Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is not a game about new ideas. The gameplay can and has been summed up as "Tomb Raider meets Gears of War," and the story plays almost like an unfilmed National Treasure script, which is another way of saying that the Indiana Jones influence on the story is palpable. Keep in mind that "derivative" isn't the same as "bad." Developer Naughty Dog has assembled its borrowed parts with great proficiency to create an action adventure game with momentum, one that is filled with exciting set pieces, a real cinematic scope, and some of the most gorgeous visuals you'll see in a game.
And this is just the beginning.
That Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a game that trades in archetypes is apparent throughout the story. You'll play as Nathan Drake, an independent adventurer with a wry sense of humor who claims to be a descendent of Sir Francis Drake. That fact figures prominently in the narrative as you go hunting for an ancient relic believed to be hidden somewhere on an uncharted tropical island. The supporting cast includes your friend Sully, who's a cigar-chomping, affable cad with a taste for trouble, and Elena, a confident TV reporter who splits her time between being your sidekick and your damsel in distress. There are villains as well, including Nathan's dry British counterpart as well as a belligerent pirate captain, though you'll likely find their minions far more threatening. The game attempts to add some twists and turns to the plot, but they never really pan out. Nevertheless, the story generally moves with efficiency, as well as some occasionally snappy dialog.
Even if what's happening during the in-engine cutscenes isn't significant, it always looks great. Much of the game takes place in dense jungle environments and a variety of ancient ruins, which the game renders with a nearly photorealistic level of detail. Plants sway, water trickles, and the textures really look like they've got texture. There are a few moments when the game goes outside its wheelhouse with some murky industrial environments that look flat and drab by comparison, but these sequences are rare.
Nathan himself isn't a particularly flashy-looking character in his dirty gray shirt and jeans, but the subtlety of his animation conveys more about him than any outfit would. He'll do a stumbled half-step when traversing uneven terrain, and you'll see him wince when a bullet gets too close to comfort during a firefight. Likewise, his arms will flail spastically during a big jump, and afterward he'll dangle precariously by one hand on the edge he was aiming for. When he gets into a fistfight, half the time it's surprising he makes it out alive. Even when he's performing seemingly impossible acrobatic tasks with ease, the quality of the animation gives him a real sense of fallibility. There's also some terrific facial animation, of which you'll see plenty during cutscenes, though you'll catch glimpses of it during gameplay as well. When a grenade lands near Nathan's feet, you can see the fear in his eyes. The technical feats required to produce what you see on the screen in Uncharted boggle the mind, and the end results make it hard to look away.
The same terrific attention to detail in the graphics is paid to the way Uncharted sounds. The dynamic score is appropriately big and sweeping, the weapon fire has a real clap to it, and the voice cast really nails its characterizations. There are plenty of little touches that fill things out nicely as well, such as the way you'll hear Nathan mutter to himself as he tries to calm his own nerves, or the muffled ring you'll hear everything filtered through when an explosive goes off nearby.