So often hailed as the greatest game in the franchise, I have to say that while Uncharted 2
does a lot of things brilliantly, it lets itself down quite badly on two counts.
The first is that absolute curse of gaming - the final boss fight. If anybody can provide me with a legitimate reason why a game like this needs one, please do, because to me it feels like they slammed one in just for the sake of it, and did it pretty poorly as well. It's a really tedious, drawn out, fiddly fight that adds nothing to the game and detracts plenty, leaving you with a bitter aftertaste on a game that otherwise flies by at great pace. I understand why these climactic confrontations were important 10 or 15 years ago, when there was only so much information you could stick in a game, but consoles, designers, and writers have come on so much since then that there's no longer any need to have this kind of pay-off, not when we're capable to putting as much information into a story as we are now. Why spend the whole game chasing down one villain in an era a game can, and often will, give you multiple antagonists? And even if that's a decision you've taken for creative reasons rather than because you're reverting to type (and I do think the former is the case here, in fairness), why make that boss fight an exercise in running around in circles, occasionally looking over your shoulder, occasionally making sure you don't get caught out by that one bit of floor that's missing for some reason?
The other problem is a snowball effect from that fight. In the effort to build up to that scene properly, the plot of Uncharted 2 gets very silly very quickly towards its conclusion, with one particular conversation leading you to believe that you're fighting Nazi zombies
. Seriously. It's not true, but it's a bit of a mood breaker when a game unintentionally makes you burst out laughing at it, and this is a prime example. The actual deus ex machina the plot throws at you is the sap from the tree of life
....which doesn't actually seem a whole lot better when you see it written down, does it? That sap turns people into superhumans and then they live around the tree and dress up as yeti and....yeah.
The storyline is actually quite sensible and easy to follow up to a point, but describing its last quarter as batshit mental is probably a bit unfair on guano, which has done little to deserve the comparison.
It's a shame, because in just about every other respect, the argument that this is the best Uncharted
, at least of the original trilogy, holds water. The in media res opening is one of the most stunning moments of its console generation, a possible contender for gaming's greatest ever opening sequence, and Drake's character and history continues its development nicely. I mean, he'll never be truly three-dimensional, but he's just about the best damn two-dimensional action hero this side of Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China
. (Nathan Drake has always reminded me of that film, weirdly. I assume that's just me.) It's not as dark or brooding as Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
gets at times (which ensures that the two games retain different appeals from one another), some of the larger set-pieces in the storyline are stunning, and the gameplay is as smooth and enjoyable as any shooter I've ever played, with a set of difficulty options that actually reflect their names accurately. So basically it's 10 hours of a belter and 2 hours of kook, but hey, that's a pretty good ratio, right?