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Best of the Decade - Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Platform: Playstation 3

Release Date: October 13, 2009

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Developer: Naughty Dog

There’s a lot of fuss in the gaming industry these days about “innovation”, and rightfully so. In an industry full of needless sequels, cheap cash-ins, and budgets so gigantic that safety takes priority over creativity, it’s important to celebrate those that dare to do something different. One of the reasons Geometry Wars is on this list is because the era of downloadable console games it ushered in allows for a great deal more creative freedom than was previously possible.

Not every game has to forge a new path, however. Sometimes, with enough attention to detail and a passionate development team, amazing new things can be crafted using parts we’ve seen many times before. Uncharted 2 is a spectacular example of this.

The DNA of Uncharted 2 is made up of bits spliced from all over the place. It contains the exploration and puzzle solving of Tomb Raider, the swift platforming and traversal of Prince of Persia, the gunplay of Gears of War, and the story of Indiana Jones. While its origins are clear, Uncharted 2 is no mere rehash. It is a prime example of that great artistic truth - that new works spawn from what has come before and only by building on previous success can we reach new heights. 

Naughty Dog has done nearly effortlessly in this game what so many others before have tried and failed to achieve. Thanks to set pieces that are not only spectacular but also interactive, players feel immersed in the action far more than if they were thrown into the unplayable cutscenes so often used to achieve the same effect to little result. The clever dialog is wonderfully performed by a great cast who turn a set of characters that could all too easily have devolved into a string of cliches into memorable companions. Stunning attention to detail in every department, from graphics to sound and everything in between, allows the game to exude a confident aura of polish.

Even the motion capture is worthy of note. The actual voice actors were used as the performers and the scenes were shot as if in a play, with multiple actors in a scene together at the same time. This way the characters could more naturally react to one another like real people. Throw in the fact that most of the recorded dialog was taken from these very sessions, not from stuffy recordings done solo in a booth, and you have some of the most lifelike character depictions I’ve ever seen in a game.

Uncharted 2 is, as far as I’m concerned, the pinnacle of “cinematic” gaming. It doesn’t need to ape films or diminish interactivity to achieve its goal of being slick, immersive, and exciting. It simply does what games do best by providing an interactive thrill ride nearly unmatched by any other yet seen. For proving that games can do their own thing and still give movies a run for their money, and for just being a ton of fun to play, Uncharted 2 is one of my Best of the Decade.

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