I was going to write a ranting post about an article on Yahoo yesterday, wherein a family earning $250,000/year claimed they were really “poor” with that income – then I thought I’d just write a ranting post about the lack of respect given to Science Fiction fans by network television . . . But then I realized all this ranting might make me seem a bit “lunatic”.
Then last night, as I had to stop what I was doing and get dinner made, I wanted to talk at length to someone about what I’d just been doing — only no one was around. And that brings me to: Uncharted; Drake’s Fortune.
Yes, I’m a gamer. After years (and years) of avid PC gaming, I got tired of being told I’d have to buy a new $2,000 computer every time the next game came out, so a friend of mine told me I should try the Playstation 3. They’re making great games for these things, often the same as the PC games, and you don’t have to buy a new one every year. So I took the plunge ‘round about Christmas of ‘08, picked up Far Cry 2 (since Far Cry 1 had been a favorite on the PC) and played to my heart’s content.
And saw that it was good.
But then that game came to an end, and I bought the next one on my Must Try list: Bioshock.
And saw that it was not so good.
And I was frustrated. My game-of-choice is the First Person, and I’ve always looked down on Third Person in disdain, but the same guy who talked me in to buying the Playstation (who also looks down on me now for not liking Bioshock) kept talking about Uncharted; Drake’s Fortune. At first, I ignored him because it’s a Third Person perspective – something I hate and can’t manage with any skill at all. But I was desperate for something to do (read: needed a tool that would allow me to procrastinate writing my current novel), so I tried the demo.
And saw that it was GREAT! Had to buy the game right away, and I’m hooked.
This game is incredibly well put together, with stunning graphics that are almost distractingly beautiful at times, realistic movement and action, cut scenes that rival a lot of movies today. One minute you’re enthralled with the movie on your screen, admiring the visuals and calling on memories of Indiana Jones — the next instant you’re in control, fighting to survive an attack or swinging wildly from vines to find a precarious finger-hold in a sheer cliff face or fortress wall, while a 100-foot drop into raging seas await should you slip up.
You play Nathan Drake, descendant of famed explorer Sir Francis Drake. Having found a diary inside your ancestor’s empty coffin — which you’ve just recovered from the bottom of the ocean — you’re on a quest to find some lost treasure (‘natch) but your buddy had some bad debts, and brought along a bit of baggage in the form of loads of baddies who’ve taken the diary (but didn’t find the secret map you discovered while exploring the U-boat stuck in the river). After you escape that little encounter, and reconnect with the reporter you ditched earlier, your plane crashes, leaving you in the jungle without your map, the reporter, or a way off the island.
Your character has some smooth moves when it comes to ducking for cover, and impressive hand-to-hand combat skills for when your ammo runs out. He can climb, and has to quite a lot, using rocks, finger-holds, even vines. His movements are incredibly realistic for a game, covering his head when he ducts bullets, turning slightly sideways if he’s running down stairs, flailing for balance if you get him too close to an edge.
Being a solid First Person shooter fanatic, I didn’t think I could ever get the hang of controlling a character from “outside”. I’d tried one of the Tomb Raider games on the PC years back, and hated it. But the controls and motions and camera angles available in Uncharted are uncanny, and incredibly intuitive. After playing the short demo for just a few minutes, I’d already gotten the hang of movement and shooting. Then when the game arrived, and I had the chance to start from the beginning, I learned Nate can do so much more. The game teaches you special moves and controls gradually, until one minute you realize you’re doing all of this without a second thought. Taking anything new you learned in one scene and applying it in the next.
I can’t even describe the visuals. If you’re a gamer, and have been for a long while, then you’ll remember how amazed you were when games like Return to Castle Wolfenstein came out and impressed you with realistic looking castles, flickering flames, enemies that looked like humans (except of course the zombie-fied ones). Or Duke Nukem, and his plethora of pole dancers, who would give you a peek if you gave them a dollar, or you could make Duke use the toilet. (this does make me sound less like a loon, right?) Then Far Cry hit the shelves, putting every game before it to shame with jungles that rendered distance, enemies that behaved realistically — even ducking for cover and circling around you. If you killed a guy at the top of a staircase, his body would thump and roll down the steps. If you gave away your position, the enemy would circle around, flush you out and trap you in cross-fire. You could run, crawl, jump, swim, dive, even use a hang glider.
Uncharted; Drake’s Fortune puts them all to shame with visuals alone. (well, okay, Far Cry 1 and Far Cry 2 are still amazing. Seriously amazing)
Last week, I stood on a cliff and looked down at THE most breath-taking waterfall, with moss-covered rocks and swirling, deep blue waters. Then I had to cross those raging waters by leaping from rock to crumbling rock. Yesterday, I stood on an ancient fortress wall and looked out over the ocean. There were waves moving in the distance, while the surf crashed against the rocks below me. The sun was low over the horizon, casting an orange and yellow glow over the water. Seagulls flew by, calling out as they swooped down toward the waves. Even the sounds were soothing. Moving surf, calling gulls, a pigeon that landed near my feet.
Then gunfire rang out and I had to take care of business.
I don’t know how far into this game I am, but I suspect (and fervently hope) I still have loads of game play left to go before I reach the end. Uncharted; Drake’s Fortune is definitely a game I’ll replay, because there are many ways to change up the action with your ever-growing abilities. Hopefully it’ll carry me through till Uncharted; Among Thieves comes out in the fourth quarter.
There’s just something incredibly satisfying about using a moss-covered pillar for cover, then taking careful aim, and blasting one of those bubble-gum bloggin’ literary agents in the head, then taking out each of their sycophantic ass-kissin’ followers one by one.