Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Gaming’s First True Hollywood Blockbuster

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As a game, Uncharted 2 is a dramatic, superbly paced action adventure thrill ride with tight cover-based third-person shooting and periodic bits of basic puzzle solving and platforming. But honestly, not much has changed with the gameplay since the first game, and the few new additions (propane tank tossing, riot shield, hanging cover points, basic stealth implementation etc.) don’t really stand out as anything particularly significant.

The game also has a lot of little problems I think have been too easily forgiven in all the gushing reviews the game has been receiving. I’m not saying the game doesn’t deserve to be gushed over – hell, it’s probably my current pick for game of the year and I’m about to gush over it myself right now – but certain things really did bug me about it.

AI companions, for instance, frequently get in your way, jumping into and knocking you off of ladders, clogging up nearby cover points and so on – one time a companion stood under me while I was dropping from a wall hang and I wound up floating on top of him before a forced death made it seem as if I’d fallen off a cliff. The level designs – during moments of adventure and exploration, more specifically — are also way too linear and really require a determined suspension of belief to accept. Nate can scale walls and other obstacles with ease, but only walls and obstacles the developers have scripted out, and every step of the way a helpful box, grappling hook or whatever it may is always magically right there when it’s needed. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the absurdity of many of these scenarios – the developers even acknowledge such clichés and unbelievable coincidences via Nate’s many in-game quips, as if poking fun at such things somehow excuses them.

But while Naughty Dog failed to polish and flesh out these areas, they succeeded in producing what is easily the most cinematic gaming experience I’ve ever played – the first video game that I think can hold its own against any Hollywood blockbuster action flick.

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Games that emphasize the cinematic experience above everything else typically come with a certain stigma attached to them. However, unlike many other games with “interactive movie” aspirations, Uncharted 2 makes you feel like you are watching a movie without actually making you feel like you are watching a movie, if you catch my drift.

I love the Metal Gear Solid series, but its lengthy cutscenes do put you into a cycle of “play, watch, play, watch, play, watch…” that can be monotonous and off-putting for many players. Other recent games like Heavenly Sword and even the first Uncharted had a similar feeling (though obviously not to the same extent). But Uncharted 2 avoids this pitfall by flawlessly integrating cinematic moments with every phase of the gameplay and weaving every scene together with pitch-perfect pacing and a form of rolling narrative (characters constantly talk back and forth as you are playing and it really drives the story forward in a subtle but meaningful way) that keeps the game flowing along with an incredible sense of immersion and continuity. Yes, cutscenes are used throughout the game to deliver key scenes, but they never drag on too long, and generally flow so seamlessly in and out of gameplay that you never lose the feeling of control over what’s happening on screen.

With Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog has also mastered the art of in-game cinematic moments. At the heart of every gun battle and every moment of exploration is an elaborate set piece that transforms ordinary gameplay sequences into signature moments that will stick in your mind forever like classic scenes from a favorite movie (or TV show). Numerous such scenes instantly flood into my mind, but one in particular really stands out. Fairly early on in the game, Nate must drag a wounded cameraman to safety in a harrowing escape sequence through the alleys of war torn Nepal. He has one arm lending support and one arm free to fire with as enemies swarm after you, all the while Chloe and Elena are providing cover fire and opening doorways to steer you out of harm’s way. For me it was a signature moment that will resonate in my gaming memory bank forever, and there are many more just like it throughout the game’s riveting 12-hour campaign.

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It sure doesn’t hurt that the graphics, animations, cinematography, and character portrayals are the best in the business either. Every bit as much as David Hayter is Solid Snake, voice acting vet Nolan North is Nathan Drake – seriously, whenever I hear him in another game I immediately say to myself “hey, that’s Nathan Drake!” North owns his role as Nate and, through his performance in Uncharted 2, truly defines the character as perhaps the most iconic video game hero of this generation. The supporting cast is excellent too, with actors/actresses like Emily Rose, Claudia Black, Steve Valentine and Graham McTavish putting memorable voices to the lifelike, emotion-filled virtual faces of Elena, Chloe, Harry Flynn and Zoran Lazarevic, respectively.

Sony’s Uncharted 2 TV ad really is spot-on in identifying and promoting exactly what the game is. Friends and family who previously had little, if any, interest in video games will pass by you playing this, stop in awe and say “that looks just like a movie,” and sit down to watch you play. I consider that proof that Naughty Dog has finally shattered the barrier between video games and Hollywood with Uncharted 2, and that’s an accomplishment we should all recognize and applaud.

Oh yeah, and they created a great game too. Don’t forget about that either!

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!