Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

FACT: Joss Whedon is currently reimagining Indiana Jones, starring Nathan Fillion in the starring role!

No, not really. But if there was a movie with the above concept, then Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune would be the videogame adaptation of that movie.

Circuitious introduction aside, when I first saw previews of Uncharted, I blew it off as a Tomb Raider clone with a male protagonist. Granted, the previews were all based on a very early build of the title that even Naughty Dog (the developers) admit was shown too early. I lost interest and it fell off my radar, as many games do.

I didn’t think about it again until the demo showed up on the PSN Store on the PS3.

I watched the first cutscene and I was hooked. After playing it, I was sold. In fact, I went out and bought it on release day.

The demo sold me because it started with a cutscene that showed plot development and characterization. Showcased in the first cutscene is witty dialogue, great voice acting, and most importantly, a likeable main character that I immediately wanted to root for. Not to mention detailed backgrounds and stellar animation.

I found it odd that I immediately understood the character from such a short cutscene, and it impressed me that they were able to convey so much in so little time. Then I got it.

Nathan Drake’s character in Uncharted is Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly. The voice actor sounds like him, the facial models, the bits of dialogue, even the animations have Nathan Fillion’s characterization of Malcolm Reynolds down. If I get a chance to ask the Naughty Dog crew whether or not that’s true, I’m betting that it would be an unequivocal, “Yes.”

If not, “Yes,” then I would expect a curt, “No comment,” followed immediately with, “Firefly and Serenity were SO. AWESOME.”


My take: It doesn’t hurt that the main character resembles a certain captain of a certain space western television series that got canceled way before its time.

Back to the demo.  Instead of being something to whet my appetite for the real game, the demo served as as the cold opener for a movie that I didn’t even know I wanted.

The demo did eventually serve its purpose, I went out and bought the game after all.  I do have to point out that it was only after the storyline’s context and characters had been established.  Their construction of the demo shows that Naughty Dog puts dialogue and characterization first, then showing off technical gameplay elements.  The order of emphasis is critical here, because it shows that they know something that many other developers forget:

Their game will stand out because of its focus on storyline.

Not because of its gameplay or amazing water effects or fluid animation or really big explosions. Those help, but a lot of other games have those. What Uncharted has is a story that drew me in and characters that made me want to see what happened to them next. There are very few games that have those elements.

Great story, characters, and voice acting all combined with a really fun game made Uncharted one of the most compelling (and fun) video game experiences that I’ve had in a long time.

I’m looking forward to the sequel.

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