Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

Drake's Fortune: Uncharted is the poster child for the next-gen blockbuster. It combines proven game mechanics from respected hits and ties the package together with cinematic storytelling and state-of-the-art visuals. The game's biggest cribs are the stop-and-pop gunplay of Gears Of War and the acrobatic exploration and puzzle-solving of Tomb Raider and Shadow Of The Colossus. The game riffs on both themes admirably—the action is a compelling string of firefights and balancing acts.

Problem is, when it comes to movie-style storytelling, Uncharted is more Sahara than Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Nathan Drake is a much better murderer than a fortune hunter. The guy rarely discovers anything. Every new ruin or vault he stumbles upon is already crawling with thugs who beat him to the punch, so he simply shoots them all, snatches whatever trinkets they left behind, and follows the breadcrumbs to the scene of his next mass murder. The guy is saddled with a pair of worthless sidekicks whose sole purpose is to drive the action: Elena Fischer is a reporter with no crew and a camera that wouldn't pass muster on Current TV. In spite of a cursory attempt to paint her as a dame with chutzpah, she rarely serves as more than a damsel in distress. Nate's dirty buddy Victor Sullivan fares a little better. The gruff, stogie-puffing mensch provides a satisfying mid-plot twist—the only moment that the game manages to pull its chin above straight-to-cable narrative.

Beyond the game: Real-life treasure hunters like Mel Fisher don't rack up this kind of body count. A more accurate game would be a business sim that forces players to keep a business afloat for 20 years before they hit their motherlode.

Worth playing for: There isn't a prettier game out there. Stunning tropical vistas and decrepit Spanish ruins are rendered in loving detail. When the lush foliage sways, you can almost feel the breeze.

Frustration sets in when: Roots, rocks, and waterfalls look great, but as soon as the camera focuses on a face, the whole illusion is lost. If the characters weren't written so woodenly, it would be a bit easier to overlook their rubber faces.

Final judgment: A shiny, hollow bauble.

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