Monday, 15 February 2010

Uncharted 2

A game that is another example of the fact that if you aren't into gaming, you are seriously missing out.

Okay, so, this game might be a couple of months old now but I only just got it off my mate Si last week and had to complete it before Bioshock 2 came out so he could exchange it. True story. But my word, what a game!
I, like many others, was already hooked on the first Uncharted. There are only a handful of games that really make you stand up and go "Fuck me. This is brilliant. Actually fuck me!" This sequel takes everything about the first one and builds on it's successful formula. A bit of history, a bit of the supernatural, a beautiful landscape and an incredible story with engaging characters.
For those who aren't already in the know, the Uncharted series uses actual actors to act out the scenes and has developed facial recognition software (much like Cameron's "Avatar") in a way never seen before in games. Not since Uncharted had characters moved, looked, expressed themselves and acted so naturally. The graphics are incredible, luscious and amazing to look at. Perhaps the best seen on a console so far. It's voice acting is also incredible; in a way it is almost the future of acting itself. If you're a great actor but just don't have the face to be a leading man, then you can be made up to look just like one. Much like Drake is.
His character is what I LOVE about action films, he gets absolutely beaten about, he's charismatic, genuinely funny, truly wants to do the right thing and with impossible chances of surviving, he leaps in headfirst anyway. His character has a some kind of learning experience, in that he realises the true meaning of love and recognises that, despite his faults, he is a good person . But apart from that bit of slush, the action is relentless.
Without ruining a story full of twists and turns, your main goal is to stop the evil madman from getting to Shangri-La, but it's not until the end you find out why it's so important he must be stopped. From the very first moment you turn on the game where you're hanging off a train about to go over a cliff, to fighting helicopters, climbing mountains, running over crumbling bridges and more - you know you won't be in for an easy ride.
The entire franchise has bits out of Indiana Jones, Romancing The Stone etc. but in a way that is much, much better. Yes, I said it was BETTER than ANY Indiana Jones film. In fact, it's better than pretty much 99% of action films. It's hard to describe this to anyone who doesn't really like gaming. When I'm in work talking about it, people - like a certain Mrs Delbridge (I don't work in a school) - will laugh away with quite a chortle at how childish it all is. But I let them laugh. Because as all us 'gamers' know, we have the last laugh. As much as we try to get non-gamers to 'see the light' - we don't really want them to be part of it. We don't want to force them because you want it to be your thing, something that not everyone is part of. Like you have a secret. Even though, especially in the last 5 or so years with the certain next-gen console releases, people keep saying how successful 'video games' are (we don't actually call them video games here - it's a term we feel we have to use so that people who don't understand, will understand), the masses on their high horses just won't accept it. There's some kind of geeky stigma about it, well documented by people like Charlie Brooker.
When we put that controller in your hand and say 'have a go' - we're actually opening up quite a bit, letting you into some sort of mass 'Fight Club' and if you're not going to do it properly, then we'd rather you don't get into the club. In fact, it's like offering someone a doorway into another world of interactivity that they can never experience again. We're not talking MMO's and all that bollocks. Sure there's a time and a place for that, but you can actually get COOL games. But what the main point is, is that maybe we have been gaming since we were kids but the only reason we're any good at games and you might not be - is because we didn't quit. You're not a quitter right? You can't work out what millions of children can? Okay then. Hand me the controller back or fuck off because one thing is for sure - it's the future.
Okay, so Uncharted 2 isn't going to start a revolution, but it's definitely part of one. It combines the best thing about all these popular types of medium and puts YOU in the driving seat. I'm a big fan of films (as you can probably see) but games transcend films and will start to absorb the medium until in the end, people will rather play games than watch films. It is in essence a 12 hour film (average these days) that allows you enough breathing space to evolve characters, play different set pieces and constantly be entertained. There's enough good games out now that you won't be wasting your time with fluff. Recently, if you're game isn't of the highest quality, it will be shelved rather quickly which cuts out the fat - something Hollywood will never be able to do. It also is more of an investment, you get a lot more bang for your buck. But I am going off on a total tangent here and so will hark back to Uncharted. But let me put it this way, I hate having to explain myself for why I like to be a gamer. There's a reason why games like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty etc. beat Hollywood films by huge margins (yes even "Avatar" - which in 2D looks JUST like a computer game anyway), and if you can't figure it out. Well, fuck off.
UNCHARTED 2! So ... the story is great - I'm not sure if it beats the story of the first game which I did love. But it does surpass it in every other area. The characters are so well-rounded and clearly important to the producers that it pays off hugely. It has raised the standard of game acting set by the first Uncharted (but could be beaten perhaps by Heavy Rain in the next couple of weeks?) and the control system is smooth, rarely without glitches. Though the odd hugging of a wall for cover can prove annoying when you're on the wrong side getting shot at.
I also don't like the way all the enemies, though there are different ones, essentially take 1 of about 5 or 6 different forms. It feels like they are all brothers or something. The puzzles are complex enough to have you guessing, but simple enough that you won't be stressing too much, you even get a hint if you're taking too long. The hanging off cliffs and finding your way round obstacles plays so fluidly and easily that when you do get to where you're going, you do feel truly satisfied for having figured it out. The game engine also blends into the cut scenes seamlessly and looks incredible - any game that can do that deserves respect.
So gameplay 'check', characters 'check', graphics 'check', story 'check' - it all falls into place. So what's missing? To be honest, not much. It was an adequate length full of different scenarios that would make any action film pale in comparison. The camera-work (yes there is such a thing) was very inventive - at one point it seems like you're looking at Drake from behind a boulder on the other side of a mountain, until it moves and you see it's some form of creature. Whoa!
Everything about this game is nigh-on-perfect. The only criticism might be is that it's greatest achievement is also it's greatest downfall. It feels like it wants to be a film so badly sometimes that you'd rather it keep to being a game as it also picks up flaws of most action films. The twist in the beginning is rather obvious, it feels like it jumps around the globe somewhat for the sake of it and there's even the big bad bald guy with scars, the hot femme fatale etc. and it plays into a box sometimes a bit too much. Also, where the hell is Sully through most of this?!
There is also the multiplayer, which is ... okay. It's not exactly going to see off COD or anything but it does work in some weird way. It's something to work on at least for the next one. There's also not much replay value unless you want to get ALL the artifacts. Which is a bit obsessive.
So overall, if you don't have a PS3 you should get one, even if it's just for this it'll be worth it. It is an experience you won't get from any film, book or TV show. It got IGN's game of the year last year (a very high accolade) because it's sheer innovation and blatant love for the game from it's producers make it an enjoyable experience for one and all. Except for those who don't want to try something new. Idiots.

Rating: 9/10

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