What happens when you mix one part Gears of War, one part Tomb Raider, and one part Prince of Persia? You get one potentially awesome game. We really want to like Naughty Dog's upcoming PS3 exclusive, Uncharted, but technical issues seriously hindered our enjoyment of the title.
If there's one thing everyone has been talking about with Uncharted, it's the complex animation system. Thousands of animations are blended together in real-time to create a visually complex world that feels alive. Drake responds to his surroundings: you'll see him look at points of interest, struggling to keep his footing, and more. In one heated gunfight, we had him take cover fire and could see the worried look on his face as he breathed heavily The animation system helps make Drake not only a more believable character, but one we can relate to.
Drake is supposed to be a normal guy in an extraordinary situation, and the platforming sequences deliver upon the feeling of overcoming overwhelming obstacles. Drake will have to climb along rocky ledges, or jump from a shaky pillar to the next. Seeing what Drake can interact with the environment is intuitive due to Drake's focus on where he must go next. By observing what Drake wants to do, players will be able to navigate tricky areas with relative ease. Swinging from a rope and jumping to a ledge feels intuitive and empowering. We love the feeling we get when exploring the environment.
We have no qualms about the platforming aspects of the game. However, combat proved to be difficult, due to its rather cumbersome controls, and buggy performance. The game employs a cover system, not unlike that found in Gears of War. For example, Drake can hide behind a wall, peek out and fire a few rounds. Then, he can run forward and take cover behind a rock. However, we found ourselves having a lot of difficulty "sticking" to the appropriate cover, in the direction we wanted to. Gears of War features an elegant control mechanism, where all actions are performed through the context-sensitive A button. Uncharted uses multiple buttons on the controller for the same actions, which is certainly disorienting.
In addition, we found ourselves constantly clipping through walls and other objects. We tried to take cover behind a wall, and as we rolled out, we found ourselves stuck inside a barrel. Then, we had to fight the camera, which had also become fixated on the wall. We were lucky to have somehow escaped before an enemy threw a grenade in our direction.
The camera simply doesn't feel intelligent enough: we were struggling to keep it in check at all times. It's too bad that uncomfortable controls, glitches, and a finicky camera are getting in the way of a potentially excellent game. We were impressed by the enemy AI: they take cover, try to flank you, and perform melee attacks when close.
If any game needs to be delayed, it has to be Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. We're confident that the team at Naughty Dog can make a stellar game, and we doubt they'll rush Uncharted just to make its November release. Considering how many other high-profile games are arriving on PS3 (and other consoles) later this year, we'd love to see Naughty Dog take the time to really iron out the bugs and refine the controls -- if they do, Uncharted can easily be one of the best games on the platform.