(AKA Nathan Fillion and some Temples of Gloom)

Nathan Drake (who shares a first name with Nathan Fillion, but I’ll get to that later) is a direct descendant of Sir Francis Drake. Nathan (Drake, not Fillion) is… oh fuck it, let’s just cut to the chase. Even though Uncharted was released in 2007, and was in development for a lot longer than five minutes, and even though the TV series Castle was first broadcast in 2009; by the spookiest of coincidences, the character of Nathan Drake is very similar to Richard Castle, Nathan Fillion’s character in Castle. They are both intelligent (Castle is a crime novelist who helps solve crimes, Drake can read loads of different languages, so I’m guessing he is also intelligent), they are both handy with a quip when required, they are decent enough with firearms (although Castle is a much better shot), they look pretty similar, and they’re both called Nathan (Nathan Fillion is, his character isn’t, but you get my point by now, so I’ll stop kicking it to death).

This is a fucking good thing. Uncharted takes on the “people in a foreign land stealing something awesome and / or expensive from the natives” film genre, adds a brief twist of horror and a splash of humour, and then throws Tomb Raider and Gears of War into the pot to make one big cheesy casserole. The plot revolves around Nathan Drake finding a clue from Sir Francis Drake’s watery grave as to where El Dorado is. Along the way there’s backstabbing, restless natives, lots of gunfire, a love interest, an old dapper mentor who comes along for the ride, a nasty English bad guy, and exploration of long-lost locales. So far, so Indiana Jones. This is also a fucking good thing.

As I mentioned earlier, playing the game is a mixture of Tomb Raider and Gears of War. The tomb raiding sections are like the game that stars the posh English woman with the pointy chesticles. Controls here are tight, but occasionally jumping from one platform to another can be fiddly. Doesn’t happen often, but it is slightly frustrating when it does. The shooting sections are like the game that stars the soldier that looks like he’s been fed nothing but Xtreme sports TV, steaks, muscle growth hormones and sandpaper gargles since birth. Controls here are as tight as you can get with the Dual Shock’s slightly iffy sticks. Aiming can be a chore partly cos of the Dual Shock’s slightly iffy sticks (they’re almost perfect for aiming a dude around a map in first or third person, but they’re fiddly when it comes to moving a crosshair, in my own personal experience like), but aiming is a problem mostly when, well, aiming. Releasing and then holding the aim button will move your crosshair by a fraction, but more than enough to miss the guy you were previously lining a head shot up for.

But, but, BUT! The two styles of play gel so well together. You’re often making Nathan clamber up the side of cliff, only to make him forward roll towards the nearest cover as some goons start blasting at you. There’s also the odd section where you have to pause mid-jumping-section to take aim and pop caps in fools. The only downside is the fact that the enemies are such cracking good shots. Early on, you’re given enough latitude to leap around and get a better position for cover. By the end of the game, you’re forced to hide behind the first bit of cover you see and rapidly headshot everything in sight before being overwhelmed by snipers in the distance and hair trigger thugs four feet in front of you. It’s always doable, very rarely frustrating, and yet if it only let you run round a bit first, it’d be ideal.

And the main thing the game has going for it, the thing that ties everything together, is Nolan North’s excellent performance as Nathan Drake. In North’s hands, Drake is just a fun guy to be around; like (yeah, I’ll say it again) Nathan Fillion playing Castle as Indiana Jones. He’s cocky, daft and funny. In fact, the whole voice cast does an awesome job. The motion capture is also excellent, apart from one tiny thing that, once you’ve seen it, you can never unsee it. When Drake runs up or down stairs, his legs go mental. How they’ve managed to get him believably leaping up and down cliffs, and yet can’t get him to go near steps without making him waddle like he’s carrying a turd in his kecks, is beyond me.

I love Uncharted. It’s really fucking good. Like, you know, really.

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