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Old 10-20-2009, 12:42 AM   #1
Goatart
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please rate this review: Uncharted 2

Can a video game be a B-Movie?
And does this present any problems?


High: Watching Uncharted the movie, I mean game, unfold.

Low: Actually playing the game.

WTF: There is absolutely no need to figure out what to do on your own, eventually the game will tell you.



There is no denying the existence of games with sophisticated storylines, scripts, characters, etc (Mass Effect, Bioshock, the Metal Gear series, certain early RPGs for example); no denying the existence of games that truly define themselves as games, but these are few and far between in comparison to the amount of schlock (not meant in a degrading way) that is released. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is schlock without doubt, but it may be the best schlock ever.

While certain stories necessarily present themselves with the intent of moving its audience, making you think, of questioning ideologies, or of repeling you to the point that knowledge is somehow gained in the process, Uncharted 2 is mindless. Take National Treasure, The Mummy, and Indiana Jones and the bare bones plot full of cheeky emotion involving Drake, Elena, and Sully from the first installment, along with a new cast of friends and enemies, and Uncharted 2 is summed up quite succinctly. Cliche ridden, character development akin to that of a Roger Corman (dir. of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, he was the king of big breasted women films in the 70s) movie, it's as if John Woo and Looney Tunes had a baby and named it Drake. Cajoled into a treasure hunt involving the rumored Cintimanni stone, double and triple crossing abounds, the big bad guy Lazarevic is after immortality, and something creepy at the end of the trail awaits. Predictability has never been so embraced (exaggeration but...). Nevertheless, something about Uncharted 2 grabs hold and won't let go. It swims in its own inanity, self-reflexive beyond belief, and voice acted so well I couldn't help but keep listening, and considering how good it looks, I couldn't stop watching either.

Alas, we have what sounds like a B-movie (which is not to say that B-movies are not capable of evoking thoughtful insights) on our hands. Lines of dialogue delivered with such irony it's clear the cast is winking at us and a plot so global, not to mention desperately dependent upon classic Hollywood gender roles, laughing at its desire to impress (if only Bruce Campbell, star of the Evil Dead series, could travel the world in search of lost treasure, providing one-liners as only he can) is inevitable. Well Drake ain't no Bruce, but he's good nonetheless; just serious enough that it's not a turn-off (like by an afternoon Sci-Fi channel movie), just self-deprecating enough to make it clear the game is aware of its limits. This isn't high art (as if high art is perfect), but it is certainly better than the average popcorn fare.

It provides thrills incessantly, verging on numbingly, but encapsulated in such a tightly knit, short spurt of a game that there's no time to lose feeling, it is basically all adrenaline. This may get tiring for some, and I'll admit at times a slower paced game would've been welcome. Fortunately the cutscenes provide breathing room, and once again, the visuals are so crisp that even in all the commotion, my eyes found a way to appreciate the various sites. The diegetic sound is also fantastic, scenes breathe with life the way Michael Bay (The Island, Armaggedon, etc.) wishes his plastic images could. But all is not worthy of praise.

Regarding the game's mechanics, they aren't worth mentioning. If you've played a video game recently (this specifically being a third-person adventure/shooter), you will be fine. One problem I encountered more often that I would've liked is the cover system intruding when I just wanted to roll, or vice versa. Otherwise the game runs smoothly. Too smoothly. In fact so smoothly that the gamer almost isn't needed. When running into a situation I couldn't immediately get out of, and this only occurs because it's hard to decipher what can and cannot be climbed, a hint will pop up. Sometimes I like to explore an environment, attempt to climb everything just because. But this game seems not to favor the explorers (despite promoting the discovery of "hidden" treasures), and while the hints may be ignored, they show up with almost vehement regularity, as if the game just wants to finish, and doesn't really care whether or not the gamer does.

With Uncharted 2, I was not playing a game, I was watching a movie that happened to allow me to play very specific scenes. This could potentially draw comparison to the excellent Metal Gear games, but I would beg to differ. MGS pushes the envelope of game mechanics, difficulty level, freedom vs. predestination (both philosophically and gameplay-wise); MGS refers heavily to the medium that clearly influences it most directly, but firmly establishes itself as a video game (movies can break the fourth wall, but they can't make you unplug and re-plug the controller in order to continue progressing). MGS is not a 20 hour movie, it is a 20 hour video game that uses a multimedia approach to fulfill its goal. Uncharted 2 would succeed as a movie, albeit on the scale of a B-movie/Bruce Campbellish level. That may be a subjective statement, but considering nothing new is brought to the table save itself, it is undeniably clear where Uncharted's priorities lie.

Raw entertainment is not to be dismissed. Room should always be made for mindless fun, we can't always fill our plate with Kojima and Bioware (or the meticulously complex, unforgiving Demon's Souls, essentially the antithesis of Uncharted 2, another ps3 exclusive fittingly released a week before U2 in the states). It is not even always a problem of sophistication, but of simple time management. Among Thieves is crystal clear with its intentions, it delivers in spades, able to deliver in small dosages, and always with unmatched quality.

