Greatest Game of 2009: Uncharted 2

Uncharted 2 isn’t just the best game of 2009, it’s the best game ever released on the PS3 and probably the best of this generation on any console. It’s one of the few sequels that surpassed the original (a good game in its own right) in just about every way. Everything that was great with Uncharted – the characters, the writing, the level design, the music, the action, the graphics – was replicated but in a better, more complete form. It’s a non-stop action thriller that everyone should experience.

No fear of heights for this guy

The Setup

For those that don’t know, Uncharted 2 is basically a cooler, funnier, more modern Indiana Jones with infinitely better directing/writing. You play as Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter with an uncanny (read: overly convenient) knowledge of vague historical facts linked to mysterious and priceless treasures. In the second iteration of the series Drake is on the search for Marco Pollo’s lost fleet and of course, some random myth about treasure and lost locations (the legendary Himalayan valley of Shambhala) and a bad guy trying to beat you to it. All that good stuff that you like to see in a classic adventure story.

Set Apart From the Rest

But the game is more than just a game, it’s damn near a movie and an entertaining one at that. Like the first Uncharted, Uncharted 2 looks amazing graphically. Motion-capture technology allowed all of the character models to look realistic in their movements and mannerisms. What’s better is the setting that the developer puts Drake in over the course of the game – from dark sewers to jungles to white capped mountaintops. All of it captured with stunning cinematography and graphics that are probably still some of the best seen in a game to date. On top of it looking great, the game also sounds great with an amazing score that complements the action on screen. I also loved the light hearted banter between Drake and Elena (Drake’s partner/love interest) and Drake mumbling to himself which provided the occasional chuckle. The voice acting is top notch and equal to any animated movie that has come out.

That’s a lot of detail

The gameplay mechanics were nothing new, although some new weapons and vehicles to drive were added from the first game. Naughty Dog stuck with the basic cover system familiar in Uncharted, but the level design I felt added some “height” so that you could attack a room of bad guys from different angles. A stealth system was also added, but in an action game like this it’s best enjoyed Rambo-style. Drake’s ridiculous skills at defying physics while climbing/jumping from ledge to ledge, gravity be damned, returns, as do the various puzzles that slow the action a hair so that the player can catch a breather. This, of course, doesn’t last for too long, and the developers did a good job spacing out the puzzles.

Easily the best part of the game for me was some pretty innovative action sequences. Two specifically come to mind: The first is a familiar chase scene with a twist – a truck chases Drake TOWARDS the camera, amping up the anxiety of the scene and making your heart beat a little faster in anticipation. It’s short, but full of explosions and chaos. Pretty freakin’ cool.  The second is an entire level with an insanely cool setting – fighting your way through a train as it moves through the jungle.  Again, amazing pace, amazing graphics and just pure fun.

Also new and well recieved were multiplayer and co-op modes. Unfortunately, I never got around to trying much of either since my fellow Stewover editors were too busy playing Xbox (#fail).

I got this

Not All Roses and Sunshine

Ok, so the game is damn near perfect but not quite. Couple of small gripes. First, like all of the Uncharted games, one thing you will do a lot is climb on stuff. Climb, climb, jump, shimmy, climb and then climb some more. Most of the time this is fun and it fits perfectly into the setting Drake gets placed in so that it feels very natural for him to be climbing all over the place. However, a little bit of the game is taken away since every ledge/railing/pipe/etc. Drake climbs is clearly marked, normally in yellow (walls will have a well marked set of bricks to climb on). Sometimes this is necessary as the item to be climbed fits into the scene a little too well, but more often than not it sticks out like a sore thumb so you know exactly where you need to  head next.  Additionally, the climbing from place to place eventually turns into a trial and error system where you might not be 100% sure where to go, but the game doesn’t penalize you much for jumping to your death 500 feet in the air. This is a common complaint that’s been around for all three Uncharted games, so nothing new.

The other minor complaint is the respawn of baddies in a room. Basically if you stay put you’ll end up killing endless waves of bad guys. I’m sure this was intentionally designed so that you couldn’t take cover in one spot, take out everyone in the room, and then proceed safely. The developers wanted to keep the pace up so you are “forced” to advance through the room in order for the respawns to stop. Most of the time this works, but in big battles you sometimes never get a sense of where that line is between seeing a bunch of bad guys as part of a level or repeatedlly killing respawns unnecessarily. Again, a minor gripe that occurs maybe 5% of the battles in the game.

Final Thoughts

So, yeah. Amazing game. One of the best ever. Go buy it. Go buy a PS3 if necessary and play it. Go. Now. Stop reading this! You won’t regret it.

 

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