Developer: Naughty Dog
Hype and video games can be a cruel mix. But it can also be wonderful when a game smashes the door down and delivers everything it promised. Any adulterous thoughts PS3 gamers may have been having concerning a fling with Gears of War will be washed away with this bona-fide PS3 exclusive classic
We start with Nathan Drake wounded and hanging over a blizzard ravaged cliff inside a train cart. As you make your way up the side of the train you can feel the epicness coming as you make a last-ditch escape. For a short while from here the game stumbles for the following chapter with a stealth level to set up the story. There's nothing really wrong with it. It’s just too early in the game, we’ve been waiting to get involved in the juicy shootouts for months, but we’ve got to sneak around first.
Soon enough you’re bounding your way through the jungles of Borneo and climbing crumbling buildings in the city of Nepal to earn the best view around as you see the whole city stretched out before you. The game makes a wonderful habit of just giving you views to die for. Naughty Dog have done an incredible job of harnessing the PS3, you have to wonder what the hell everyone else is playing at.
The cutscenes and character animations are of a different class to the competition too. The transition from cutscene to gameplay is so seamless you won’t dare put down the pad, as control is often thrust back into your hands for all the best bits, which makes a nice change from the usual cut-scene cop-outs. If you saw the E3 demo with the helicopter scene, you won’t be disappointed as you play every exhilarating second for yourself.
Uncharted 2 has the game to back up the looks too with the gunplay and platforming improved from the first game (which was no slouch). Most of the time you’ll enjoy shooting from cover, but it’s fun to occasionally run in, pop off a few shots and finish in style with a melee combo. Chapter 2 aside, stealth is optional, but very useful for thinning out enemy numbers before launching a full on assault.
The enemy design is a bit of a let-down as until the end chapters they’re all black-clad mercs. Their weapon loadout varies, but they lack the character of the pirates from the first game.
Any sense of disappointment is swept away though with a constant barrage of well-designed levels and outrageous set-pieces that always leaves you in control. Back on the Mega-Drive every decent action game worth its salt had a killer train level. Well they’re back and get ready for the best one yet. It has all the great staples like pushing enemies off, dodging barriers and a seemingly never-ending (in a good way) journey to the front. You’ll be clambering around the side of the carriages and jumping in through windows to get the drop on gun turrets and shotgun heavies. Don’t forget to admire the view through the jungle though; you’ll miss it if you don’t flick the camera around. I’d do it early on too as the helicopter boss fight is one hell of a sprint finish.
A later level that has you leaping between trucks speeding along a snowy mountain-side is a lesson in outrageous excitement too. But you’ll need the odd breather and that’s where the puzzles come in. There’s nothing too taxing to work out, the challenge is generally how to climb up to a certain area to switch a light-reflecting mirror and the like.
Throughout the explosive gunfights and quieter moments, the cast do a supreme job of keeping you entertained. Drake is again voiced by gaming’s favourite ‘everyman’ Nolan North, whose fallible nature is so much more likable than the usual gaming grunt. Elena returns too, but she’s got a bit of competition from new girl Chloe who’s been working with Drake. The story focuses on the legend of the Cintamani Stone and the lost civilisation of Shambhala (Shangri La). It’s got mystical powers and all that and there’s a psychotic war criminal in the shape of Zoran Lazarevic. It’s a great traditional adventure full of plot twists, betrayal, laughs, stunning scenery and the ambitious level of action that Hollywood blockbusters have been missing for years.
By the time the conclusion comes round you’ll have seen the best looking levels in gaming today (especially the last location) and will in all likelihood start a new game. However you might be tempted to check out the multiplayer too.
Nobody asked for it, but what the hell, it could be a laugh for an afternoon. Turns out we should have been looking forward to this side of the game with an obsessive six-month fever too. The platforming and cover options work as well as they do in the single player game with the especially redesigned environments from the main game making up the arenas. Sometimes online shooters with cover options tend to descend into everyone ignoring it in favour of full on assaults, but everyone seems to be enjoying playing the game as it’s supposed to be.
The usual single and team deathmatches are supported by a mode where your team is stealing a heavy gold idol, which forces the carrier to use a pistol to defend themselves. On the plus side, they can sling the idol to teammates to quicken things up.
No problems with lag and the promise of extra skins, maps and modes from Naughty Dog mean that this will probably be no flash-in-the-pan experience for the online community. Considering the awesomeness of the single-player game, this is one hell of a surprising but most-welcome addition to the series.
- The most exciting action game on any system
- Graphics and overall production values are constantly jaw-dropping
- Multiplayer beats the odds and plays a cracking game
- Stealth level early on was a bit of a false start
- Merc enemies are a bit boring
- All your other games are now shit
The Short Version: It’s not just the visuals, the peerless acting/script and gaming’s most likable hero that have made Uncharted 2 one of the finest adventures you’ll ever have. It’s just so goddamn exciting to play, refusing to side-line you while the cut-scenes step in and do the hard work; it’s you all the way. You’ll dread it having to end.