Uncharted 2 does a lot of impressive things, but what gets me more than anything is quite how old it makes something as beautiful as the original game. If you have both I encourage you to compare, say, the first game’s forest sequences to the sequel’s Borneo rainforest, and then bear in mind that this is just a short sequence, and within a few hours you’ll hit the mountains of Tibet, Istanbul, Kathmandu… and some that it would spoil it to tell about. Even in that short sequence it wipes the floor with the first game, let alone the competition, and still manages far more variety in its environments.
In short, I’ll be very surprised if we see many – or any, in fact – console games this generation that look better than this. The gloriously animated and acted cut-scenes are up to the standard of Heavenly Sword, and unlike that, this has a good story and a good game to back it up.
Aurally, as well, it’s a masterpiece. This is really the first game that I’ve bought since my new sound system that can output uncompressed PCM sound, and it’s done everything from shake the walls to making me think that a knock on the door from the rear speaker was real. Little things like rain, and big things like debris from explosions landing all around you just all sound crystal clear and so well defined. It manages subtlety and giving the sub a workout with equal aplomb.
Don’t think it’s also just an AV upgrade, though, because Naughty Dog’s done a fabulous job of tightening up the few rough edges that the first had, gameplay-wise. Uncharted fell victim to that early PS3 problem of having to somehow justify the Sixaxis’ motion control through superfluous and gimmicky use, from the annoying but fairly sensible use of it when balancing across logs, undermined somewhat by the baffling use of motion control to aim grenades, and both are thankfully excised here. Hand-to-hand combat is less of an uphill struggle, too, as I can actually now perform combos.
If I have a complaint, it’s that a lot of the environment is simply window-dressing and completely non-interactive, and as a result you can frequently find ledges and platforms that look climbable but actually aren’t. After a couple of hours, once you learn the game’s visual vocabulary, you can tell at a glance, but as it’s neither as obvious as, say, Mirror’s Edge’s red highlights – not saying that’s a bad thing, obviously – nor as organically clear as the best Prince of Persia games. It might have been a bit less subtle about the highlighting of interactive objects early on, as I’m not the only one who’s been overlooking things in the opening stages, and late on, in the mountains, there were more than a couple of moments where I fell a couple of feet to my death because that platform wasn’t meant to be jumped on.
But regardless, is this an early contender for game of the year? Certainly. I’m struggling to see anything that can come close at the moment.