A Love Letter for the Uncharted Series
Your neighborhood Sphinx here. A few weeks ago, the Legend of Retro crew here at Gamezilla Media did an episode on the original Uncharted game that debuted in November of 2007, which you can listen to that episode here. Coincidentally, I was near the end of playing through the remastered trilogy that came out on the PS4, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection. Before I had started playing the trilogy, I had only ever played the first game, and that was probably within a year that it first came out. So it had been awhile since I lived the life as Nathan Drake zipping around the Amazon rain forest and chilling out in Nazi submarines.
It was while playing the remaster that I remember how much I loved this game. Being developed by Naughty Dog, it reminded me of an adult version of Crash Bandicoot in how you have to climb cliffs and time your jumps. The difference obviously being that instead of stomping on bad guys and spinning them off the screen, I am shooting them instead. But what a game! As a lover of Indiana Jones and history, I get it all in this video game. It was the second game ever where I really cared about the plot that was unfolding before me (the first game being Metal Gear Solid), and it was a game I couldn’t put down both back in the day and when I gave it another spin recently.
Once I finished the first Uncharted I went right into Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and wondered to myself “how did I not play this back in 2009?”. I mean, you start right out of the gate dangling over a cliff from a train crash. Oh, and you’ve been shot. Having the plot start with a literal cliffhanger and then going back in time unraveling what happened, I was once again hooked. With new, easier to manage physical fighting options, it created another element in the game for how you deal with combat. I looked back at reviews of this game after I finished it, and to no surprise I saw how this game has been in the discussion as one of the greatest games of all time. I finished it in two days.
The series reminds me also of another similar movie franchise that I love beyond all others - James Bond. Essentially Nathan Drake is Bond and Indiana Jones all wrapped into one. In Uncharted 3, you play Nathan in a little bit more of a spy environment, but what all three of these games do so well that I also love in my Bond movies is the locales. The trilogy uses South America (Amazon Rain forest), the Himalayas, and the deserts of the Arabian peninsula, mixing in fun fabled cities of El Dorado, Shangri-La and Iram of the Pillars, with each game looking beautiful and offering something new. Also like the Bond movies, it has to one up itself each other in craziness. In the second one you are climbing out of falling train, in the third one you are climbing onto a plane during liftoff and fighting while falling in the open air.
Finally, I have to say something about the character development and acting in the series. Again the Legend of Retro podcast said a lot about this, but the actors are terrific and make you feel like you are truly watching a movie in the cut-scenes. You truly get submerged in the relationships you have with Sully, Elena and Chloe. For Uncharted 3, I really like how a backstory was developed in how Sully and Nathan came to be a team.
While I am still catching up on gaming from the last ten years, I’m making the bold personal claim that I would put Uncharted as my favorite gaming franchise besides Mario. For me, it hits all that I want in a game (and pretty much in a movie): action, adventure, a fun plot, battle of good vs evil, a female companion, a little science fiction, and mystery/intrigue. If you have not played these games, or its been awhile since you have, I highly recommend you give them a shot. I will be starting Uncharted 4 in a few weeks, I’m excited to see how that one goes as well.
Be sure to listen to the Legend of Retro podcast every Thursday, where Chops, Craig W.K., Xander, and The Glitch discuss classic/retro video games. You can actually find me on the Last Action Podcast every Monday alongside LPJ as we explore classic and current action movies.