You start, hanging off a train carriage suspended over a snowy cliff. No-one knows how or why, all you hear is that insecure creak telling you to climb forth and follow the yellow-piped road. As you scramble upwards, trusty-looking ledges begin to buckle under the insatiable tension. Carriage furniture starts to snap loose, whiffing past your nose as you leap between the inner sides of this vertical first-class deathtrap. You leap back, forth and all around, avoiding falling stools, lamps, glasses of Blossom Hill and boxes of square teabags. As you finally reach the top, you fling yourself forwards, body in flight, arms outstretched, until you grasp the frosty cliff-face, praying the tumbling carriage overhead doesn’t clap you in the face into the abyss below.
This is Uncharted; the summer blockbuster of video games. You’ll run through obscene set-pieces, shoot hundreds of bad guys and giggle wildly at Nathan Drake’s quips as he charms every breasted AI in sight. He’s unstoppable. He’d sleep with your gran if her framerate was locked at 60, then snatch-grab your sister while rolling out a burning Aztec temple onto a getaway moose.
I mean, you’d probably let him too. His mix of Hollywood good-looks, ability to pull-off two shirts at once and extensive knowledge of archaeology is something young men burdened with reality can only dream of. Games as a medium offer unique perks when faced with characters like Nathan ‘dreamy’ Drake however, either you guide them through the righteous path of saving the world, or you watch them fall under that jeep during a high-speed chase on sadistic repeat.
However you decide to enjoy Uncharted 2 or 3 (I skipped the first because the rest of the world seems to have forgotten about it), you’ll find it’s a rapturously grand old time. Sure, the gunfights feel like a showdown between Fisher Price toys and the token ‘guy in armour’ enemies are pretty dull, but it does pretty splendidly what it sets out to do. That is, provide a fun and breezy piece of entertainment jam-packed full of explosive moments which pull off the Hollywood blockbuster schtick better than most movies today.
Saying that, I did leave Uncharted feeling strangely disconnected from it all. The constant stream of action hit a point where it felt like I was tied to a rope and dragged across a series of cinematic triggers. Look, blast down that helicopter, run past those armoured goons, catch up to that aeroplane, cue zippy one-liner cutscene, blow up that tank, oh, did you want to look for secret treasures? Oops. Watch out for that spider swarm, there’s a red barrel over there, shoot it quick and toss back that grenade. Oh wait, this isn’t Uncharted 3 yet. WHAT?
While you can often smell Uncharted’s game designer pushing you on with a bag of party poppers, I appreciate it’s a design choice. That’s cool. Personally I prefer The Last Of Us which, while still incredibly linear, has an atmosphere and some breathing space where I didn’t feel so bad exploring every last corner of its world for silly collectibles. Uncharted 3 shows an attempt to experiment with the ‘mood’ through some trippy desert sequences, but it unfortunately still amounts to pushing forward on the analogue stick and waiting for the sparks to fly.
This all sounds a bit downbeat, but I still really enjoyed both titles for different reasons. To cut this stream of nonsense and prove it to your cynical heart, I’m going to lay out my favourite things about each game below in a simple ‘pros’ system which all the reviews seem to love these days. It’s efficient, easy on the eye and mildly lazy; everything I love in an article.
+ The shoot-out train bit
+ Climbing in the mountain with the guy who can’t speak English
+ Getting angry because you can’t throw back those pissing grenades
+ The sandy bit
+ Nathan Drake’s neck scarf
+ Getting angry because you CAN throw back grenades and they hit the pissing wall.