I had a great idea for a blog post yesterday. I can't for the life of me remember it now. Wish I had written it down. Oh well, perhaps later it'll hit me.
Anyway, in an attempt to not completely neglect this blog, I decided to write something. So I'm going to do a quick rave about Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
I do not own a PS3. I have a 360 and have enjoyed it very much, though I've been a Sony fanboy since 1995 (PS1 release). I'm not fanatical about either system at this point. However, I will say this: Sony managed to nail the single most impressive game I've ever seen as an exclusive to their console.
I realize I'm behind the times on this. The game's been out for quite a while, and it even won game of the year in December's VGAs (Video Game Awards). So this is not exactly news. However, a friend of mine got it a couple months ago and, after playing it through entirely in one weekend on his own, invited me over so he could watch me play through it entirely again.
I can't remember the last time I've been this impressed by a game. I think it'd have to be Final Fantasy VII, which completely redefined presentation and story telling in RPGs (with amazing CG cutscenes, 3D graphics, beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds - it was a feast for the eyes at the time). In the over 12 years since I first booted up FF7 in December of 1997 I haven't been this jaw-droppingly-impressed by any game. Yes, there have been some awesome games since then. Metal Gear Solid (1 and 2), Final Fantasy X and XII, and Gears of War have all had amazing art direction and presentation. I might give God of War credit for truly filling the gap from Final Fantasy VII to Uncharted 2, but that's it.
Uncharted 2 sets an entirely new standard for games - one that no other game seems to even approach. I'm actually fairly angry at the game: so often now, I play something and can't help but think, "Man, this is cool, but nothing compared to Uncharted 2." The best games of this past year (Arkham Asylum, Modern Warfare 2, and Assassin's Creed II) can't hold a candle to Uncharted 2's presentation. Truly, there has never been a game this close to a real action movie. Sony runs an awesome ad where a guy complains that his girlfriend watches him play Uncharted 2 because she thinks it's a movie. That is truth in advertising folks - I've seen it happen with wives and even parents. It's really that good.
What makes the game that amazing? Honestly, the mechanics of the general game aren't all that astounding. The cover-and-shoot gunplay is fine, but not as good as Gears of War. The hand-to-hand combat is super simple and looks like Final Fight next to Arkham Asylum. The climbing segments are nice, but not nearly as smooth as Assassin's Creed II. The puzzles are...well, kinda crap, and definitely don't compare to the good puzzle games like Ico or Braid. Even the pacing is a little odd, bouncing back and forth from crazy gunplay to long, drawn-out climbing segments. So what's so great about this game that I'm just rabidly raving?
Simply put, it's the presentation. Never has a game had voice acting, animation, mocap, set design, cinematic gameplay, or just plain scenery as amazing as this game. It truly feels like a big budget Hollywood film. There are incredible action sequences that had me laughing giddily. There is a decent, if somewhat convoluted, plot that is played out by professional actors with strong writing behind them. The game is wildly entertaining, from snarky quips to crazy explosions to drop-dead gorgeous set pieces. I was at one point climbing along a speeding train with bullets whizzing by my head, and I got distracted looking at a mountain off in the distance.
Truly, no other game has gotten me as excited about the future of this industry as this one. The budget for it was probably astronomical (the credits list looks like a Peter Jackson film), and we'll likely only be treated to a game or two of this caliber a year given recent sticking points in the industry with pricing and financial models. But if we can get even one Uncharted 2 every few years we will be very lucky indeed.