For the record, I don't normally produce editorials like these; they only arrive if I'm properly inspired. I have only done one such piece this generation so far, and it was for the masterful Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots . The bottom line is that after over a quarter-century of gaming, it takes a great deal for my jaw to drop; for my palms to perspire, for my attention to remain firm and focused, and for my brain to allow over-the-top objectives like, "amazing" and "unbelievable." Furthermore, I find that as I get older, I really do require more in the way of substance in my entertainment, which is probably why I'm now an avid reader of literary classics.

And yet, here I am, considering Naughty Dog's latest project known as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves , and wondering how best to impart my thoughts to a hopefully attentive audience. I suppose it's best to break it down but before I begin, I would urge you to check out our review if you haven't already. Not only do I agree with the overall score – right down to the tenth – but I also think it proves that PSXE provides gamers with some of the best pieces of analysis on games. Anyway, here's why the entire industry, from those who design games to those who play them to those who report on them, should be very, very proud of Uncharted 2 :

We ARE playing the action movie

Perhaps for the very first time in history, we can honestly say that's exactly what we're doing with a video game. I recall when such a claim was made on the back of the box for The Bouncer , a game I liked but many did not. In Square-Enix's beat-'em-up, it really was story-driven and despite the shortcomings in the gameplay, it certainly did feel like playing a movie. Well…in retrospect, a video game movie. Uncharted 2 is something entirely different. About midway through my first hour of play, I remember critiquing what I saw in the acting and cinematography – old habit – and suddenly, I stopped playing and froze: I realized I wasn't comparing the experience to other games. I was comparing it – the acting, the "filming," if you wish to call it that, the story progression, the pacing, the special effects, etc. – to movies. I have never once done this before.

This happened subconsciously and you can choose to disbelieve me if you so desire. But it happened. And when I corrected myself and began to make the comparison to games (as I should), I realized there was no comparison. Look, I've played just about every quality action/adventure game in the industry for some decades, and to have this happen to me was, in a word, momentous. So sue me.

Humanity captured in a video game

This has always been one of my pet peeves and something the industry has been slow to embrace. Even games with the very best storylines and character development fail to provide us with personas that are not only believable, but also believably enticing and intriguing. And as great as MGS4 is (re-read my editorial if you think I'm doing it a disservice), I did find it hard to equate those characters with "humanity;" I would compare them more to comic book heroes and heroines. In Uncharted 2 , while the stunts are still nuts and the heroes and heroines can still survive injuries that would kill most humans, we are still left with the indelible mark of humanity. My degree is in Psychology but more than that, I'm quick to notice actions, reactions, certain movements, and especially facial expressions, which is why I was so impressed with Drake and Co.

You've never seen anything like it. Watch the small things. I will use Chloe as an example, just because she has an exotic face and seems more animated throughout the game: watch her facial expressions during that cut-scene where she saves Drake with a rocket launcher (I believe it's in the Urban Warfare chapter). Watch her face when she asks if the dagger is "the key to everything" and Drake says he's not sure; watch her face when she says, "we can spot our needle in the haystack" and taps Drake's face. Again, watch it when she first meets Elena and teases Drake. It's just easier to spot with Chloe, but this happens with all the characters and although seemingly minor, immediately separates this title from any other game ever made.

We close in on the authentic virtual action experience

There are still obstacles to face. For instance, Drake can hang from anywhere for an infinite amount of time, which of course is incorrect, logically speaking. And while some gamers may not like it, I might suggest to the developers to look into the Stamina concept from Team ICO's Shadow of the Colossus . In it, the hero could only hang on for as long as his Stamina held out; obviously, this trait would get better over time, but his muscles still weren't superhuman. This of course presents all sorts of new gameplay challenges, but I have complete faith that if anyone can manage it, the Naughty Dog team can. I mention this because it's one of the very few areas of the game that made me understand I'm not really playing as a creepily realistic human. But damn…was it close. Drake's movement physics and how he reacts to the environment has gone unheralded in my opinion, and that's one of the more impressive aspects of this production.

This is about as close as I've come to stepping into the shoes of someone I could believe as a real person. Do you realize how many games have tried this over the years?

