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Final Smack: Uncharted 2

Uncharted 2 is basically a really great Disney ride. It’s a string of very nicely rendered set pieces with beautiful graphics and good voice talent. The story is an Indiana Jones style romp. There are also a few places of gameplay fun, and while they are quite fun at times, they are also quite few. The real question of Uncharted 2 is how important agency is to you in a game, and that will determine whether or not this game is for you. Details within.


– The game is generally good looking and breathtaking in places. The architectures are universally great. There are also some just awesomely composed set pieces. The characters are some of the least creepy 3D models I’ve seen in a while – that’s a big compliment. In short, the game is really immersive visually.

– The main character and major secondary characters all have pretty good voice actors. Nobody’s winning an Oscar here, but they deliver their lines well, and said lines do a bunch to flesh out the characters.

– Combat is quite fun. It’s nothing so radical in its design, but the mechanics are solid, and there is some nice difficulty balancing to create different challenges. There are a number of action scenes where I failed several times and loved going back for more.

– Uncharted 2 would not be Uncharted 2 with set piece interactions, and many of these are just great. They are a series of very action-movie style scenes and they definitely get the blood moving. The sheer variety of them and the care they got shows clearly the core strength of this game.


– In the attempt to be immersive, many of the game elements are very naturalistic. This make them hard to read from the background and often  lead me to not realize that something was a game element or, worse yet, something wasn’t. I can’t count how many minutes I wasted looking for an architectural feature that was almost identical to a nearby texture. The game should have much more clear feedback on what you can touch and what you can’t.

– As part of its drive to be an action moving experience, the game constantly chooses immersion in a scene over agency in it. There are lots of times when you have no choice on what you are doing, or where the outcome is a single predetermined course. I know it’s more of a movie experience, but it makes for a impoverished game as game. If you’re looking for tactical play or hardcore skilled play from your game, look elsewhere.

– Puzzles can be just plain frustrating. The use of the book is too many clicks to open, and since you can’t refer to them when actually manipulating the puzzle, tripping one of these locks is either memorization or luck. The book is a great feature and I would like to see it more, but only in a more integrated way.

– The save points are not terrific. Several times I had to replay whole difficult fight scenes I had won because something random popped me right before the scene ends. This is a well known problem with a well known solution: more save points at the end of each major part of a conflict. There is just nothing fun about struggling through a real rewarding scene to have to do it again because you got sniped in the following second.


Uncharted 2 is doing what Modern Warfare 2 tried to do with its story mode, but actually in a good way. It is the truest and best movie-style game I have seen to date. If you like games as movies, this is the game for you. If not, you will find yourself wishing you had more agency and interesting choices given how nice looking and sounding the game is. I suppose I fall more into the latter camp, but make no mistake — it’s a great game no matter what your preference of game style.

Posted in Hardcore, Reviews.

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