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Uncharted 2 breaks new boundaries

by admin October 27, 2009

The first Uncharted was well received critically and commercially; it has sold over 2.5 million copies to date (it was released in 2007) and by many accounts still sports some of the most impressive graphics of all the next gen-games. Personally, the game didn’t attract me, as Nathan Drake, the protagonist, is basically a male version of Lara Croft, and frankly, I’d had my fill of her and platforming treasure hunting. However, being the bandwagon nerd that I am, I climbed aboard the Uncharted 2 hype-train around its debut at E3 2009 and have been following the press on it somewhat obsessively.
The game made waves for one reason alone: graphics. This, to me, proves how shallow I, and the whole gaming world, is (at least the gaming world that’s worth a damn as a market). But that’s nothing new, the gaming industry is driven by constant graphical updates. Uncharted 2 has sold much better than its predecessor thus far; 850,000 in the first week, which makes it the second fastest selling PS3 exclusive to date. The game has had an immensely positive reception commercially and critically, with over 40 perfect scores and an average of 96 on metacritic.
I purchased the game just a few days ago and having beaten it on hard, I’m pleased to say that it looks, plays, and sounds fantastic. The graphics are at times merely better than most other games of the same genre, but when the lighting effects and draw distance are really working, the game looks incredible. Uncharted 2 takes you on a vibrant tour through much of Nepal, the Himalayas and Borneo, letting you experience urban, jungle, snow and underground (sewers and caves) environments, which, in addition to being a great variety just to keep things interesting, all do a good job of demonstrating the versatility of Naughty Dog’s graphic engine.

The game definitely has beauty, but what about substance? The game plays like a movie &- in a good way. For once, you don’t have to be embarrassed playing a video game in front of your friends. The lines are actually pretty funny and well acted. There are also assorted exchanges that occur during gameplay that do a great job of making you look at the characters on screen like you’ve never done before in a video game. Anything that sounds too cliché, or just ridiculous, is usually followed by a subtle eye-roll or comment by the protagonist Nathan, that pulls the game back from the ever-present danger of taking itself too seriously.
The shooting, climbing, and sneaking mesh well together despite a few hicucps which I refer to as “magnets” &- the game basically making your character stick to certain objects it thinks you want to stick to, grab, or stand on – usually coming together smoothly to create a unique experience. Often times it’s just a shooter-game; but this it does fine. And along with the sounds and visuals, the hecticness of battle is well communicated, and gets the adrenaline pumping.
My only gripes with the game are these: it’s linear, and you will hear this again and again in other reviews. You never need to worry about where to go, if you find a path, you take it, there is no danger of missing anything more than the odd “treasure” which gives you cash to buy costumes. What irks me about it is that I have gaming instincts that tell me to look around every corner and explore every path, you can’t do that in Uncharted 2. So you really have to start treating the game as an interactive movie that in many ways takes you by the hand for the duration of your playtime. The plus side, however, to linearity is that the talent doesn’t get spread too thin in terms of story and environments like it does in sand-box games. The story is well done, clichéd as it is, and the game is brilliantly polished. Everything about the game gets better as you go on, partly due to getting used to the controls. Hectic gunfights with a climbing and cover system give you more than a few options to consider when you want to run, fight, or hide; but you have to be ready to push the right buttons, which took me a while to be able to do.
I haven’t even touched the multiplayer yet, but Naughty Dog have put in a great deal of effort to make it as high quality a production as the single player campaign; co-op, deathmatch, capture the flag, survival and a mix-up of objective based games are available online. I’m really looking forward to playing through on co-op (though it is a slightly modified campaign to allow for three-person play at all times) and team deathmatch, which promises to afford the quality shooting and climbing engine with the freedom that is withheld for the sake of story and pacing in the single player campaign.

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