Pacing and diversity

In my last point, I have to address the pacing and gameplay variety. This is another hot topic for me as gaming still hasn't really understood the concept of excellent action pacing; Uncharted 2 is a gigantic step in the right direction. It starts out with a satisfying bang and proceeds to tell you the story through a well-implemented and well-timed series of cut-scenes interspersed amongst gameplay segments. At no point do you feel that either the interactive or non-interactive segments last too long; just when you've had your fill of one, the game reads your mind and switches gears. It's great that this happens in the storytelling but it also happens with the gameplay, which is even more applaud-worthy. This is a game that features platforming, third-person shooting mechanics, and puzzle-solving, and I haven't seen any title that splits everything out so evenly. When I finished the game, I didn't feel shortchanged on any one of those three aforementioned elements, and every last element felt right. "Finished cool puzzle…major firefight…must climb up there…" It was just fantastic.

In the end, the game isn't perfect, as there are a few slight problems, one of which annoyed me when taking on that tank. The Rocket Launcher I needed kept popping out from a dead enemy and falling to the ground, thereby ending my chances. And while I didn't experience any glitches, I have heard about a few. But upon completion, I immediately wanted to start a new game and that hasn't happened to me in…oh, I don't know how long. Furthermore, this is the benchmark achievement that will cause those who know little about the industry go, "wait…that's a game? And good God, I love it when that happens.

So in short, I give a heartfelt congratulations and a big fat "thank you" to Naughty Dog for this experience. And you know what? Y'all should, too. 🙂

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Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

Sorry guys, something silly happened when I went to edit this, so I had to re-post it and as a consequence lost your comments. Hey, these things happen. 😉

tes37
tes37
11 years ago

It's a sad day for us all Ben. 🙁
All those words of wisdom…..gone forever.

nogoat23
nogoat23
11 years ago

I forgive you. Especially since this is such a nice article. In fact, I give it a 9.8/10.


Last edited by nogoat23 on 10/21/2009 12:37:16 AM

johnld
johnld
11 years ago

i dont know about the stamina bar ben, i'm thinking it would slow the pace of the game down. Well…given that taking your time is the best advice when going through the game. What i see is people playing then standing still for a while then continueing which results in a pause in gameplay. Although i know that if this does happen, the developers would find a way to fix this. In the case of uncharted 2, i just wanted to know what the hell was going to happen next because i got caught up in the story. I bought the game and beat it on hard mode in less than one day. went through crushing in about the same amount of time because i didnt care if i saw the cutscene before, i watched them again anyway. In short, i just see some idling time if the stamina bar was implemented because it can be used for more than just climbing. it can factor in for the running too, since you are wasting energy/strength when running. However, if implemented the right way, which i have no doubt Naughty dog can do, we probably wont see significant differences when playing.
*spoiler (i guess)*
imagining how the stamina bar would play during the derailed train scene when you had to climb up the damn thing with a gunshot wound and the following gunfight in the snow.

Banky A
Banky A
11 years ago

How many good comments were made for the article before the disaster?

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

Not many. I think maybe 10.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

johnld: I know, but you can't imagine the stamina bar in these same situations. Obviously, it wouldn't work, which is why I said it would pose a gameplay challenge. But it could be done, as it was done in SotC; it'd only be a matter of whether or not the audience would like it, I think.

BTNwarrior
BTNwarrior
11 years ago

who isn't proud of this game

tes37
tes37
11 years ago

LOL

Naughty Dog should open a school and teach people how to make good games, while keeping their day jobs.

Zorigo
Zorigo
11 years ago

as we say, don't quit your day job.

BlackBriar
BlackBriar
11 years ago

Awesome Game!!!

Buckeyestar
Buckeyestar
11 years ago

I just wish I could convince my FPS-happy coworkers to give this a try, they just don't seem to care and can only talk about MW2.

www
www
11 years ago

Then carry your PS3 over and play a bit of U2 in front of their eyes and they will start caring about the game.


Last edited by www on 10/21/2009 5:34:41 AM

oldmike
oldmike
11 years ago

if this game lose GOTY to CoD MW2 i will cry "Fixed"

2 places have called this the best single player game ever
the kicker is there X-play and MSNBC home of PS3 hate

___________
___________
11 years ago

""as there are a few slight problems, one of which annoyed me when taking on that tank. The Rocket Launcher I needed kept popping out from a dead enemy and falling to the ground"

i thought you said you never had any of the problems i encountered.

anyway, i still cant believe naughty dog really made some of the game with assembly language, theres one thing i was definitely not expecting.
quite scary to see how old most of the guys at ND are, 2 of the lead programmers have grays.
just goes to show how much history there is in the company.


