked up the Uncharted Dual Pack for $10 over the holidays and started playing Drake's Fortune whenever I got frustrated at Drake's Deception.

Video games are the only genre of media where sequels are usually better than the originals. Game engine technology improves as developers learn to optimize for the console, and this goes triple for the PS3, which had a famously unfriendly processor to program to. Also, as game developers gain confidence with the console, they get to spend more time developing stories or new methods of game play that add quite a bit to the game, not just in terms of fun game play, but also in terms of aiding the story telling.

Drake's Fortune takes place mostly on a tropical island. As with the other games in the series, I love the art direction. Things are brightly lit, and most of the game takes place during the day, with caverns and underground environments less than 30% of the time. The game features cover-based shooting, traversal, and some light puzzles, but no chase sequences, which to me is the biggest thing I missed coming over from Drake's Deception.

The pacing is also much less even than Drake's Deception or Golden Abyss. There are several long sequences that feel like a shoot-fest that's dragged out more than I enjoyed. The jet-ski sequences are also less than enjoyable: the controls aren't very responsive, and at first you're trained to use the jet-ski like a tank, and only at the end are you encouraged to just accelerate and blind-fire to make it past the stage. Neither of these hiccups occur in later games, showing that the game designers actually learned from experience. The game also uses the dual-shock's motion sensor control, which aren't precise enough for me to consider fun. Fortunately, the few times it's necessary aren't frequent enough to annoy you.

Not everything is bad compared to the Drake's Deception, however. First of all, the easy mode is just challenging enough for an out of touch gamer but fair enough so that I didn't get too frustrated. It did give me a good feeling when I finished the game. I can't say the same for Drake's Deception. The jeep sequence was also fun, and also paced appropriately. What I like about the story as well is that the female lead, Elena, is no mere damsel in distress, unlike Marisa Chase in Golden Abyss. She rescues Nathan Drake as often as she is rescued. The music was also outstanding. It's scored by Greg Edmonson, who also scored the Firefly series. I have the theme song from the game stuck in my head now, and that's no mean feat. I don't know why I didn't think much of the music from Drake's Deception, but the music in Drake's Fortune stands out.

Nevertheless, this was my least favorite Uncharted Game so far. Despite that, it's still a lot of fun and certainly well worth the price I paid. Recommended.

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