While most gamers have pinned all their Holiday gaming hopes on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Uncharted 2, despite the mass hype, had slipped a touch below radar, until reviews started appearing that is.. The sequel to Nathan Drake's Tomb Raider-esque exploration seemingly expected to be decent enough, but not quite hitting the heights of the Call of Duty juggernaut.
Uncharted 2 starts out with a cliffhanger. Literally. You begin with a stunning set piece, with Indiana Jones-a-like explorer Nathan Drake clinging onto the remains of a half obliterated train that's precariously hanging over a huge cliff face. Slowly and methodically you pull yourself up and finally come to rest on solid ground. Only for all hell to break loose.
This supremely bombastic opening does its level best to show off right at the very start every major asset that Naughty Dog have crammed onto a Blu-ray disc. Most obviously there's the huge attraction that are arguably the greatest visuals witnessed in a video game thus far. Everything from eye popping vistas, through to incredible character animation, via stunning lighting effects. It all culminates in quite a stunning visual spectacle.
Similarly high levels of production have been plunged into the aural experience too. The voice acting – in part due to the hefty quality of the script – is absolutely top notch, with none of the usual hammy over the top, or bored sounding individuals simply eager to grab their pay cheque. This helps bring about the almost unimaginable; cutscenes that you will want to witness multiple times.
The high quality continues with some superb physics, more obviously helping make Drake's regular climbs and jumps seem all that more real, but also enemies that perish and move in stunningly realistic manners. We spotted one recently blasted enemy caught on a high railing, and couldn't resist giving him a nudge off his precarious resting place and watch him land bone-crunchingly hard on the rocks below. Yet another sign that some real love has been fed into this game.
Enemies also show a huge amount of intelligence in the way they duck behind cover, try to flush you out with grenades and flank your position, rather than wait to be slowly picked off one by one. With combat outnumbering exploration/platforming by a factor of about 2:1, it helps make the most of every single level of the game.
Drake's adventure isn't quite the new Tomb Raider that some might have you believe, with gunplay playing a major part to proceedings. Weapons are well powered and sound wonderful, and the cover system is as fluid as any other title out there. But when you do get the chance to climb, Uncharted 2 makes it feel so incredibly fluid when compared to Lara Croft's still somewhat stilted nature. There's no slow methodical lining up of jumps required, and you can easily cover huge distances in seconds. It just feels so natural.
Spread throughout the entire game there are a number of fantastic set pieces coming your way. Where some titles may keep the most spectacular experiences for passive cutscenes, Uncharted 2 sets you as the star, allowing you to frantically run from a truck, or swiftly jump across a crumbling bridge. You can always assume that one more breathtaking moment is only a few minutes away.
The single player experience described above lasts a solid 8 to 10 hours of game time, and certainly contains enough to keep you coming back time and time again. There are a few less than stellar moments however. While the latter enemies who can soak up a number of bullets are explained away, one earlier human who can withstand clip after clip of ammo is a strange anomaly.
And then there's the online multiplayer. All the usual standards apply, with the usual Deathmatch and Capture The Flag options made available. But they've been crafted with the same unnerving brilliance that the single player story offers, culminating in something which might not be brand new, but you can't help falling in love with.
Uncharted 2 is just an incredible package. One of the most stunning single player outings in years is fantastically complimented by such an impressive multiplayer offering that all PS3 owners can't pass up this opportunity. It might not have the hype of Modern Warfare 2 behind it, but Activision have got a real test on their hands if they want to be sure of being the PS3's Christmas must have.