So I spent the week completing Uncharted and Uncharted 2, almost completely back to back.  I’m not going to go into an in-depth review of the game here; there are a thousand sites that did exactly that years ago.  I just want to get down a few thoughts about the experience.

Unlike people that played the game at launch, I had a certain amount of expectations for the game based on reviews, videos, comics, and so on.  I remember that my first experience with main character, Nathan Drake, came in the form of this Sony commercial about the gamer “Michael.”  I found it interesting that the character was interesting enough to be memorable, despite the fact that I hadn’t played the game yet (Warning: this video may induce a LOT of nostalgia).

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Uncharted is what I would call a “complete gamer’s game.” It contains a broad mix of platforming, shoot-em up action, puzzle solving, survival horror, and story-driven adventure, all wrapped within gorgeous scenes and set-pieces.  Such a game can be difficult to piece together for a broad cross-section gamers, but Naughty Dog tied it together beautifully.

It’s likely that Uncharted had some mechanical flaws that I would notice only after completing Uncharted 2 (similar to the way I noticed the limitations of Batman: Arkham Asylum only after completing Batman: Arkham City), but I can’t think of any at this time.  The game provided just the right blend of all of those elements I described above.

I suppose the only beef that I had with the game was the fact that, regardless of how old a tunnel or tomb was and how much they emphasized that this was the first time in centuries it had been opened, the villains miraculously arrived there (sometimes ahead of you) so that they could shoot at you.  It wasn’t the worst flaw, but it definitely got my attention.

Uncharted’s Nathan Drake is neck-and-neck with Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft in the race to become this generation’s Indiana Jones.  The character has just the right amount of charm to be entertaining, without becoming too cute by a half.  I think this is an exceptional game, and one that will ultimately matter in gaming history.  If you get a chance, give it a try.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Many of you may not remember when the first Metal Gear Solid game was released on the PS1, but I remember it vividly.  I was just returning from my first deployment in the Navy, and we had stopped in Perth, Australia for a port call.  While I was there, I picked up a copy of playstation magazine that contained a playable demo for MGS1.  For the months that followed I played that demo over and over, exploring every corner, trying to squeeze everything possible out of those first two stages.  The demo was simply amazing, and I was psyched to sink my teeth into the actual game.

While I enjoyed the actual game, I found that I was bothered by three things:

1) Snake couldn’t jump.  This game was released at about the same time as Tenchu: Stealth Assassin.  Tenchu had a similar stealth feel, but allowed you to jump all over the place.  It seems like a small nitpick, but I remember being annoyed by this at the time.

2) Unlimited enemies.  Another thing that annoyed me was the seeming infinite number of enemies that hunt you down in MGS.

3) Outlandish villains: I think the main thing that I didn’t like about Metal Gear Solid was the villains.  While the battles were fun and memorable, I found that mixing magical powers, psychic characters, cursed hands, etc., was too jarring for me.  When I played Metal Gear, I expected a realistic, military style game; instead, I got Shadowrun-lite.

Now, you may wonder why I’m writing about Metal Gear Solid in a post entitled “Uncharted 2.”  The reason is simple: Uncharted is the game that I always wanted Metal Gear Solid to be.  It had all of the stealth, the controls, the platforming, and the realistic storyline that I wanted in MGS.

Uncharted 2 took the concept of putting an interesting action game into beautiful set-pieces and cranked it up to 11.  I spoke with a co-worker about the game at lunch after I had beaten it, and the first thing he asked me was “what did you think of the train?”  He knew, as I do, that the train sequence was gorgeous; I even found myself looking up online videos of the sequence so that I could just take time to look at the set pieces without needing to concentrate on the game.

Unlike films, which rarely have sequels as good as the first one, I’ve come to expect that the sequel to most games will be better than the first.  I think the reason for this is how closely the emotional expience is tied to the mechanics.  As the game mechanics become better, the disconnect between player and character diminishes and the players get a stronger, richer experience.