First Level: Uncharted 2

So, I’d had my fill of Jet Set Willy and decided I’d try out something with more than one button this evening. The lucky chunk of zeroes and ones?  Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the hotly anticipated follow up to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and this time protagonist Nathan Drake is off trotting the globe in search of Marco Polo’s misplaced spectacles rather than Sir Francis’ rather more esoteric treasures.

So, a couple of hours in and I’ve mastered the controls, fixed the camera options and passed the tutorial – concluding my playtime after reaching the rather tag spoiling forth level.

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And my verdict?  Well, it looks absolutely astounding.  Claims around the internet that Uncharted 2 is the single best looking console title available are based on solid foundations – it really is breathtaking in places with super high resolution textures, fantastic animation and lush environments second only to those found in Crisis and far more vivid besides.  The jungles I’ve explored so far are alive with detail and the flashback (and forward) peppered prologue’s snowy aftermath of an incident yet to be explained is distinctive, scripted to give maximum visual impact and brilliantly executed.

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The thing with hands on like this is that it’s next to impossible to describe my feelings without spoiling the story so far, and I don’t know how much of the plot (and its characters) are common knowledge.  Rest assured that at least one familiar face returns and the twist after just the second level really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  What I didn’t expect, however, was the much improved acting which, coupled with far better cut-scenes, really soak the player in atmosphere.  Yes, they’re pre-rendered again but because they’re using (mostly) in-game assets you never feel like you’re not part of the action.

Speaking of which, the game at least attempts to mix up stealthy sneaking with the same duck/aim/shoot gunplay that made up far too much of the first Uncharted – and the forced hand to hand battles (with Triangle button evades) feel crunchier and more confident.  It’s true that the game roughly plays out much like its predecessor but for most gamers that won’t be a criticism and there’s certainly enough lip service to fans without going as far as in-jokes – treasure hunting remains a checkbox on your to-do list but it’s a shame for me personally that puzzling didn’t move up Naughty Dog’s list of priorities for Drake.

But yeah, this is very good stuff.  The studio’s mastery of the PlayStation 3 hardware has no equal and the complete absence of an install (or even load times) is a breath of fresh air, and combined with the sheer amount of unlockables and hidden objects to find Uncharted 2 appears to offer a good chunk of game for your cash.  Of course, there’s also the multiplayer mode which I’ve not tried since the first beta and given the furore over the online competitive side Uncharted 2 might well find itself as one of the PS3’s top selling games.  If Sony can advertise the hell out of this one then the sky’s the limit, I’m sure.

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