Jones's Vision Quest for GOTY Day 2: Uncharted 2
Gets off to a decent start. I like the whole train-falling-off-a-cliff sequence. (Though I didn't enjoy it as much the second time I had to play through it, or at least part of it, later in the game.) The first cut scene introducing Chloe--ah, Chloe--and that dick-bag English guy is well written and well acted. By why is Nathan all down on his luck, sitting in a bar, unshaven at midday at the start of the game? What happened to him in the ensuing years between the first and second game? Did I miss something?
And the scene when Chloe comes to Nathan's room and we learn that they were former LUV-VAHS? Good stuff. When she takes his hands and puts them on her ass? ZZZZtt. Electric. I don't think there has ever been a more convincing couple in gaming, has there? The history between the two is credible. Man. It makes the love story between Starkiller and Juno Eclipse in The Force Unleashed look like kid's stuff. Which it was.
The game goes soft for awhile during the Turkish museum sequence. The stealth gameplay is introduced here, but it's so poorly implemented that I wish Naughty Dog would have cut it from the game. They basically ditch it for the remainder of the game, so I'm guessing they were aware of how crappy it is.
Then all I remember is a bunch of betrayals. Is Chloe good or bad, or a little of both? It's a compelling question to ponder.
There are also a bunch of scenes lifted straight from Tomb Raider (which lifted it straight from Indiana Jones) of Nathan doing a lot of work--solving puzzles, scaling this or that, looking at his little moleskin notebook (SELECT button), etc. only to have the bad guys show up at the moment all the work is finished and to snatch away whatever map or relic or treasure he has found. I'LL BE TAKING THAT, MR. DRAKE. MUA HA HA H AAHAA. That's it--I am henceforth calling for a moratorium on this kind of scene in all movies and videogames until further notice.
Then there is that awesome helicopter battle and the collapsing building. Wasn't that something? Man, I thought I was done fighting helicopters. I mean, seriously, I have destroyed thousands of helicopters over the years. Me: 1,000. Helicopters: 0. What could be more cliched than a helicopter boss fight at this point? The answer: Nothing. But Naughty Dog said, You know, fuck that, we're going to do a helicopter boss fight, but this one will be so good, you will forget all of the other helicopter boss fights you've ever fought.
They were right. I have helicopter boss fight amnesia now.
After that, there was a great level on a train. And about 20 more betrayals. And more time spent pondering whether Chloe is good/bad/both.
And then Elena shows up! WHUT! And then Elena's camera man gets shot, and Chloe is all like LEAVE HIM BEHIND, and Nathan and Elena are all like NO CHLOE, YOU BIG CROTCH, WE HAVE TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT AND HAUL HIM OUT OF HERE.
This is when I decided that Chloe and I would have the kind of relationship where she treated me really poorly--cheating on me, never calling, making me dinner, tricking me into thinking she has multiple birthdays each year, etc.--but I still wouldn't leave her. I wouldn't.
Anyway, enough about me and Chloe. (OK, I have one more Chloe thing to say, but I'll save it for later.)
I think it's telling that I remember the cut scenes and bits of dialogues--the moments--from the game, but that I generally don't remember the combat. There is a lot of hiding, and shooting, and ducking, and reloading. There is usually one or two guys with riot shields who must be exploded IMMEDIATELY with a grenade. (Never run out of grenades, because you will always need to have one on the back burner in case a riot shield guy shows up.)
Then there are these annoying blue native-types who attack in pairs and take about a million years to kill.
Then Elena gets blown up by the dick-bag English guy, but she doesn't die, and Chloe helps haul her to safety. But then Elena lives, even though she does not get proper medical care, but has her wounds treated in a dirty Tibetan village hut. She limps for a bit after she heals, but her clothes are magically no longer torn or stained with blood.
Then Chloe finally does one self-less thing, when she realizes that Nathan loves Elena, and she excuses herself from the game, and from Nathan's life. (This is my final Chloe statement of this post.) This is when she delivers the year's best line in videogames. "Admit it," she says as she walks away, "you're going to miss this ass."
And that's it!
There's some multiplayer, which I suppose adds overall value. It's good multiplayer, but I have no interest in ever playing it again, and in six months, I doubt if anyone else will, either.
All told, I think this is the populist choice for game of the year. I think mainstream gamers would probably get more from this game than they would from Batman (too esoteric) or Assassin's (too intimidating). But that doesn't mean it's my choice.
Uncharted 2 provides plenty of drama, but it does so through its writing and acting; not through its gameplay. Strip out the writing and acting and what you're left with is a fairly banal third-person shooter that features a decent boss battle or two. And I don't think great writing and acting is the stuff that game of the year winners are made of.
One more thing: A friend of mine who works as developer also recently played through the game--he enjoyed it--but he kept remarking on the fact that it reminded him of the old Dragon's Lair game. His point: Uncharted 2 presents a world that you only marginally participate in.
And I don't think he's wrong about that.