I honestly really didn’t expect it to be so good. I guess it was my natural cynicism that made me suspicious of the hype bandwagon when it came to Uncharted 2. That’s not to say that I wasn’t intrigued. I loved Uncharted 1, it was one of the reasons why I bought a Playstation 3. But I guess I just couldn’t see why its sequel would be quite as good as it actually is. You see Uncharted 2 is unquestionably the best game I’ve played this year and will almost certainly remain in this position despite the likes of Modern Warfare 2 arriving soon.
From the moment the game starts there are goose bumps aplenty. A proclamation from Marco Polo appears on screen: ‘I did not tell half of what I saw for I knew I would not be believed’ and immediately I was hooked. That one sentence immediately suggests that things are going to be rather unbelievable. Not in the silly sense I hasten to add, more in the sense that you’ll be lucky to predict what’s going to happen next. This is amplified perfectly when you’re thrown into turmoil in the first chapter. Our ever indestructible hero Nathan Drake is badly injured and hanging onto the bottom of a train which is hanging perilously dangerously over a cliff edge. Drake’s obviously not having a good day at all. This first chapter actually cleverly conceals the game’s tutorial, a great way of ensuring the player knows exactly what to do while not feeling as if they are being treated like an idiot by the game. It also sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the game, plenty of adventuring but also a great sense of urgency to it.
You see as clichéd as it may sound, many stages of Uncharted 2 really do get your adrenaline pumping. It’s an absolutely horrible cliché which I hate to be resigned to using but, well, it is true in this case! Some of the most memorable moments are the sort of things that really do make you hold your breath until you’ve survived. I’m trying to avoid spoiling too much but with certain chapters centred around surviving against a tank or taking down a helicopter while escaping a collapsing building, this really is high octane action at times (noooo not more clichés!)
The best part for me about such action sequences is that Nathan Drake really isn’t as indestructible as he’d like to be, which is so refreshing to see. Sure he does seem to survive some pretty impressive things but it’s a little like watching John McClane in Die Hard. He wins, but boy does it look hard to do! You’ll grimace when Drake goes smack into the side of a building because a zipline has collapsed, and you’ll wince as he’s punched in the stomach by a cruel enemy. Drake manages to get by but not really in the cool collected manner that the likes of Marcus Fenix would achieve, Drake survives through a bit of luck and mostly his quick wit. He is the type of guy who, upon seeing a tank coming towards him, will exclaim ‘Oh crap’. There’s no hint of arrogance, Drake knows this thing can wipe him out very quickly. It’s great to see a more human character, one that knows his weaknesses. He reminded me of George Stobbart from the Broken Sword games, an extremely likeable character as well as a believable one. One that is flawed and sometimes vulnerable but ultimately this is what makes both Stobbart and Drake such great characters. You can identify with them and their plight so much more than an Arnie style muscle head.
In between the memorable action set pieces there are also many moments where Drake gets to relax a little more and explore his surroundings a bit. One particularly stunning scene, both graphically and emotionally, was exploring a Tibetan village. Simply being able to take the sights in while wandering around was great and truly showed off the graphical prowess of the game. There were a number of other moments like this where it was simply nice to stand on a cliff top and take in the view. There really is no game quite as beautiful as the likes of Uncharted 2 and I struggled to see any graphical glitches. The various puzzles scattered throughout also tend to require a fair amount of thought. They don’t require MENSA type intelligence but they do take a little bit of thinking about and it’s nice to see them break up the action so well.
I’m tempted to go for the hat trick of clichés and say that Uncharted 2 is like a blockbuster movie, it’s very tempting in fact. Certainly when playing it in the same room as my mother (a fairly decent gamer herself) she mentioned on a number of occasions that not only did the music sound very cinematic and mood appropriate, but that she enjoyed just sitting and watching what I was doing. But it’s not really like a movie because in movies, Harrison Ford doesn’t try to make a jump, miss and die then return to a previous checkpoint. Which is a very good thing as the film would quickly become boring. However that’s not to say that Uncharted 2 isn’t very close to being like a film. I felt as emotionally connected to the likes of Drake and Chloe (and some unnamed people for fear of spoiling) as I would some ‘real’ actors in a film, but it would be wrong to say that the game is just like a film. The best way of describing it really is that Uncharted 2 is an extremely entertaining linear experience. Again this sounds like a disservice but that’s down to most people’s interpretation of linear. Linearity in games really isn’t a bad thing at all sometimes. It means, in the case of Uncharted 2, that it can tell a compelling story and focus on its storytelling rather than offering the player a range of options and moral decisions which inevitably dilutes the story in many games. It’s a true credit to the game’s storytelling that when the ending sequence finally finished and the trophy notification popped up to indicate the game was complete, I actually felt like the notification had detracted from the experience of simply sitting there and taking in what had occurred!
Besides the single player mode which must be described with so many superlatives there is a multiplayer segment to Uncharted 2. Something that wasn’t seen before in Uncharted 1 and which I can’t help but feel doesn’t really add a huge deal to the package. I guess it can extend longevity to a certain extent but I found it rather uninspiring and the sort of multiplayer that I might play frequently now, but within a month won’t go near ever again. The nearest comparison to it is Gears of War, albeit sometimes more stealthy providing you’re playing with the right group of people. I have to admit I wasn’t too enamoured and preferred sticking to the single player story. It was nice to see a co-operative mode available however and this is sure to encourage replayability as well as the many unlockables that can be acquired and of course good old trophy hunting. With 100 treasures to collect this will also appeal to those who want to search every nook and cranny, although I would recommend this on a second playthrough so as not to distract from the storyline in the first attempt.
Perhaps strangely considering how much I loved my time with Uncharted 2, I wouldn’t call it revolutionary or the ‘most important game EVAR’ because it’s not. Nor is it the great messiah of video games. It won’t convert non-gamers to the hobby or change anyone’s views on the action adventure genre. I’m certainly not complaining because Uncharted 2 is brilliant but original? Well no frankly. A game made up of strong storytelling and great action sequences have been done before, quite a lot (not that I’m complaining). Uncharted 2 does heavily borrow from some of the greats. The fight scenes are very reminiscent of Gears of War (although less gung ho), the stealth scenes have been done before many times, and the platforming has Tomb Raider written all over it. The thing is Uncharted 2 has taken parts of some of the best games of recent years and combined it into a truly fantastic experience. It may have its minor flaws and niggles but to point them out is simply nitpicking and serves no purpose.
Nothing is perfect in this world but that doesn’t stop games such as Uncharted 2 being brilliant. Currently it really is the best game of the year, bar none.
Hi-Score: Once you start playing, you will be hooked. Fantastic plot and perfectly balanced gameplay.
Lo-Score: Multiplayer feels tacked on
Score – 9.5 out of 10
[Note from Editor – Usually we wouldn’t use .5 on Hi-Score. However in this instance after reading Jennifer’s review, it seems justified to use it. With Uncharted 2 pulling in such huge scores, it’s almost expected to get a 9 or 10. So Jennifer has been as critical as she can to bring you, the reader, an honest and factual review. In this instance Uncharted 2 is so close to “perfection” that it hurts. I myself decided on a different score elsewhere, but I think that using a .5 has given Jenn a freedom in saying that there are still things she would change in order to get that perfect score.]