Uncharted might just be the greatest video game series of all time. I realize that I am quite late to the party on this one, but I figure if I was, then there surely must be others out there that have yet to experience Drake in all his glory. For those that ride the same slow-moving train that I do, the Uncharted games are about a treasure hunter named Nathan Drake. It’s just that simple. Part of the brilliance of these two games (soon to be three) is that they really are nothing new.
Back in the mid to late nineties, we were introduced to a buxom brunette named Lara Croft, in a series that started out as one of the hottest platformers ever: Tomb Raider. For those of you too young to have experienced the Tomb Raider games when they first came out, let me tell you, they were nothing short of fantastic. Tomb Raider games started off as high-paced, action-packed fun, with a great storyline. Then someone decided to make a movie, and the rest is history.
Uncharted, and the fantastic folks at Naughty Dog, however, have succeeded (thus far) where Eidos failed, and seem to be on a path to supreme greatness, in my opinion. Which begs the question, where did the makers of Tomb Raider fail? Obviously this is left solely to opinion, and I am prepared to share mine with you, because this is the internet and that’s what you do. Tomb Raider, in short, was killed by sex and money.
Too many video game franchises start off strong, only to be killed when creators “sell out” or are pushed into “selling out” by sacrificing original ideas and stories for pretty graphics that add sexuality. I’m sure if you think about it, you can name quite a few series that have done just that. It may not always be Lara’s jiggling chest, but it is usually something just as trivial and demeaning. After the first couple of Tomb Raider titles, I can honestly say that I was still enjoying the games as much as I had the first time that I played. Sure, there was repetitiveness in the actual game play (see ledge, jump to ledge, shoot rabid dogs, get on snowmobile, explosion, repeat), but it didn’t matter because, simply, they were just fun.
Once Angelina Jolie reprised the role of Lara Croft, the character lost its magic. Lara wasn’t just a hardcore, treasure hunting, orphaned chick anymore; she had been personified. For me, so much about video games, comic books, and all variety of other geekery that I love is using my imagination. When you toss someone in to play a character that I have always imagined a certain way, you kill that for me. That’s why I hate comic book and video game movies. I can honestly say that, until Angelina Jolie became Lara Croft, I thought of her more as hardcore than a hottie. But Aaron, can’t she be both? Not when you are a pubescent teenager — sorry, it’s just the truth. I don’t want to be turned on the whole time I am playing video games.
To be fair, the demise of Tomb Raider had nothing to do with Angelina Jolie’s body; however, what she represented to a struggling game manufacturer did. Angelina represented money over quality control. She allowed for marketing on a whole new level and introduced an entirely different crowd to a relatively small time game. That is what killed Tomb Raider: greed. After that movie, it became all about churning out money makers, not quality games.
Naughty Dog tapped in to what made those first Tomb Raider games so great and combined it with next-gen graphics, great controls, fantastic voice acting, and a story that is unbelievable enough to stay a video game, but not so much that it isn’t fun. Think of Indiana Jones, the video game. Nathan Drake is witty, tough, clever, and a ladies’ man, while keeping that fallible charm like Indy that forces a player to stay on their toes. I cranked through both Uncharted games in about two weeks, back when I spent more time on the couch. Uncharted 2 even boasted a multiplayer that I dabbled with for a short while. So for those looking for re-playability, there is that to consider. I am pretty excited for Uncharted 3, and am convinced that the franchise is here to stay.
Let’s just hope they don’t go and make a movie….
…wait, what? What’s that about Mark Wahlberg?