Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Game Review: Uncharted 2

If you're into gaming, chances are you've at least heard people talking about the newest must-have game in the Playstation 3 library, Uncharted 2. Supposedly some of the best graphics ever, people say. Great game play. Revolutionize the industry with a its mix of blockbuster-level cinematics and unusually sharp writing.

Well, we've finally had a chance to play Uncharted 2 and now we can reveal the facts: it's all true.

Building on the legacy of the classic Tomb Raider franchise, Uncharted 2 follows the adventures of treasure hunter Nathan Drake as he tries to unravel some of history's most unusual mysteries in order to find a legendary mystical artifact. It's a tried and true formula in both games and in cinema, from National Treasure to Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. But Uncharted 2 sets itself apart by simply being better than anything that has gone before it.

Okay, maybe not better than the original Indiana Jones film trilogy, but even just watching someone else play the game is a more immersive and compelling experience than anything National Treasure has been able to heave up on the screen. That's mainly because the writing is significantly more engaging than your typical Hollywood blockbuster; while some plot points are a bit obvious (a certain early betrayal is completely unexpected, for instance), the interaction between the characters is believable, which in turns makes even the most outlandish plot points (demon yetis, anyone?) seem believable by extension.

And then there's the graphics. The only way to play this game is on a large, HD television, because anything less would be disrespecting the meticulous work put in by the folks at Naughty Dog. And as you go through the game (which took me about nine hours to complete on normal mode), the graphics, impressive to begin with, only seem to get better and better, with spectacular vistas and realistic weather effects. Some cinematics even approach film-level CGI while, unlike your typical blockbuster film, the fantastically rendered environments are fully interactive.

So what is there to dislike about the game? Well, not much, if anything. The tracking system is a little sluggish (though not as much as in the first game) making some fight sequences a little more difficult than strictly necessary. And... that's it. We haven't had a chance to fully explore the online capabilities, but as far as the central plotline itself, that's about the only downside we were able to come up with. And that's really picking nits.

Grades: The online experience gets an I for incomplete, though it looks good on the surface; we just haven't been able to get the system hooked up to the net yet to try it. Everything else gets an A+ across the board. If you can only play one game in your life, this is the one.

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