So, having beaten Uncharted 2, I'm overall very pleased with the experience. It is a ton
better than the first game, and I was blown away several times during the course of the journey; but nevertheless I did have some issues with the game.
There is one pseudo-spoiler in this review, but it shouldn't be a "spoiler" to anyone who played the first Uncharted.
As anyone by this point knows, Uncharted 2's visuals are unmatched by any other console title out there. There are several vistas and viewpoints obviously placed by the developers to rightfully boast about the visual prowess of the game, and it delivers on every account. Drake and company are all well-animated, and the backdrops and locations are simply stunning.
Accompanying the superb visuals is incredible audio, with a sweeping orchestral score composed by Greg Edmondson. The music is not built on being catchy, but instead it conveys intense company to the scenes. The music and scenarios mesh so well together you would think the score was made after the script was handed to the composer, so cohesive is the unity.
Gunplay has hugely improved from the first game, not the least of which improvements being mapping grenades to the L2 button. The melee system has been tragically simplified (there is only one basic combo you can do), but the addition of instant-kill takedowns from behind cover remedy this. The gameplay itself is wonderfully designed for the most part, as battles and showdowns are epic, intense, and memorable.
Another huge improvement from the first Uncharted is the level design. Gone are the days of Uncharted's boring, telegraphed battle arenas (although there are some obvious spots in U2 where you know you're about to come upon a fight). The levels in Uncharted 2 are all very natural and do not feel "gamey" (except later on, but I'll touch on that in a minute). Naughty Dog, having staff members that hold actual degrees in architecture and engineering, have a leg up (no pun intended) on other developers, and the platforming scenes in the game are all spectacular, and you truly feel immersed in Drake's story.
Speaking of story, Uncharted 2 throws you into the thick of things as soon as you start the campaign. The single-player is a roller-coaster ride of thrills, surprises, action, and awe. Uncharted 2 unveils its story in an incredible way, and I honestly feel it's one of the best examples of cinematic narrative (unlike immersion narrative like Metroid Prime 1 or Half-Life) in video games. The scenes and stages you go through are simply brilliant and a blast to play.
Sadly, this brilliance of writing for me ended 3/4 through the game. It's at this point that the plot becomes very predictable and outright dull. Perhaps this coincides with the first 3/4 of the game being versed in realism; and the final quarter of the game sinking neck-deep into supernatural, paranormal nonsense cliches.
I truly feel that Naughty Dog does their product an enormous disservice by refusing to stop hugging onto magic powers that ruin an otherwise flawless story. There are plenty of ways of taking a premise that appears supernatural, only for it to be versed in realism; rather than build up a story that is completely believable (including Drake's parkour
) and utterly ripping it to pieces by throwing in magical balderdash that seems to be thrown in simply for giggles.
I get upset at this ravaging of the story because I feel it retards the growth of the medium--had Uncharted 2 kept with the completely believable and dynamic plot/writing they built the majority of the game on, it would have resulted in a shining example of what video games should become; rather than once again show the immaturity of the medium by ruining an otherwise perfectly good story with "gamey," unrealistic twists that completely break the suspension of disbelief. Uncharted 2 had me believing it would have the best-told story in years--surely of any game this year--and the tailspin it took leaves me disenchanted with such praise with the entire product, despite the incredible first half.
An example is how the game handles "boss" set pieces, before taking a turn for the worse at the end. For the majority of the game, "bosses" are more of a combination of circumstances and hazards that combine to form a significant challenge that takes the place of a boss (much like the approach Half-Life 2 took). As the game (and its plot) deteriorate, bosses devolve from clever, well-designed set pieces to high-HP damage sponges on the equivalent of mystical steroids. Not inconsequently, these latter battles are nowhere near as fun as the former scenarios.
Having stepped off my soapbox, I nevertheless hold Uncharted 2 as a front-runner for game of the year. I didn't even mention the addictive multiplayer mode (the mode will give the game serious replay value for me), but I opted instead to focus this review exclusively on the campaign.
Uncharted 2 is a superb game that starts off at an incredible pace, and unfortunately takes a dip in quality as it comes into the home stretch. However, this low point does not change the fact the game is an outstanding title, and a must-have for any PS3 owner.
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