Last edited by ___________ on 10/21/2009 1:38:10 AM

LowKey
LowKey
11 years ago

Ive been too broke ass to buy it yet 🙁

Bugzbunny109
Bugzbunny109
11 years ago

Lol professionally broke….

fstop
fstop
11 years ago

Easy fix…rob a bank. U2 is worth the time in jail since you would be happy you got to experience it.

MadKatBebop
MadKatBebop
11 years ago

I enjoyed this game a lot. I agree with everything Ben said! this is one of my favorite games now!

BigBoss4ever
BigBoss4ever
11 years ago

as good as U2 is, to me, nothing compares to Demon's Souls, actually nothing matches up JRPG realm.


Last edited by BigBoss4ever on 10/21/2009 4:00:27 AM

Thrill Kill
Thrill Kill
11 years ago

demon's souls doesn't even come close to uncharted, they are completely different games..

TheRaPtuRe
TheRaPtuRe
11 years ago

i still feel there wernt enough puzzles in this game…

Jawknee
Jawknee
11 years ago

Agreed. But the puzzles it did have felt more interactive.

Diggity Dan
Diggity Dan
11 years ago

I agree. I also felt the puzzles were very very easy. In fact, I felt that U2 was overall a lot easier than the 1st one.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

Well, I don't agree and that's because I felt that there were three large puzzles in the game, rather than dropping in little puzzles throughout the course of the adventure. And these major puzzles came at almost perfect times.

Granted, they may be too easy for those who are USED to game puzzles (and I wasn't too impressed with that last one; it took almost no mental effort), but I think that's part of the mainstream accessibility Naughty Dog was looking for.

www
www
11 years ago

Yea I also give a big fat thank you to Naughty Dog. Infcat they've made me realize multi-plat devs have been lazy all this time and feeding the PS3 with crappy ports. This is what happens if the PS3 is taken seriously and used to the max.

I agree the climbing,leaps,stamina is of course not possible in real life. I think Naughty Dog just didn't want to risk destroying the gameplay by adding those stamina bars etc. Though it could perfectly work fine, maybe ND weren't ready to hear people whining, you know folks whine a lot these days. You know we still have some people whining about GTAIV taking the realistic approach.

Yea and the facial expressions are stellar after being impressed with GTAIV's facials, Naughty Dog is also on point. Well I know what you're saying about Chloe's expressions at the Urban Warfare. In the beginning where Drake is like 'No no no no no' when conversing with Flynn and Chloe at the beach resort, that expression alone was also too realistic.

I'm on Chapter 18 or something, I don't want to beat such a great game fast, you know….Like a kid who has a spectacular cookie and its biting it slow so it doesn't finish quick lol. I'm a big fan of playing campaigns with different characters apart from the protagonist. So after beating it, I'm buying Elena, Chloe & Co. and beating the game with each and every one of them.

jerocarson
jerocarson
11 years ago

Ben i still think ND went the right approach for not including stamina stuff. it's a game and not a movie, GTA4 sucked itself for being too realistic,

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

That's called "opinion."

xnonsuchx
xnonsuchx
11 years ago

…and those silly devs who ported BIOSHOCK to PS3 said they were utilizing some 80% of its raw power! Now maybe more not-too-lazy devs will be intrigued by what's possible…but I guess that still leaves those Valve egomaniacs out. 😉

Beamboom
Beamboom
11 years ago

Yes, it looks good and yes there are some nice details but seriously folks: Am I the only one in the whole wide wold who isn't impressed with this at all?
In my opinion this is NOT a game, this is an interactive MOVIE. And if you consider it to be a movie, then it's not all that impressive after all. The story isn't good enough for a movie (at least not a good one) and the graphics are certainly not good enough for a movie.

When GTA is able to tell a story without forcing you to follow a stippled line on the ground, why is this thing so linear that the word "linear" doesn't even begin to describe the gaming experience of this movie? You have absolutely NO freedom or choise of actions in this game, none!

