Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Notes on Uncharted 2

Uncharted_2_thumbI beat Uncharted 2 yesterday, here are a few notes (mostly comparing/contrasting with the first Uncharted game):

This game kicks ass. I was a little suspicious of some of the scenes I'd seen in trailers. Running on a train, for instance, while a helicopter is firing at you looked cool but I worried in the game it would be overwhelming and too difficult. For my money, they balanced it perfectly and it was great fun.

Like the first game, the first levels have very little fighting and shooting while the story is set up. I was all set to mark this down as a bad thing, as I was itching to hit the ground running, but I've come around to their side on this. These games are cinematic and story-driven. The only other games to draw me into the story this well were the Max Payne games and then the Half Life games.

A few differences between Uncharted 1 and Uncharted 2:

The game focuses on wherever your reticle (crosshairs) are pointed. If you're snapped in behind a corner and the reticle is on the corner, everything past it will be blurry. It your reticle is on an enemy, he will be in the sharpest focus. At first I didn't like this, but you adjust quickly. It communicates to the player what is being focused on, and this system allows for very accurate grenade throwing. Grenades are much easier to use and a lot more of a help in this game.

They moved the look/hint button from L2 to d-pad up. Pressing L2 now fires a grenade. This occasionally caused some embarrassing mistakes, but I'll get used to it. If you tap L2 it throws a grenade wherever your reticle is focused (see above paragraph). If you hold L2 it brings up an arc similar to the one in the first game, except instead of using the six-axis functionality (tilting the controller) you use the joystick to set the arc. You can also now set up the arc from cover, only breaking cover long enough to actually throw the grenade. Very cool. The only problem I had was in that you have to hit the triangle button to avoid throwing a grenade once you have an arc lined up. I would prefer that releasing L1 cancels the throw, and you'd have to hit R1 while L1 is still held to throw a grenade. It would prevent accidental throws in frantic situations.

You can also now move while aiming from cover. Finally! This was a large annoyance in the first game. Of course, this could cause problems when going back to the first game, since the grenade controls are different and the cover is slightly different. I'd like to see a patch that makes the controls on the first game mirror those on the second, so I can replay them both with less confusion. Uncharted 1 doesn't have the focus functionality, so tapping L1 may not provide an accurate throw, but you could still have L1 bring up an aiming arc.

The game seems to take a lot longer to launch, however like the first game there were no load times once you start playing that I remember. Unless you skip cut scenes, in which case you will be faced with some load times.

No more Brutal Combos. I didn't fully appreciate the hand-to-hand combat in the first Uncharted until I started working for trophies, where I had to do certain moves so many times. That showed me how useful the different combos could be. Not being able to use the old combos is disheartening at first, but the new combat system is really cool. Simple, yet capable and engrossing. The stealth system is cool. And when rushed by an enemy, as would happen in the first game, you can now pull the guy over and take him down with hand-to-hand moves without completely leaving the safety of cover. Also, being able to push people off a moving train is satisfying to no end.

All the improvements they have made keeps driving home the one they still need to make: they need a Mirror's Edge-style highlighting system for ledges and ropes you can jump to. Maybe only highlight ledges and things when in "Look" mode (up on the d-pad). I died so many times thinking I could jump somewhere I couldn't. I wasted so much time wandering around looking for a ledge when I was missing a rope dangling feet away. To their credit, a lot of times when you die looking for a way out they bring you back looking right where you need to go next, and that was a big help.

Yes, as most reviews said the first bit in the Museum was a bit of a pain. I was at a loss as to what to do sometimes, but that was at maybe two points in that whole level, and it's over quickly.

Doing something spontaneous and getting the "Marco Polo" achievement was a nice touch. Perhaps my favorite moment in the game. I wonder how many similar achievements exist?

EDIT--Right after submitting this post I remembered another point I wanted to make. I remember seeing a video for the game Wet where a big deal is made out of being able to jump from car-to-car while shooting during a highway scene. This looked really cool, however when I played the demo this turned out to be more rigid--the car hopping was controlled by quicktime events. Uncharted 2 has a similar scene, except not ruled by quicktime-events. You do have to jump within a certain window but it's much cooler, because it doesn't use quicktime events, which generally suck (except in boss battles). So if the car surfing in Wet (which is cool in it's own right) didn't float your boat, there is a level in Uncharted 2 where you're jumping from truck to truck shooting people. Yeah, it's pretty cool.

Also, no more jet-skis, which just became more and more annoying as I re-played the first game. To those that might miss it, just wait until you're on that train. ;) (winking smiley, we're friends now)

I am really looking forward to the next Uncharted game. The controls and graphics are so nailed down I would actually be happy if they left it all as is and focused on releasing new stories and adventures built on this engine. Hopefully that could get us more games faster. On that note, one thing I like about PC games is the ease of releasing mods, total conversions and fan-created stories. Half Life 2 has a handful of mods that are as good as, possibly even better than the original itself (Minerva: Metastasis anyone?). It would be cool to see this kind of content show up for Uncharted, but I doubt that's possible. Naughty Dog, the game's developers, gave users a nice set of tools for machinima (making movies with video games) this time around. Maybe in the next installment they could create a platform for fan-created content, like Little Big Planet but actually fun to play. Sorry, I had to say it.


PS-I really, really hope that Uncharted 3 is entitled "The Legend of Curly's Gold".

1 comment:

  1. I love this game more than I love Carib beer.