But the pressing problem/question remains: if videogames only seek to mimic they're close relative (cinema), and succeed in doing so (both financially and critically), will there be room for games that wish to use the mold for more unique, differentiating purposes? I certainly hope so, because despite loving the swash-buckling ruckus of Pirates of the Carribean (or a David Jaffe game), I need to get my fill of Manhattan(s) (early Woody Allen, or a Team Ico game).

The problem is further complicated by the fact that in writing this review I used more film references than videogames! Videogames have forged a path of their own, but with abundant territory left to discover, a game like Uncharted 2 (and many like it) feels a tad regressive. It is definetly not that Uncharted doesn't provide a good time, but if all Drake and Elena's adventure adds up to is the tried and true formulaic adventure of a classic Hollywood genre perfected years and years ago, I have to wonder why I even bother playing Uncharted. Those classic films are sitting on my shelf, might as well forget the game and watch those.

Rating: 7.5/10


Disclosures: This game was obtained via [retail store] and reviewed on the [Playstation 3]. Approximately 9hours of play was devoted to single-player mode(completed 1 time) and 5 hours to multiplayer modes. The online component is not reviewed here.


Parents: The game is rated “T” for teen by the ESRB for blood, language, suggestive themes, and violence. There is foul language and consistent sexual overtones throughout. Not appropriate for small children, but reasonable for teenagers.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: There are subtitles for the dialogue, but there are musical cues indicating when a gun fight is almost over. The sound is also integral in establishing the environment.

Last edited by Goatart; 11-18-2009 at 10:36 AM. Reason: got rid of a lot of the esoteric references, brushed up conclusion
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Old 10-20-2009, 02:43 AM   #2
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goatart View Post
MGS pushes the envelope in game mechanics, difficulty level, freedom vs. predestination (both philosophically and gameplay-wise)
if your going to make a statement like that, then you may want to adding some examples or something to illustrate your point. Don't assume the people reading this feels the same way. Opinion is one thing, but not backing it up could potentially blow the credibility of your whole review with the reader.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goatart View Post
you have no time to lose feeling, it is basically all adrenaline.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goatart View Post
Raw entertainment is not to be dismissed. Room should always be made for mindless fun
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goatart View Post
Regarding the game's mechanics, they aren't worth mentioning. If you've played a video game recently, you will be fine.
If a game is raw entertainment that is basically all adrenaline, then are the game mechanics really not worth mentioning?

Also, you seem to ramble a bit to much in the first part of the review( although, it is well written rambling). While reading it I was thinking to myself "just get to the point." (that may just be me though)

also, try not to use second person, they don't like that here.

Other than that (and the fact that you copied and pasted the disclosures from my review )I like the review. It's well written and it supports your opinion of the game being a movie well.

good job!

P.S. please write your own disclosures. while disclosures may not seem like a big deal, copying and pasting someone else's is still plagiarism and I can't help but feel a little violated.
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Old 10-20-2009, 12:27 PM   #3
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

thanks for the critique/advice.

I know what you mean regarding the mgs comments, but I feel as if 1) going too deep into specific examples would've resulted in a completely new article ha and 2) a review is by nature opinion, so the potential for dispute or even complete refutation by the reader is always there.

Regarding the lack of game mechanics detail and second person diction, I still feel strongly that if you have ever played a video game, you can play Uncharted. And the game being pure adrenaline/raw entertainment is due precisely to the fact that the mechanics are so smooth/almost non existent (obvious exaggeration). But your comments are definitely insightful and appreciated.

I guess I rambled (I worried about this) because my gripe is not so much with Uncharted, but the larger problem that a game like Uncharted is one manifestation of. Maybe I should have written an article more clearly on that topic, I just thought that since having finished the game recently, and what I wrote in my review being in my head constantly while playing the game, writing this would suffice.
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Old 10-20-2009, 12:29 PM   #4
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

oh and I figured the disclosure/parent/deaf part was basically a template, so I stole yours with no ill intentions I swear!!!

I apologize though, I should have cited you haha.
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Old 10-21-2009, 12:02 AM   #5
coyls3
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goatart View Post
oh and I figured the disclosure/parent/deaf part was basically a template, so I stole yours with no ill intentions I swear!!!

I apologize though, I should have cited you haha.
It's no biggie.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goatart View Post
if videogames only seek to mimic they're close relative (cinema), and succeed in doing so (both financially and critically), will there be room for games that wish to use the mold for more unique, differentiating purposes?
this would actually make more a good discussion topic/article.
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Old 10-22-2009, 07:42 PM   #6
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

was hoping for some critiques/discourse...I got rid of the second person and added one small example to help my MGS as game idea.

thanks much!


ps...if it's not clear ha my work deals with film analysis, but I am most certainly a game lover, and figured I'd finally try my hand at game writing. any feedback is much appreciated
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Old 10-22-2009, 08:12 PM   #7
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

seems fine to me. Love the MGS example you used. took me forever to figure that out.
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Old 10-27-2009, 03:31 PM   #8
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

Well I found the random name dropping to be completely gratuitous. What on earth has Jacques Derrida have to do with Uncharted? Why do you pick Ford's The Searchers as a more "profound" alternative to U2? What do they remotely have in common? Also, I would like to know what a cinematic filmmaker is? Aren't they all cinematic? I just don't understand the concept.

