The Uncharted Effect

Uncharted-4Written by Chris Guyton

Back in 2007, when the PlayStation 3 was still hot off the presses (as well as astronomically expensive), all eyes were on Sony to see what this new behemoth of a machine was capable of. Expectations were high, as the companies previous foray into the rapidly growing medium had triumphed fiercely over it’s competitors, and even succeeded in burying the Dreamcast and driving Sega to become a third party publisher. Sony was then a force to be reckoned with, but the high price point of the machine was driving people into the arms of Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which also had the advantage of being released a year earlier than the PS3. Microsoft’s Gears of War franchise had gained massive popularity, and was solidifying the Xbox’s reputation for dominating the shooting genre with it’s exclusive titles.

When the time came for the PlayStation 3’s release, Sony offered it’s consumers their own exclusive, Resistance: Fall of Man. While the title was well received by PlayStation brand loyalists and Xbox owners alike, it failed to match the commercial success of it’s competitors product. It wasn’t until a year after the PS3’s debut that Sony was able to close in on it’s rivals and give their fans a brand new series that would carry the system to the top. The gift Sony graciously bestowed upon early adopters of the system was none other than Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

unchartedDeveloper Naughty Dog’s storied reputation for bringing jealousy inducing exclusive content to Sony’s brand of consoles instantly brought attention to the company’s initial PS3 offering. The character of Nathan Drake instantly became a household name after being introduced to the public, and his Indiana Jones-esque adventure was much more than what many gamers expected. Before the Uncharted saga, Naughty Dog was already well-known for creating characters such as the infamous Crash Bandicoot as well as the Jak and Daxter duo. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of hype around their next franchise. Luckily, the visionary designers at Naughty Dog delivered.

Uncharted was not the first game to introduce cinematics and voice acting into the realm of video gaming by a long shot, as games like the classic Metal Gear Solid brought those elements to the forefront of a games design back in the late 90’s. However, the title brought together an undeniably brilliant amalgam of different play styles and genres into one cohesive package that helped developed the story without bogging it down, as well as stunning cut sequences that rival almost any Hollywood film out there. You would run, climb, shoot and even jet ski your way to uncover the secret of El Dorado, and along the way even collect various artifacts, each with cultural and historical significance based on real world objects. It’s very clear from the beginning that the games story and characters were the primary concern to the developer when crafting this game, as opposed to many studios who allow the visual aspects of the game take precedence over the more important qualities of a truly rewarding game experience. That’s not to say that Uncharted was lacking in the department of aesthetics, however. The game clearly takes advantage of the PS3’s then incredibly advanced hardware in terms of character models and attention to detail in the landscapes. The game is downright beautiful, and from the moment you find a fully realized albeit half sunken German U-Boat in the middle of the jungle, you know that this game takes itself seriously.

uboatThat’s not to say that Uncharted didn’t have it’s moments of levity, as the main character of Nathan Drake (voiced by industry veteran Nolan North) definitely fell into the class clown category very quickly. Everyone loves a slightly drole protagonist, and Drakes design (which was allegedly based on a cross between Harrison Ford and Johnny Knoxville) fits that role to a T. Few characters can crack jokes without being tossed completely into the confines of a cartoony atmosphere, but when Nate steps into the role it just feels right.

With two sequels on the mainstay PlayStation 3, the Uncharted series more than exceeded many gamers expectations on what a video game should be. The games incredible level design even had an effect on other game genres, as Team Ninja has said that their latest Dead or Alive game was slightly inspired by Naughty Dog’s triumphant series. Even older action adventure characters such as Lara Croft have gotten an excuse for resurgence, as the upcoming Tomb Raider game clearly draws a lot of parallels with Nathan Drake’s adventures.

uncharted_tomb_raiderWith release dates for Uncharted 4 rumoring to be anywhere between late 2013 to early 2014, it’s undeniable that without the Uncharted franchise, fans of Ms. Croft would have been stuck with subpar sequels to a damn near dying franchise for the next couple of years instead of the seemingly brilliant reboot that Naughty Dog no doubt made possible. We should all give thanks to Sony for delivering an experience that is unmatched as well as giving other developers an excellent template for how to make an awesome game. Because of games like Uncharted, the idea of creating a big budget Hollywood movie based on a video game increasingly becomes more redundant, and the less horrible movies based on our favorite franchises, the better.

One Response to The Uncharted Effect

  1. I’ve not been on Uncharted yet, but I think it’s a rather big claim to say that Tomb Raider 9 was only made possible by the Uncharted series. I mean, I don’t think it exactly took a genius to work out that the “original” Lara was getting a bit long in the tooth, so they decided to replace her with a younger model. But then again, they were doing the same thing with James Bond back in the 1960s. It’s about the character, more than the one person itself.
    Apart from that, well you’ve got the fact that it’s a lot more violent than previous games in the series, but then again so is every game out there these days. Plus there’s things like the side quests, weapon/skill upgrades etc but once again, that just sounds like the sort of thing you would expect from a newer game in general, rather than anything specifically to do with Uncharted.

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