Before the the forums went into a frenzy and the news networks went nuts and critics went crazy and other alliterative instances of mania exploded everywhere due to Modern Warfare 2, 2009 looked pretty much set to be the year of Nathan Drake. The Indiana Jones wannabe's second game is a truly cinematic romp through Istanbul and across Asia to Tibet as Drake finds himself lured back into the morally dubious world of treasure hunting to race an insane Russian warlord through the Himalayas to look for the fabled Cintamani Stone. Forget the beautifully banal Killzone 2, forget the Fryisms and whimsy of Little Big Planet; if there was ever a reason to buy a PS3, then this is it.
The pedigree of the game means that, unfortunately for us, it's managed to keep itself bobbing around the mid-thirties price-wise. But the guys over at Simply Games have decided that enough is enough and have handily dropped their retail price to £31.89, saving you almost £3 on the nearest competitor (ShopTo - £34.85).
This is the killer app that the PS3 has been waiting for, and it's certainly a contender for game of the year. The story and presentation are superlative, the characters are richly drawn and the visuals are gorgeous to behold. Naughty Dog's manipulation of the camera, always taking in the action from the best angle and swinging it around when Drake is being chased by hordes of baddies, adds a Hollywood touch to the game's many dramas. I've never seen better snow in a game either: Lost Planet eat your heart out!
You won't find cheap quick time events here or mind-numbingly long cut scenes, every little bit of gameplay and script blend seamlessly into one another not unlike a third-person Half-Life. The combat is thrilling, the cover system smooth as silk, and the rhythm-based simplicity of melee fighting is satisfyingly fitting.
The control system is absurdly intuitive, the run-and-gun aspects now tighter than a harlot's corset and the cryptic puzzles are challenging without ever seeming too impossible. At no point does the game ever yank you out of your comfort zone too much, preferring to leave you immersed in its waters of adventuring goodness.
Pleasantly, there's also a multiplayer mode that works out to be quite a lot of fun. There's no co-op mode, which is a little disappointing, but with 8 classic online gun fests to choose from (including Deathmatch, King of the Hill and Plunder which is similar to Capture the Flag but with loot), you'll be gunning your mates down for hours on end.
Make no mistake, Uncharted 2 is one hell of a game but, like Infinity Ward's overblown ode to war, the hefty plot and blockbuster design make for a pretty linear experience. Don't let that put you off though: this is a game that takes you on a wild ride, and it's one that you'll want to come back to again and again. True, the price still isn't that low. But if you haven't already picked up a copy, this is your best bet before Christmas, and you could do a lot worse.