Sorry for probably sounding harsh, but it's just that you make some good points and unfortunately lose them with aleatory references.
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Old 10-27-2009, 07:46 PM   #9
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

Completely valid, and no real counter argument save that I don't want video games to be foreign to critical analysis via the theory of someone like Derrida for example. I want to bridge the possibility that a gamer is capable of reading and thinking about such a writer and play video games, and the two not be completely unrelated (as in "x is my real work, y is my hobby/playtime").

Does Derrida have anything to do with U2...I don't know.

Why mention the Searchers? Because The Searchers on the surface is straightforward entertainment, but underneath it is clearly much more. Can a game that appears to be straightforward entertainment offer much more on an interpretative level, I believe so...does U2...I don't, except in a completely B-movieish way, which results in The Searchers reference...if I want to analyze a movie, which I posit U2 essentially is, I'd rather interpret one that problematizes the boundaries of entertainment and art (though I dislike that exactly vague word).

A cinematic filmmaker is a rare thing (though names abound, they are definetly overwhelmed by noncinematic filmmakers). One who approaches cinema as cinema, attempts to create something genuinely cinematic (which may be impossible ha). Clearly Tarantino knows how to make films, but they're novelistic, reliant upon mediums that while cinema can obviously be influenced by, are nonetheless not cinema. A cinematic filmmaker is one who wants to differentiate cinema from other mediums. I would apply this term to Team Ico in terms of games, and I would call David Jaffe, or Naughty Dog, and most other game makers, derivative. But certainly not derivative in a negative way.

I name drop I guess. I mean I do, but not pretentiously. I don't take your statements harshly, I'm used to it. I see no problem thinking about Derrida in terms of U2, and no problem in the fact that you don't. I don't name drop in order to elevate my writing (on a random essentially anonymous gamesite no less) but I will mention people in order to make a point. They are my points therefore debatable and possibly (probably haha) wrong, but I don't write simply assuming that people will find my referencing esoteric.

Additionally it's meant slightly ironic, seeing as how most of the references are filmic, which is what I want video games to get away from, hopefully strengthening, though unfortunately not for you, my point (and Derrida...well you know, film analysis tends to drop his name alot).

Thanks for criticism though, was wondering how that was affecting people.
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Old 10-30-2009, 09:01 PM   #10
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

Question:

Would taking out the ridiculous references strengthen the review? I know they're ridiculous, and I would argue that they serve an ironic purpose, but I totally understand the absurdity, and in a sense, unnecessary function they serve (and perhaps cast me in a light I really don't wanna be cast in haha).

If so I'd love to know, because other than a few comments I'm not sure where this review stands. I'm working on something for flower, which I think is a wonderful little game, and will post it soon. But if people aren't liking my writing, then it'll be just as easy to stop writing (or at least posting in the forum) lol.

thanks
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Old 10-30-2009, 10:07 PM   #11
Richard Naik
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

Hey man, I like it. Everything flows together, and your voice was crisp and clear throughout.

As far as the references, seeing lots of obscure names does get a little awkward, as if the writer is talking down to the reader. Maybe you could sometimes describe the type of film instead of name dropping? I.E., mention the kind of film Roger Corman makes (or made, I don't know who he is or if he's alive) instead of just dropping his name.

Also, don't underestimate the power of hyperlinks-making obscure references is fine, but it's always helpful if you provide some source material to go with it. A little info on what type of game it is near the beginning would be nice too, even if it is a big title.

Address all of the above and you'll have my green light.
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Old 10-30-2009, 10:47 PM   #12
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

Agree with Richard.

Good, strong writing with a clear voice. Liking it a lot.

Scale back the name-dropping to where it's most effective and i think you'll be good.

you're two shakes away from a green light for me.
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Old 10-31-2009, 08:58 PM   #13
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

ok so I changed up the references (figure keeping some was necessary again to reinforce my point, but I didn't make them so aleatory) and cleaned up the last paragraph.

I hope though that by attempting to expand slightly my concluding ideas I didn't in fact get a bit too repetitive or proselytizing.

thanks much for the advice!
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Old 11-15-2009, 02:13 AM   #14
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

Nice work. Apologies for the time between replies-the forum apparently isn't sending emails for this thread. Just one thing left. Where you say
Quote:
Regarding the game's mechanics, they aren't worth mentioning. If you've played a video game recently, you will be fine.
Just make a quick mention of the. I.E., something like "It's a standard third-person shooter" is enough. I haven't played the game, so I don't know if that's accurate, but something along those lines will do.

After that you're good to go.
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Old 11-18-2009, 10:36 AM   #15
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Re: please rate this review: Uncharted 2

added, thanks very much by the way for all the feedback!
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