Beamboom
Beamboom
11 years ago

Just an addendum: A friend of mine compared this with "remote controlling an actor whose only job is to follow the directors orders, litterary step by step". I think that is the best description of this product (who I still refuse to call a game) so far.

Jawknee
Jawknee
11 years ago

Are you one of Buckeyestar's co-workers?


Last edited by Jawknee on 10/21/2009 9:56:43 AM

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
11 years ago

all i have to say to you good sir is thats your opinion and yes you are alone!

i think you like sand box games! Even though yes the game does have a single path, there are more than plenty of ways to encounter it, be it stealth, run n gun, linear, in respect to climbing buildings, light poles, trucks, whatever it be to tackle a struggle, or obstacle! this is in no way like listening and taking orders from a director, because theres so much to this game!

maybe you like games like infamous more where there is no set line to follow as you called it!

btw this is some of the best scripting in video games ever, if gta had half the story and acting this game did then you can talk but for now your stupid theory doesnt fit! Do you realise when you call out the linear aspect, you are able to literally climb a building that over looks a city to get a stealth approach on your enemy, or simply run through the building blasting your way to the other side!

im stickin with what thrill kill said!

this is by far the best game ive ever played be it preference, or personal experience, this game did things other have tried and struggled to do for ages! now you can have your opinions an what not but again your pretty much alone!

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

Er…you really can't look for problems where there are none.

For the entire duration of this industry, both gamers and game makers alike have been seeking to bring the experience as close to virtual reality as possible. Therefore, getting a game as close to appearing like a movie – i.e., reality; real people and real situations – has ALWAYS been the goal. Sure, we have different productions and different styles of games; I'm not saying everything is trying to be a "simulator."

But when we look at the progress, we look at video games breaking into a version of virtual reality. Saying you're disappointed with "playing a movie" is like saying you never really liked the idea of video games to begin with. You just see them as toys. Worse, you see them as toys that aren't supposed to advance; they're supposed to REMAIN toys for kids.

Well, they're no longer toys, and it's because they're closing in on new forms of authenticity. Honestly, what you're complaining about is the very essence of what we've all be striving for and looking for.


Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 10/21/2009 10:58:03 AM

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
11 years ago

What Ben said!

i should just let him speak, he speaks my mind but knows how to put it into words! 😉

Really though Ben nailed it! He is right when he said "Honestly, what you're complaining about is the very essence of what we've all be striving for and looking for"

Diggity Dan
Diggity Dan
11 years ago

I thought the hype was a bit much on this game too, but there's no doubt that this is a terrific game.

There's a lot more solid gameplay in the gun battles than many other games. It's not all mindless interaction.

The story is conveyed much better than other attempts. The cutscenes are brief, but effective.

In some ways I liked the first Uncharted a little better. Maybe it's because of the default difficulty being so much easier than the 1st. I need to replay on "hard"

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

Uhhhh…I found U2 to be far more challenging than the first, and I know I'm not the only one.

www
www
11 years ago

BeamBoom you're joking right? This is not GTA, so stop the comparison. It leaves me to ask you this, 'so what game did you love best this year,
If U2 didn't impress you?'

DiggityDan, its very obvious U2 is longer and harder than U1, so I don't know what you're saying. I'm with Ben, he's not alone and we're not alone.

Diggity Dan
Diggity Dan
11 years ago

I know U2 is a longer game, but the puzzles and platforming seemed way easier to me in U2 than in U1. The jet-ski sequences and final firefights from U1 in particular were tough for me.

I played through U2 on the default difficulty and only died a few times, almost always from an accidental jump on my part. Maybe it's just because I'm more accustomed to the gameplay style after playing U1?

I still like U2 better than U1, but just not every part of it.

