Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few months, you know that Uncharted 2 is the Playstation 3’s big great piece of hype, lying in wait to strike at just the right moment this holiday season. You also might know that the game is the object of a ridiculous amount of affection as gamers and reviewers alike swoon over its pixelated action. So, how does the game actually stack up? Let’s find out.
The premise of Uncharted 2 is fairly simple at the start. For the uninitiated, you play as Nathan Drake, explorer and treasure hunter extraordinaire, part Mal Reynolds from Firefly and part Indiana Jones. Sporting some good looks, a dirty old man partner named Sully and a half-tucked shirt, Drake is known for his luck, bravado and penchant for trouble. All of this adds up to a satisfyingly entertaining main character, something that many games seem to lack. And his supporting cast is just as interesting and funny to boot.
The first Uncharted had Drake, Sully and reporter Elena seeking after Sir Francis Drake’s hidden fortune at El Dorado. The premise of this game has Drake hopping off on a similarly grand quest, hunting for Shangri-La and the Cintamani Stone, a huge priceless sapphire and, some would say, an object of ultimate power.
It’s not very often that I would spend so long recapping a game’s plot and characters in a review, and that’s for one simple reason- most games bypass these particular facets of storytelling and jump straight into the gameplay. We’ve had several discussions on this very blog about story in gaming, and Uncharted 2 just about blows every other example of video game storytelling out of the water. Seriously. Within the first few hours of the game, you are rooting for the main character and in one defining scene, understand what he’s doing and what he wants to accomplish. Most movies don’t even know how to pull that off well.
The story and the pacing of this title are remarkable. It truly is the most cinematic game I’ve ever played. The camera swings around you and throws you into ridiculous cinematic situations, without ever making you feel that you are being taken out of the action. There were several times that my wife remarked while watching me play, being chased by a tank with explosions ripping all around me, buildings crumbling, that she had never seen any other game like this.
And it’s true, because it doesn’t exist. Uncharted 2 is filled with awe-inspiring, jaw dropping moments, such as the helicopter chase sequence that many of us were baffled by at E3. The narrative itself plays out much like an Indiana Jones movie as well, throwing the player against insurmountable odds, crazy turns, rollercoaster action and ultimately a supernatural twist towards the end. And nearly every minute of it was exciting.
All the raving about the presentation aside, I’m sure you’re wondering how the game plays. Well have no fear, because the gameplay itself is tight and polished as anything I’ve played in recent years. Those of you who played the first game know that the shooting needed some work, and there were stretches of maddening and infuriating gameplay that required you to do things like jet ski and fight waves of seemingly invincible shirtless commandos. Those things are gone, and completely reworked for the sequel. The gunplay is a blast, and the cover system works about as good as a game like Gears of War, even. Fighting enemies doesn’t ever get old. While I was frustrated a few times with some hard sections, the game manages to checkpoint really well and doesn’t punish you too bad.
Likewise, the platforming sections are just as fun as the original, and in my mind, that’s where the game really shines. What Naughty Dog has successfully done is meshed platforming and shooting, and even combines the elements in a few sequences. You control Drake through rocky terrain, scaling walls and shooting bad guys, and it never feels too difficult. In fact, one sequence has you climbing the side of a train as it rockets through a mountain pass, all the while taking on a private and very-well equipped army, and it is seriously one of the coolest bits of any game I’ve played.
What’s nuts about all this love I’ve dished out is that I haven’t even gotten to touch on the graphics, which are incredible. I don’t know if I’ve played a game that looks as good as Uncharted 2. I really am afraid that it’s going to spoil me for the rest of the generation, but I hope that I’m wrong. If you don’t play this on an HDTV, please find a way to do so. It’ll be worth it.
I posted the other day that most videogames give me a sense of accomplishment when I beat them. On the flip side of that, movies and books usually leave me feeling sad that the run ride with the characters is over. And that’s exactly what Uncharted 2 did to me, which is a testament in my mind of how powerfully this story is told. There’s really not a whole lot else to say about the game, other than you need to experience it for yourself. It’s instantly rocketed its way to game of the year for me, if not the top of this generation.
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