And because the game has had such an amazing level of detail lavished on every single scene, when things calm down and you're creeping through the bowels of deserted old monasteries, or flooded, once-proud towns, the sheer atmosphere that the game evokes is immense. Sometimes I like to refer to gaming tourism, where just walking through the game feels like fun unto itself - and this is definitely a game that does that.
In its full 1080p glory, I can safely say most people will be absolutely blown away by the craft that has gone into making the world come alive. The dusty, crumbling ruins, the dense, tropical forests, and even the water effects - they're above and beyond anything committed to a gaming canvas to date. Yes, at the end of the day it's just eye candy, but what eye candy! Isn't this one of the reasons we look forward to new technology? To reiterate, when you factor in immensely fluid animation, superb controls, a flawless, ever-helpful camera system, decent enemy AI and an engaging non-cringeworthy storyline, the fact that there's also a visual feast on show is something to celebrate.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Drake
And to top it all, even the audio's worthy of serious acclaim. Scored by non other than Greg Edmondson (of Firefly fame), the orchestral backdrop provides a suitably bombastic yet timeless accompaniment that's dictated by the ebb and flow of the action, never dominating proceedings, and always on hand to provide an appropriate palette that truly adds to an already dramatically involving game. Like a good film, you don't necessarily notice it when you're immersed, but in a sense that's one of the reasons you're drawn into it. It sets the tone for the action and, again, Naughty Dog's game has really benefited from this slavish attention to detail.
Same deal for the voice acting and commitment to making the characters warm humoured and sympathetic, rather than cheesy action caricatures which blight so many big-budget videogames. The decision to go for the classic action hero approach has really paid off, and if Naughty Dog was ever hired to do an Indiana Jones game, you can bet it'd be absolutely spot-on.
Many observers will correctly report that Uncharted hasn't got the longest single-player campaign in history, but part of the reason it took only eight hours for me to finish wasn't just the fact that it wasn't enormously difficulty, but that it's one of the few games I've played in recent times that doesn't choose to pad out the game in stupid and unnecessary ways - and if you're stuck, the game actively tries to help you move on. With such a commitment to keeping the game fun, you'll probably finish it, then go back and try and crack some of the game's many achievements, and seek out those treasures you missed.
Again, like Ico or Gears or War, I'd argue that it's actually the perfect length for a game of this type - just long enough to feel like you've got your money's worth, but short enough to make you want to play it again, maybe on a harder level (for the record, there is an extra unlockable level of difficulty if you fancy a challenge).
The fact that Uncharted: Drake's Fortune has ended up so good has come as a real surprise, given that there was never any real 'buzz' around it leading up to its release. But, thinking about it, when has Naughty Dog ever let us down? Given a fresh platform and a new lease of life with a radically different style of game, it has carefully pieced together the best bits of all your favourite action adventures and come up with a fundamentally focused offering that's easily as good, if not better than any of them.
By focusing on keeping things fun at all times, it might not be considered the most expansive or ambitious game out there. It doesn't have a free-form openworld, but this is proof - if it were needed - that making a linear action game is nothing to be sneered at. By starting with a great control and camera system, building on that with excellent combat and a wonderful spin on Ico's platform adventuring, and then topping it off with a decent storyline, Naughty Dog has cooked up one of the most relentlessly entertaining, fat-free games to emerge in ages. Topped off with the most stunning use of the PS3's underused technical prowess yet, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is, for my money, the first must-have PlayStation 3 title.