by Daniel Bullard-Bates
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the best movie-based video game of all time. While it isn’t based on a specific movie, it is an overt homage to the action-adventure cinematic experience in general. With well-written characters, riveting action set pieces, and jaw-dropping cinematography, the game’s ultimate success is that the player walks away thinking, “I just saw the best action movie of the year, and I played the star.”
Uncharted 2 offers interactivity in terms of how you reach your goals: you can use stealth or action, attack a situation in a variety of ways, and clamber over half of the environment. But no matter how you play the game, the results are always the same. This is always the case in games with linear plots, and the approach serves Uncharted 2 well. While the game doesn’t capitalize on the ultimate potential of interactive entertainment, the linearity allows the game an incredible sense of focus. The characters are likeable and well-defined, and each scene plays out beautifully. The mechanics of the game are all well-realized: the jumping and climbing functions just as well scaling a cliff face as it does jumping from truck to truck as they race along a snowy mountain side.
(Mitch Krpata, of Insult Swordfighting, makes some excellent points about the focus of the game and what they must have omitted here.)
Uncharted 2 accomplishes something that video game designers have been striving to do for years: it successfully captures all the drama, excitement and fun of a big-budget action-adventure movie. The additional interactivity makes it even better than a Hollywood blockbuster, because any accomplishment that Drake enjoys is the player’s, as well. Uncharted 2 is a fantastic game, but its power is in its execution, not any form of innovation. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I hope that it motivates other developers to branch off in different directions entirely.
There are a few schools of thought on how to make video games. With Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog has conquered the Hollywood school of game design, focusing on characters, linear stories and epic action. Uncharted 2 is the new gold standard, and Naughty Dog has charted the path to success in games that feel like movies. There are other realms to explore and innovations to discover in video games, but they lie down different paths.
Monday, October 19, 2009
by Daniel Bullard-Bates