Review by Admirable_Dane
"Desperate times, indeed."
Video game are evolving.
Over the past few decades, as technology advanced forward in massive vaults, and more people came together with a collective mindset and goal (to ACHIEVE), it is clear that games are becoming more than just games; in some cases, they are adventures. Adventures which do not yield to technological limitations and lack of ability to tell a developed story. Subsequently, an entirely new fanbase is drawn to gaming systems, with an intent to experience the same thrills n' kills as could be seen in other forms of media, but conveyed to the public in a different manner. Speaking of the media, movies specifically, it is clear that some of the many meaningful, powerful, and culturally significant ideas are derived from cinema, with many ideas being delivered in the 100+ years we have been watching movies.
With that said... let's talk about this little gem.
There's nothing wrong with taking an idea from a different source; in fact, that is how most ideas, and hybrids thereof, are spread about. Unfortunately, there exist people that fail to distinguish the line separating tribute, and completely ripping off another source.
Uncharted 2 comes nowhere near this line; it simply rips off another source.
I gaze upon the gaming community, astonished, as I hear endless amounts of critical acclaim being slathered all over this game. If the community consisting of the ones who played Uncharted 2 were divided into two separate collectives, I suppose I would be the vast, vast minority scratching my head, wondering how the heck such an uninspired, poorly constructed, unimaginative mess receives such copious amounts of love.
Before I commence my torrential rant against, well, every other aspect of Uncharted 2, I should start by talking about the good aspects of the game, just to get them out of the way.
It should come as no surprise that Uncharted 2 is, even today, a startlingly beautiful game. The crisp textures and meticulous attention to detail (see the level in Nepal) earn a very broad thumbs-up from me, let alone everyone. The character models and structures represent what they are, 20 times over, and the fictitious settings near the end allow for large quantities of creative juices to flow forth over the visual canvas. It is rather difficult to describe just how detailed it can be at times, so save yourself the trouble and go stare lovingly at it. If there's one thing that I do not care for in the visual department, it is the character's eyes; they seem far too... sparkly.
I found the music to be forgettable, aside from the relatively catchy main theme; and upon listening to the OST after wondering if there actually WAS any music to begin with (see: forgettable), t'was with disappointment that I found out that it primarily consists of ambient noise without much in the way of rhythm. Further disappointment ensued upon noticing that there wasn't much of a tone to each track; there was not a tune that sounded 'bitter', 'aggressive', or to fit the environment, 'cold' or 'untamed', to fit the mountain and jungle levels, respectively.
On the plus side in the sound department, the voice actors did a good job, for the most part. They sounded relatively believable in accordance to a particular situation, and the voices seemed rarely over the top. That's all I gotta say about that.
However, beneath the games bee-yoo-tiful surface lay a torrential amount of problems. The gameplay is divided into three different segments: Shooting bad guys, climbing stuff, and solving "puzzles" (quotation marks to be elaborated upon). The gunplay is nothing special. There's a lot of people to kill, and a lot of methods to kill, so it rarely feels derivative, but at the same time, not very exciting. Most of the enemies are fragile as glass, and the more well-armored ones go down with but a single explosive. It rarely feels hazardous to go into a gunfight, even when wielding only a sidearm. That is, until you encounter helicopters, which are ridiculously overpowered. I understand this is in a fictitious world, but the fact that these monsters can swallow over 15 direct grenades is just a tad ridiculous, when taken into consideration that you could throw a trapper-keeper into a real helicopter's rear propeller, and it'll go up in smoke. This, however, is not really much of a complaint, as much as it is just very mildly irksome on my part. There is more to elaborate upon in terms of firefights, but that will come as details on game mechanics arrive.
The climbing sections / platforming, putting it as simply as possible, sucks. It can be directly compared to the game's pacing, which consists of being forced down a claustrophobic corridor until a relatively open area is reached, followed by the shooting of bullets out of your gun, followed by more corridors. By this, I mean that the platforming lacks ANY inspiration or challenge whatsoever.
Oh, wait; there is a particular degree of challenge, and this takes effect before any platforming has even begun. This attributes to actually trying to find out what what kind of surface Mr. Drake can wrap his mitts around, as well as wondering why there seems to be an invisible barrier around damn near EVERYTHING. Time for a tangent: The linear progression of the game is one of the two primary factors that killed Uncharted 2 for me. While there exist so many things in the game that look as if they can be interacted with, caused by the exquisite attention to detail, this leads to the level designs downfall. It's as if somebody closed his eyes, drew a swoopy line on a piece of paper, and thought to himself "Okay, this will be the one, restricted route to take. Now, to create a tantalizing world that seemingly knows no limits, but has a serious problem with invisible walls".
What a tease.
