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Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

Preview: Welcome to the jungle...

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is something a little different for developer Naughty Dog which is famous for its cartoon-style platform adventures Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. Now, things are a little less playful.

But despite the colourful talking animals being swapped out for a man with a gun, Uncharted doesn't stray to far away from Naughty Dog's familiar platform adventure formula. Not, at least, in the level we played.

Going hands-on for the first time with a very early version of the game, we clambered our way through a large section of the jungle environment you'll have seen in previously released screenshots. It's a gorgeous-looking place, absolutely brimming with the most minute details, with trees, vines and endless amounts of other vegetation filling the screen, along with the crumbled ancient ruins in this natural setting.

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Gameplay consists mostly of duck-and-cover shootouts with numerous enemies, broken up by agile climbing challenges as we athletically monkey-climbed our way through the mix of jungle cliffs and ancient temple ruins. It's a sort of vague cross between Gears of War and Tomb Raider, without the chainsaw gun and the giant breasts, of course.

Both gameplay scenarios have been handled well by Naughty Dog. Drake has been made to move with a much silky fluidity as possible at all times, and that shows in the athletic platforming sections as he smoothly clambers over obstacles, gripping onto ledges and pulling himself up. The transitions from one animation to another appear seamless.

And that's just as well because this level gives Drake plenty of climbing to do. The challenge in these sections in often not making the jump but actually working out where you need to go. We found ourselves quite often using the close-up look view to have a gander at the scenery to see where we might be able to climb, jump to and slowly work our way through.

As you look around you'll see a vine leading up to a wall, that may be just about close enough to another wall that you can jump to and run along to the next section of the level - that's the sort of thing you'll be looking for.

This may sound brilliant, but that fact that there really is only one path through the stage means that you're not really plotting your own path through the level, you're just trying to identify the way you're supposed to be going, because it's not always obvious.

There is one neat section of the level that forces you to make the way forward. You're stranded on the edge of a huge waterfall, and there are two goons shooting at you from a car on a ledge above. If you shoot a nearby explosive barrel the explosion blows the car into the air and down into the water, where it wedges between two rocks, creating a makeshift bridge for you.

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As the terrified guys in the car scream and look down at the rushing water, you have to quickly scramble over the car and leap to safety before it becomes dislodged and the men fall to their deaths. It's all very Hollywood, and we expect plenty more pre-scripted action scenes like this in later stages of the game.

When you're not leaping around, you'll be engaged in those duck-and-cover gun fights we mentioned earlier. And the reason why we compared it to Gears of War is because of the stark similarities to how Drake takes cover.

You run up to a wall and tap a button to lock Drake into a 'take cover' mode, at which point he presses his back against the wall. Then you strategically duck in and out of cover to let off a few rounds before getting your head down again to avoid the return fire.

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