If you’ve been in hiding for the past few years and somehow managed to miss out on it, the Uncharted series is essentially a modern imagining of Indiana Jones (we don’t speak of Crystal Skull) starring a young, intrepid adventurer roaming the world in search of lost treasure. It’s an action game offering generous portions of everything that makes it so unique.
But despite the fact it’s a great action game, it still exists in a largely crowded genre space. So what makes it stand out?
The “Cinema Effect”
Everything from camera angles to the environments of the Uncharted games are used to great effect to convey the game’s adventurous tone. Sure, it’s not the first game to use multiple camera angles for dramatic emphasis, but it’s one of the first games to do it well. Walking through temples, streets, and caverns never felt as epic as it does in Uncharted, and that’s due mainly in part to the use of camera angles and scenes to set up the environment and give you a new sense of space.
There’s a commendable attention to detail present in the series that also lends an important part to the overall feel of the world of Uncharted. Artifacts, environment construction, companion AI behavior, and even well-researched historical events and facts are all handled masterfully to create a believable and well-realized world around Nathan Drake and his band of treasure-hunting cohorts.
Really, though, it’s the fact that the game embraces its identity as an action movie/game hybrid so well that makes it special. It’s shamelessly cinematic and capitalizes well on its identity to create a seamless experience that blends the best of both gaming and the cinema to create an experience unparalleled by others in the genre.
I’m a big fan of the Tomb Raider games and will argue all day long that they have some of the best platforming seen in the action game genre. It’s quick, responsive, and intuitive, allowing for a seamless and well-designed platforming experience.
In many ways, Uncharted feels like it borrows many of these ideas and builds on them. Platforming allows you to scale large buildings using pipes, ledges, and even windowpanes with tight controls that feel both satisfying and intuitive. A keen eye for detail has led to environments giving good visual cues, allowing you to follow a path as you traverse an environment. It’s definitely one of the stronger parts of the gameplay in Uncharted, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
There’s something truly epic about the stories told in the Uncharted series. It’s a classic adventure story rife with legend, intrigue, twists, and a well-realized cast of characters in people like Sully, Nathan, and Elena.
Being that it is such a cinematic experience, the true strength behind the Uncharted series lies in the quality of the writing. Sure, it doesn’t take much to write dialogue, but writing good dialogue is a difficult task, and one that writers at Naughty Dog have pulled off well. Humor is used successfully, history is accurate and interesting, the story is accessible to people from all walks of life, and there’s subtlety to the dialogue that allows for each character to have a unique personality beyond being just another voice and animated face helping to drive the story.
Sure, there’s that weird disconnect where Drake mows down hundreds of dudes throughout the game without blinking an eye, but it’s impressive to see character development to the extent that the Uncharted series explores it. Maybe I’m easy to please, but when a cliched tough guy character is written to have a clear fear of tight spaces, that might be an indicator that you’ve got a good group of writers on your hands.