His T-shirt darkens with grime as Nate Drake jumps, ducks and rolls through Uncharted's Indiana Jones-esque adventure of treasure hunting and traipsing on a big old temple-bedecked, fortress-spanned, generally booby-trapped island. His leaping and climbing is handled with greater cunning than Assassin's Creed's rooftop racing. Many of Nate's leaps look barely secure the first time I pull them off, while on other play-throughs, with practice, the same leap is made with ease.
Drake clings to walls, vines and ledges as the camera swings into artful angles that force me to move him all around the joystick's circumference. It's the same trick Mario Galaxy used to add some variety to the 3D platform formula. But where Mario's outing was restlessly inventive, throwing out new examples of flipped-out familiarity to keep the idea seeming fresh, Uncharted grafts on a shooter, clicking into over-the-shoulder targeting mode with a squeeze of one the PS3's shoulder buttons.
The gunfights between Nate and his pirate enemies fall between this year's aim-anywhere-it-don't-matter shooting of BioShock and the artful precision of Halo 3. Fights often morph into hand-to-hand skirmishes that require special button sequences to be executed in synchronization with onscreen punches and kicks. The animation flows smoothly from one style of play to another.
At its best, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is like an old Team Zissou adventure. A breathy Zamphirian pan flute whistles through the soundtrack every time Drake drops down from a ledge, a winking flourish amid the otherwise seamless shift from exploration to action gaming. Pirates sneer "I see him!" and "Right between the eyes!" like animatronics from a Pirates of the Caribbean ride gone bad. Nate drops to the ground and aims to take them out with a pop of his 9mm right between the eyes.
THE GOOD: With the extras included in the wonderful Special Extended DVD Editions of The Lord of the Rings, director Peter Jackson revealed how to make a bunch of "Bonus Features" into a new movie-watching experience. As bonuses that can be unlocked for dedicated players, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune has documentaries highlighting the motion-capturing of videogame cutscenes, as well as gameplay tweaks such as flipping the world left-to-right or shifting the color palette to black-and-white.
THE BAD: Uncharted's over-vivid color palate and theme park style end up making the digital actors look fake, like hyper-powered animatronics. More than a little scary, their eyeballs and wire frame-chiseled jaws move with the automated smoothness of oversimplified programming. With competing action games Ratchet & amp; Clank Future and Heavenly Sword displaying what the PS3 can do with digital animation and motion capturing respectively, Uncharted has a hang-together look.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a long glossy adventure story with a dull avatar and some straight-ahead shooting.