City 16's Top 10 Games of 2009: #4

Ways the world didn’t end in 2009: Black hole, asteroid, Rapture, nuclear attack, biological attack, Shaq attack, Sarah Palin, Gerard Butler.

Considering the paranoid of the world have all of 2012 to go crazy with their delusional theories can I propose a moratorium on end of the world theories until at least the tail end of 2011? It’s just, we’ve been putting up with this shit pretty much constantly since the Y2K thing… Is it not time for a break.

Also not of world ending significance in 2009: The release of my 4th favourite game of the year:

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Yeah, so this one was inevitable. The trend seems to be for putting Uncharted 2 in the top spot among most game of the year lists. It nearly didn’t make mine. When I was shortlisting games for inclusion Uncharted 2 was nearly disqualified for the many things it does wrong: mostly for being bloody frustrating. Okay, that’s not a particularly helpful phrase, but then the line between frustrating and challenging is a pretty fine one; it usually comes down to, when you do die, are you shouting obscenities at yourself or the game?

Death in Uncharted 2 often doesn’t feel like your fault but, rather, the game not being entirely clear what it expects of you. It doesn’t help that a lot of the platforming is computer assisted. You may see a platform that experience teaches you there was no way Drake could reach, but because its the right way he seems to leap that extra distance. In other places jumps that seem perfectly reasonable cause you to plummet to your death – It was the wrong way. Also there are times when the combat feels more like a puzzle than an action game with you being forced to use trial-and-error to find the right cover location and the right combination of weapons to clear a room of the myriad of soldiers with perfect aim.

So I’ve complained about the game’s faults more than any other on my list, mostly because most sites seem to want you to believe it’s perfect when it isn’t. Really, though, I was just being petulant; when I finally decided that it did deserve inclusion and was looking at its placing it just kept creeping up the list. It helps that what it does well it does really well.

Let’s start with the technical achievement. It almost seems like a taboo to talk about how good a game looks as we keep telling ourselves that graphics aren’t important.True as this may be it doesn’t stop Uncharted 2 from looking absolutely stunning. Even aside from how nice it is to have a third-person action game not be afraid to use a little colour (and with the natural lighting that colour really washes through unlike, say, the last Tomb Raider which was colourful yet somewhat sterile) it’s the little details in the world that really bring it to life. The technical competence of its implementation is also something of a marvel. Killzone 2 may have had a level set on a moving train but that train ride took place exclusively in one long, grey tunnel. Uncharted 2’s moving train chapter is in the mountains. You’d stop and gawp if there weren’t so many people shooting at you.

The characters are almost certainly worthy of praise. Nolan North’s Drake remains a likable lead and here he gets a few extra secondary characters to trade lines with. The story’s nothing special: a few betrayals here, an evil Russian there and an artifact of immense power. That’s fine, it’s an homage to the adventure films of the past and, thankfully, the voice acting really lends pathos to the characters. After a while you actually start to care about them, a rare feat in a relatively short, linear action game.

Then there’s the pacing, probably some of the best I’ve seen outside of a Valve game. There’s a reason everyone raved about the section, about halfway through the game, in which you just wonder through a Nepalese village and just exist for a few minutes, wandering around and interacting with the locals (whose language you can’t speak). It’s a much needed breather after escaping a train wreck and then taking out waves of armed soldiers. The game’s final fight with these anonymous henchman is also probably one of the most adrenaline inducing parts of the game as near endless hordes flood into the room forcing you to make perilous runs to that gun your sure someone dropped over here… oh crap, no they didn’t… Jesus, where’s a shotgun when you need one.

That said, the final boss fight is, predictably, rubbish.

The Top 3 are nearly upon us. Tomorrow: when shit gets real.


3 Responses to “City 16's Top 10 Games of 2009: #4”

  1. 1 Izzi
    22/12/2009 at 16:40

    don’t be so hasty- there’s still time for 2009 to end in any of those ways. Except Sarah Palin, she is history.

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