Developer – Naughty Dog
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date – October 13 2009
Building on a promising first game in the series the talented people at Naughty Dog have done what is the norm in video games, which is to make a sequel that in every way outshines the first. The first game was well received because of the great animation, graphics and characters but it was lacking in gameplay (and some might say fun) down to the frustrating gun combat and the bullet soaking enemies. Now with the sequel they have mostly fixed this and added solid multiplayer and co-op modes to the mix in addition to even more wonderful graphics and animation. Uncharted 2 is a complete package and rightfully deserves all the accolades it received in 2009, it is an amazing game that convincingly combines everything I like about video games.
It is still rare to see a well produced story in video games that you actually care about and the key has been the likability of the characters which benefit from great voice acting and motion capture work. It’s all about the character you play Nathan Drake, although this time there is less Sully, as you follow his enthusiasm to find the mythical city of Shambhala and the lost treasure of the Cintamani Stone. Nathan Drake is just a fun character to play as and control, he’s not a buffed up super soldier, he’s just a geeky treasure hunter getting caught up with the wrong people who want to exploit his knowledge and skills.
With Uncharted 2 I can see how all Naughty Dog’s experience in the past, such as the Jak and Daxter games on the PS2, has helped them created the visual style of the game. The environments are all varied and vibrant with bright colours and a surreal high contrast look. The character models are a perfect blend between realism and the animated style although the eyes are noticeable weird as they constantly shine. The focus on excellent animation tricks the mind into engrossing you in every scene, as I was more excited watching the cut scenes than playing the game.
The gameplay, shooting and platforming, are vastly superior to the first with much more interesting environments to traverse and figure out while having access to a nice array of weaponry. I think the third person shooting is quite good and definitely deserves to be the focus in multiplayer. The puzzles and climbing are a logical evolution of what was innovated with Tomb Raider back in the day but it still could be improved. Maybe a mix between Assassin’s Creed freeform climbing and the highly specific climbing routes in Uncharted 2 could lead to more challenging puzzles.
It took me 12 hours on the hard difficulty to finish the game, although it has taken me months to actually do this. The thing that was holding me back was since the game is linear, I have no problems just finishing a chapter every now and then savouring the experience. Play the game for the experience, story and stunning graphics before the next game in the series comes out and changes up the formula. The third game is set to be released at the end of the year (around November 1st) and is probably going to be the last in the series if Naughty Dog’s past history is anything to go by.
Developer – Naughty Dog
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date – November 20 2007
Back on the PS2 I remember playing through all three Jak and Daxter games, they were well designed action platformers with fluid stories and distinctive characters. These were the first games Naughty Dog developed after being acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2001. After releasing 4 games in 5 years in the Jak and Daxter universe it was time for them to start a new franchise and with the PS3 they saw it as an opportunity to drastically reinvent themselves. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was one of the first showpiece titles of the PS3 showing off the power of the new system with realistic looking characters and environments. The sheer jump in terms of processing power allowed more textures, animations and sounds to create a game that was capable of bringing a video game version of a high production value blockbuster movie.
The premise of Uncharted is a modern-day version of Indiana Jones if the lead character was more of every man but still fighting pirates and mercenaries for old world treasure. The real attraction of the game is the way Naughty Dog has put the story of the game centerstage. They put an enormous amount of time perfecting the way the character look, talk and move around which resulted in well designed characters with real likeable personas. Like Heavenly Sword, another PS3 showcase game released around, they used theatrical actors to do the motion capture and voice acting but for a much different effect. The acting in the game is very natural and is a technical achievement that people don’t necessarily pick up on. People tend to focus on the character design and amazing environments, in particular the water effects which also look natural and are essential for immersing you in the jungle environments of the game.
If the game has any weak points it would be the shooting and close combat. The platforming in the game is rarely frustrating and is very smooth but the combat lacks these qualities. You have to play the game very carefully taking cover and choosing the right moments to aim and shoot. I think a bit of auto aiming could have made the shooting more smooth and less frustrating. I did however still enjoy the action but when compared with the polish of the rest of the game there is still room for improvement. The way grenades work are terrible, the six axis motion for it are gimmicky and lose the fun of blasting enemies away. Exploding barrel placed around the environment are lazy level design, there could have been more interesting ways to represent to place explosive objects in the environment. Another jarring observation is that enemies just pop up sometimes, even though you know they are there and just appear as you pass a threshold. Especially clear if you die and restart a scenario over and over. The are a large range of weapons that bring a good amount of variety and the limited ammo gives you the chance to switch weapons often. The hand to hand combat could have had more variety but like almost all action shooters there are only a few combos you can use. The close combat though is really nicely animated and cinematic.
Keeping with Naughty Dog tradition there are cool unlockables which are based on collecting treasures and exploring different ways of defeating the enemies. You can unlock a large amount of behind the scenes, art, filters, character model and most importantly weapon choice which are useful for subsequent playthroughs. There is no reason now to not pick up the game, it is part of the platinum discount series and you should play it before going on to the second.