In the space of just two releases, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series has already become the kind of blockbusting franchise exclusive that Sony’s PS3 has been sorely lacking in since it launched in 2007. And there is absolutely no point in beating around the bush – Uncharted 2 is a serious contender for game of the year.
The story this time around takes place two years after the original Drake’s Fortune, and instead of a hunt for the fabled city of El Dorado, here everyone is after a mysterious Mongolian oil lamp, which may or may not solve the ancient mystery of Marco Polo’s doomed voyage home from China in 1292.
It’s a pretty shameless amalgamation of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider that really shouldn’t work but does so just brilliantly, with the kind of shrewd and coherent plotting that videogames simply aren’t known for.
Much, much more surprisingly than that, Uncharted 2’s scriptwriters appear to have a deep and fundamental understanding of the concept of characterisation, and although the characters in Uncharted 2 are never likely to surprise you, you will grow to care about them, making this game something of a benchmark. But, this is an action title first and foremost, and all of this would be for absolutely nothing if the gunplay wasn’t perfect, and it is.
Naughty Dog has also totally mastered something with this game, and that is the seamless blending of the cut scene cinematics with the core gameplay. In a much lesser game (like for example this year’s slightly lackluster Resident Evil 5) that blend can often seem like a superfluous test of your involvement in a mediocre story, but here it’s a device used to hurl you headfirst into some utterly exhilarating action set pieces.
Many older gamers think that the videogame industry’s collective obsession with blockbuster movies is a bit of a red herring, stagnating the medium by pressurising developers into undertaking narrative and aesthetic goals that are sometimes impossible to achieve, and often just fundamentally irrelevant. But because Uncharted 2 treats its narrative with the same care as its faultless gameplay, it stakes a claim in my opinion to being the first videogame that could accurately be described as a totally successful interactive movie.
Admittedly that is a pretty antiquated concept that a certain brand of hardcore gamer is going to receive rather snobbishly but, if you dismiss Uncharted 2 you are going to end up missing out on what is undoubtedly one of the games of the year. It’s a visually sumptuous, gripping rollercoaster ride, and if you own a Sony PS3, you owe it to yourself to get involved.
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