The word “Unearthed” is about two letter switches away from the word “Uncharted” and, indeed, it seems that this game is trying to emulate the success of Nathan Drake’s big, blockbuster adventures. The set-up is very much the same: an avid fortune hunter – Faris Jawad – follows the footsteps of the Muslim explorer Ibn Battuta through uncharted and mysterious locations, with his female companion, Dania, for company.
It’s a bit like a budget Uncharted then, developed by Saudi Arabian studio Semaphore. It does, however, try to one up Uncharted in certain ways. For example, titular explorer Battuta is touted as having travelled three times as much as Marco Polo, which is a very impressive feat.
It’s just a shame, then, that the budget appears to have been about fifty three pence (that’s 3 Saudi Arabia Riyals), a bit of string and a packet of M&Ms. Sadly, this game is about as far as you can get from Naughty Dog’s masterpieces in terms of quality.
Let’s kick this off by saying that there’s absolutely nothing impressive about Unearthed at all. I wish there was so I could have something nice for the “Whats Good” section at the bottom, but there really isn’t. It’s a poorly developed, not at all realised third person shooter with platforming and adventuring elements that feels more like a pre-alpha prototype than anything I’ve played before. It’s so bad that it’s hard to tell how it ever managed to get published.
Out today on PSN
Semaphore’s first title
Also available on PC, Mac, iOS and Android
In fact, it’s so bad that my notes for this review read like a list of things you’d want to completely avoid when developing a game. It’s plagued by bad graphics, clunky controls, long load times, bugs, poor signposting, bad writing, disjointed animations and nearly everything else you wouldn’t like to see in a game.
For starters, the story just doesn’t work – it feels like a bunch of random sequences loosely tied together, with new villains popping up out of nowhere and pointless plot threads throughout. The cringe-worthy dialogue exchanges and extremely wooden performances really don’t help the situation, either. The only thing that does work is the back story – the historical facts – although this entails a sequence in which you walk for about ten minutes listening to a man drone on about Battuta.
Mechanically, it’s completely flawed. The amount of damage you take seems to be random at times, and the forced hand-to-hand combat sequences flow as well as a blocked artery, attempting to emulate Tekken but ending up with poor collision detection, clipping and unresponsive moves. The clunky, cumbersome controls will cause many mistakes and an extremely unhealthy dose of frustration.
Long load times, poor check pointing, constant crashing and extremely misjudged signposting also crop up, all of which make you wish you had never wasted the the electricity or bandwidth it takes to download the surprisingly hefty 4GB file.
There are about two hours of inherently broken gameplay here: the clunky controls are one thing but the core gameplay is probably the least enjoyable thing I’ve ever played. There’s one section in the middle of the game which redeems it somewhat, but still fails to ever reach anything above “quite rubbish”.
The real crux of Unearthed is the way it actually gives you a headache if you play it for too long. Due to the disjointed animations, jittery camera, poorly textured environment and framerate drops it made me dizzy a few times – something no other game has achieved. And it does this while looking like a PS1/PS2 hybrid game – textures are often blurry stains while animations are almost entirely incohesive.
As for the sound design, there’s a fleeting sense that it might actually be good when the title track starts up, but other than that it’s very disappointing, with no use of loops to mask cuts in background sounds and the aforementioned wooden voice acting.
It’s all just laughably bad, so much so that there were a few times I couldn’t help but explode with laughter at how terrible the animations, gameplay or everything else was. Even the best part, survival mode, which is unlocked post completion and offers waves of zombies, mummies or tribesmen, is still shoddily underdeveloped.
- You’ll get a good laugh at it, though not with it.
- Almost everything.
- Feels like a one month prototype rather than a two or three year final release.
- Ticks the opposite of the boxes it needed to.
- Gameplay is completely flawed.
- It’s so badly developed that it induces headaches.
- Episode 2 might actually happen.
Here’s the deal: Uncharted feels like a world to explore – most games do – but Unearthed feels like a box. There’s no way this could ever be a good game – there’s nothing about it that will impress you unless you’ve never seen a game before. Gameplay, visuals and the plot are entirely flawed; it’s even worse than that Doctor Who game last year – at least that had some decent characters.
Let’s keep this one buried.