Okay, okay, I’m behind on this one too. Look, I’ve got a lot of games to play. Some slip past. It happens. I’m only human, right? Thankfully there’s a jolly old elf who comes by my house every December in an attempt to rectify the fact that I miss a lot of games most people grabbed on Day Zero. Heck, I never even played the original Uncharted. That, however, is a failure I intend to correct, if its quality is anything close to that of its sequel.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has gotten what some people might describe as a “modest” amount of positive coverage since its release, assuming “modest” means 25 perfect review scores, four-at-last-count Game of the Year awards, and the usual blistering video review from Yahtzee.
Yahtzee (rightly) accused Uncharted 2 of being same-y, which is to say it’s basically a mishmash of Tomb Raider, Indiana Jones, and Gears of War. What he failed to make clear is why any game that takes the very best of each of those things and throws away everything else is to be faulted. Uncharted 2 has the liquid platforming and puzzle solving of the good Tomb Raiders, the hilarity and character of the (first and only good) Indiana Jones, and… well, cover and shooting like Gears of War which was an awesome game so there’s little need to throw out bad stuff. The engine looks simply breathtaking, the controls are tight and effortless, and it’s extraordinarily pleasant to play such a cheerful game, no matter how unoriginal its concept might be.
I read recently that developer Naughty Dog spent 40 days in the mocap studio shooting Uncharted 2, and that unlike most games, the mocap actors and the voice actors were one and the same. In fact, I understand that the actors delivered their lines right there in their pingpong suits, and damn if it doesn’t show. What would be a good story is made great by the naturalism of acting and delivery that can’t be accomplished when one person provides a voice and another a body, often months and miles apart. Moreover, seeing actor Nolan North as protag Nathan Drake gives me a greater appreciation for his talent. He was good in Prince of Persia, sure, but not as good as he is here. North is in, like, every videogame ever made, so he’s had to suffer through some painfully bad scripts. You can tell that he appreciates the opportunity to play Drake, especially given that the script in Uncharted 2 is two things I rarely expect in games: very well-written, and damned funny. To be honest I didn’t realize that the Uncharted series was essentially an adventure comedy (I thought it was more serious), and it works.
According to the save-game status meter, I am 12% into Uncharted 2, having just blown up Borneo, and I’m trying to take it slow in order to relish the experience. Swapping between it and Modern Warfare 2 has led to some… odd dreams, but having such an embarrassment of riches to enjoy is quite a lovely thing.
PS3s are moving off shelves a little more quickly these days thanks to the cheaper Slim model, and alongside Demon’s Souls and Valkyria Chronicles, Uncharted 2 is a strong reason to own the console. Despite the claims that platform exclusives are no longer the segment dominators they used to be, if the PS3 is able to continue featuring work like this while the 360 shies away from exclusives, Sony’s beleaguered console may yet become the contender to remember for this generation.