Beamboom
Beamboom
11 years ago

Ben said: "You just see them as toys." (etc)

With all due respect, but no I do not. The essence of my complaint is the linearity of U2. If we look at the history of computer games they all started very linear with a predefined "path" from start to end. Then, over the years the games has advanced towards less linearity, more complex game "environments" (for the lack of a better word…) where freedom of choice and consequence of action are two key elements. And in this perspective I think U2 is a step backward, not forward.
Sure it looks good – darn good! Awsome animations, excellent cut scenes. But that can be said about an animated movie, too…


Last edited by Beamboom on 10/21/2009 11:32:41 PM

Wage SLAVES
Wage SLAVES
11 years ago

@ Beam

The developers at Infinity Ward even says that "the best stories are on rails". Alluding to the fact that in order for you to feel what the "storyteller" wants you to you can't have too much freedom. The more freedom the more diluted the story on the basis of timing and progression.

Beamboom
Beamboom
11 years ago

@Wage SLAVES: Indeed you are right, and let there be no mistake: I do understand that a story (in the traditional sense of the word) is easier told "on rails" (excellent expression). And, well… That's what movies are for!
A movie can never be a game. Thats very obvious. Why is it so much less obvious to the majority here that a game can never be a movie? And if not – could it not be that the rails in fact lead to nowhere? A dead end?

Actually this reminds me of the internet back in the nineties. Back then few really understood this new media channel, and tried (and failed) to make it into a radio channel, or TV-channel, or printed pages. The net is neither – it's a separate, unique channel, as we all are aware now.
I consider games the same way. Games are not movies, or books, or theatres. They are… Games!
Therefore, the traditional method of delivering a story like in the movies or in a book may be less suited for games. I believe it is.

Daedusian
Daedusian
11 years ago

@Beamboom; so you're saying that games should have more flexibility on what the player can and cannot do? That there should be more freedom of play? If games were like that, I think I would honestly give up on gaming altogether. Your logic is not making any sense to me, but if that's your opinion, then fine. I just don't agree with it at all.


Last edited by Daedusian on 10/24/2009 10:48:42 AM

Beamboom
Beamboom
11 years ago

@Daedusian: Every game has some level of linearity, "bottlenecks" you have to pass through to open new areas/unlock new content/continue the main story. And for apparent reasons I don't see that changing anytime soon. But after all the hype I got Uncharted 2 (I even preordered it despite not liking the first Uncharted either) and got almost paralyzed by how the game force you to play. "Press this button. Climb that wall. Jump here. Kick there, kill these guards in THIS EXACT order in THAT exact timing". "Good. Sit back for a cutscene. Now pick up the controller. Press this button. Wait X seconds. Jump. No not that way, this way. Jump. Oh c'mon. A split second later. You can do it. Now JUMP. Bah, try again. JUMP. There you go. Now press this button. Then that button. Walk there. Wait here. Good boy".

Please, sweet Lord, do not make this the "future of gaming". This is how it was in the eighties, for crying out loud. The ONLY thing that differ is the pure visual display.

Alienange
Alienange
11 years ago

This is why I like you Ben. You have passion for games. Yes, UC2 is just a game, but you can see when a dev has made strides and I definitely feel that they need to be recognized for what they've done beyond just writing a review for their games.

Not everyone is going to like every game, but damn, you still have to sit back and say, these guys have done something special for my favorite pass time.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
11 years ago

@ Ben
great article!! and a great read!

i never encountered some of the problems you seemed to, like the rocket launcher thing! that was actually one of my favorite parts of the game!

as far as the stamina bar goes, well it would be a great addition but sometimes the lengths and heights of the climbs would rule out the possibility of it working correctly! and one of the ebst parts of the game is the thrill of climbing to some of those heights witnessed in Uncharted 2! i think the stamina bar would take away from this aspect greatly!

i dont have one complaint about the game it satisfied me 100%, and your right the industry should be proud! Thanks Naughty Dog!

Thrill Kill
Thrill Kill
11 years ago

bigrailer you are the man. that's all i have to say.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
11 years ago

no sir, you have it wrong your the man!

Or we both can be i'll be fine with that! 😉


Last edited by bigrailer19 on 10/21/2009 2:37:28 PM

jerocarson
jerocarson
11 years ago

Ben, thanks you just made my love for games deeper!
cheers

frostface
frostface
11 years ago

This is the only game I've ever cleared in 2 sittings…it would of been in one sitting but I had to interrupt the game and go to work. Yeah I know I should of called in sick but the bills gotta get paid.
Thanks Naughty Dog for a magnificent game. Will be there to support you guys when number 3 comes out. Until then, back to playing the online and running through the SP again.