When games look back
Uncharted 2: The little things

The failed hater


Every time I write enthusiastically about a PS3 game, someone inevitably asks, "But is it worth buying a PS3 for?" Metal Gear Solid 4 was supposed to the The Game, but it wasn't, and I'll spare you a reiteration of why. I loved MLB 09: The Show, but baseball games have a limited appeal.  Flower, Shatter, and the PixelJunk games rank among my favorites, but $499 (pre-price drop) for a $10 game? Little Big Planet hung the moon in my humble opinion, but it's proved to be a love-it or hate-it- affair for most gamers. 

Well, folks, The Game has arrived, and it's Uncharted 2: Drake's Fortune. I don't presume that everyone is in a position to plunk down $299 for game machine, even if "It Only Does Everything." Ugh. But if you're sitting on the fence waiting for a PS3 game to knock you off it, this is most certainly the one.

I held off playing Uncharted 2 until this past weekend because I've been busy with other games, but I haven't shielded myself from the wildly enthusiastic reviews and online chatter about the game. Say what you will about review aggregators (and there's plenty to say), holding fast to a score of 97 ups the ante for Metacritic's designation of "Universal acclaim." Nearly all my friends who've played it love the game, and they're certain I will too.

So I'll confess something here that I'm not proud of, and I wonder if other game critics and reviewers will cop to similar occasional thoughts: I sort of hoped I wouldn't like Uncharted 2. I sort of hoped it would disappoint me. Yeah. That's a terrible thing, I know, because it jeopardizes my credibility. Shouldn't we all be as coldly objective as possible when we sit down to play a new game?

But disliking Uncharted 2 would have given me an angle, a wide array of foils against which I could have positioned my distinctive view of the game. After all, who needs more enthusiastic verbiage spilled on Uncharted 2? What can I possibly add?

I've been thinking hard about that question, and I've decided to take a stab at answering it, hoping to bring something useful to the table. One post can't possibly do this game justice, so I'll offer three over the next few days in an effort to isolate specific elements of the game I find especially notable:

  1. The little things: an account of the many apparently minor production details that distinguish Uncharted 2 from most other games;
  2. On pace: an examination of pacing and its role in Uncharted 2's success (and occasional stumbles);
  3. "Active Cinematic Experience": an analysis of the game's blend of filmic and game languages - and why this authored, linear, non-emergent game full of cutscenes should not be seen as regressive game design.
I believe a game as ambitious as Uncharted 2 deserves careful scrutiny, and I hope you'll agree. It's not flawless by any means, but it represents the apogee (at least for now) of a particular strand of video game storytelling I find especially compelling. As always, your comments and observations are critical and most welcome. I hope you'll stay tuned.