Back to the platforming, at any rate. After the meticulous task of locating what Drake just so HAPPENS to be able to climb (Thank every god that ever existed for the hint system), what follows afterwards is pushing the thumbstick towards a discolored spot and pushing the action button. Rinse and repeat, far more times than I found welcome. When confronted with sections consisting of leaping from one convenient platform to the next, prepare to die many, many times due to the controls; Nathan Drake controls like a drunkard behind the wheel of a Corvette with a flat tire in a rainstorm. He jumps in the complete opposite intended direction, throws himself into gunfire, turns in an incredibly sloth manner, and simply does the opposite of what you want to do.
I may not mind some of the platforming if there were a particular degree of challenge, aside from the reasons listed above. There... isn't. I view platforming as something that should offer a degree of challenge, with a subsequent degree of satisfaction upon completion, or it should not be there at all, due to it seeming like copious amounts of filler. The only feeling I had upon completion of the platforming segments was relief, quickly extinguished and replaced by anguish as another platforming section bloomed forth.
I previously put quotations upon the word 'puzzles' for the sheer sake of emphasizing that that's the terminology many use pertaining to those particular bits of gameplay. Practically any dictionary defines "puzzle" as, to paraphrase my particular dictionary, "A difficult problem in which the solution is derived from critical thinking"; and by God. If 'critical thinking' attributes to pushing "Select" to bring up an amazingly convenient drawing depicting the solution to said "puzzle", then our proud nation is doomed.
While the gameplay is something of a mixed bag, some surges of fun hindered by filler, and vice-versa, everything else is a very steep slide downaways. One of the most commonly praised aspects about Uncharted 2 is the characters and story, people lauding it as being "gripping", "original", "unpredictable".
It is NONE of those.
The characters are uninteresting. The cast consists of a slight grouch that accompanies the protagonist for a small bit of time, one love interest, who comes across to many as being a strong, independent woman. Fair enough, but talks about her characterization, let alone acclaim for it, are almost meaningless, as she lacks an entire third dimension; she was just there, and when she did speak, it primarily consisted of warnings against danger. Just because she lacks an X chromosome, and is capable of holding a firearm hardly makes her intriguing. There is also a second love interest; she's similar to the first, but she's voiced by Claudia Black, which is pretty cool. She's kind of a double agent on the side of the protagonist, but it never really amounts to much, as her position is exploited at the midway point. She's kinda fun, but uninspired. The villain is some Russian general who wants to take over the world using his PMC. He comes across as being sort of Stalinist-totalitarianist, but his hints of character never lead anywhere. He appears to be evil for the sheer sake of being evil, which is just flat.
Nathan Drake, however, is the one character in this game that perplexes me the most, to which I mean why people like him. Near the end of the game, Mr. Russia asks Drake for the number of people he's killed. To be quite frank, I'd like to know that statistic, counting the innocent museum employees he's throttled with his bare hands (while, mind you, spouting disgustingly inappropriate one-liners such as "nighty-night" [honestly, what kind of mentally stable man says that?!]), as well as the substantial property damage he's caused in order to obtain even the smallest trinket. It appears as if the fact that he's physiologically capable of saying one liners is why people like him so much. I hate him because he's a threat to society. He also steals from museums. Jerk.
In terms of story, which, if anything, I was building up to this entire time, it lacks any originality whatsoever. I previously spoke about borrowing ideas from existing sources; with that said, there existed a movie released in the year of 1981, entitled Raiders of the Lost Ark. At the time, it was groundbreaking, boasting what was described as impressive visuals, a diverse, terrific cast of characters, and an intriguing, engaging story that, while being relatively simple, provoked thought to an extent. Around 28 years later, a video game was released by the name of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. It boasted what was described as impressive visuals, a diverse, terrific cast of characters, and an intriguing, engaging story that, while being relatively simple, provoked thought to an extent.
A glitch in the Matrix.
Emphasis on `glitch`.
Go take a few seconds out of your day to bring up both the U2 and Raiders Wikipedia pages, analyze both, and return.
What startles me most about U2`s story is that there`s literally NO original concept. The story could truthfully be described as a complete replica of Raider`s story, with a few nouns replaced. Once again, there`s a fine line between rip-offs and paying tribute, but Uncharted 2 takes to an astonishing level. Paying tribute would be, for example, Drake bearing a brown fedora, or having a fear of snakes, or something along those lines. What peeves me most, however, is how Uncharted 2 takes itself sooooooooooo seriously, as if it pioneered that story. If it made fun of itself to an extent, then I would be willing to forgive it. It did not, and the developers know this very well. It takes the concepts of another source, practically claiming it as it`s own, and is therefore, bereft of merit.
How this game receives such praise leaves me flabbergasted. I can respect the kind of, and the people that want to see, game which has a very cinematic edge to it. However, I propose that Uncharted 2 is simply not the way to go. It is unoriginal, poorly designed, and is simply a chore to play through. I suppose, being in a miniscule minority, I could safely say that most people would enjoy it, but nevertheless, it will always remain a hugely fundamentally flawed game in my eyes.
In any case, I`ll just be wondering how Naughty Dog went from Crash Bandicoot 3 to... this.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 05/29/12
Game Release: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (US, 10/13/09)
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