This is your Level 3 spoiler warning. Until the end of this column, there is an increased risk of Uncharted 2 spoilers. Those of you with spoiler aversions are advised to evacuate immediately and report to this week’s Unskippable or whatever.
I’ll freely admit to having quite an out-sized and vinegary chip on my shoulder when it comes to Uncharted, but this is less the fault of the game and more that of the people who leap to its defense. And since the game is a console exclusive, such people are inevitable, because it will automatically have covering fire from the reserve console tard brigade.
Uncharted 2 gets a pass for its “efficient” gameplay (there’s another word for the GameSpot review generator), but the usual tongue that gets swirled around Uncharted 2’s copious arsehole is the notion that it has very strong storytelling and characters. That’s the point I have contention with.
“[Yahtzee] is right when he says that Uncharted 2 is not very, well, original. But he compares it to FILMS… I don’t think he has realised that it is the first game that I have played that actually manages to pull off almost being a film.”
As I’m absolutely certain I’ve said before, a videogame that manages to pull off almost being a film is like a dog that manages to pull off almost being a cat. The interactive nature makes gaming a completely different form of storytelling. But that’s a whole other argument. I digress.
I’ll concede that Uncharted 2’s plot is quite like a film. Specifically, one of those straight-to-video films that come out to capitalize on a recent blockbuster, the kind of thing that might come out after a successful Indiana Jones installment which goes through the same motions but misses the point completely. I guess what I’m saying is that Nathan Drake is far worse of a charismatic hero than Indiana Jones.
“I don’t really see how Drake is any worse of a charismatic hero than Indiana Jones…”
Well, if you’ll stop interrupting me, I’ll explain.
Indiana “It Belongs In A Museum” Jones is motivated by the pursuit of academic knowledge. We get to see him in his downtime teaching college students and fending off jailbait, and he often seems quite reluctant to go on adventures. He has a troubled relationship with his dad. Most importantly, he only ever kills Nazis, who are basically the unbuttered popcorn of the villain world – you can have as much as you like and not feel guilty. Indiana Jones is a flawed, conscientious, beaten-down man who pushes himself onward to fight for something bigger than himself.
In Nathan Drake’s world, there is nothing bigger than himself. He is motivated (initially, at least) by the desire to gain lots of money for himself, to spend on hair gel and t-shirts. He demonstrates in the tutorial level alone the willingness to break into a museum, pull an innocent security guard off a ledge to his death, steal an exhibit and smash it on the floor looking for clues like an absolute buffoon. I mean, at least wait until it’s on your kitchen counter.
“Maybe I’m biased because I love the game to bits but did he even notice the part where the main villain questions how Drake is different from him?”
Yeah, I noticed that. His exact words were “How many men have you killed? Just today?” (Unspoken answer: shitloads.) I also noticed how Drake completely blew the point off, before killing the guy. Then within 15 minutes he was swapping smarmy jokes about clowns with the girl he got to bang as his reward for his constant theft and murder. The one whose boyfriend got killed because of him and who herself recently suffered serious grenade shrapnel injuries because of him.
“Few games have given us a truly unique story but some games can tell a generic story in a compelling fashion…”
Okay, stop there. This is something I hear a lot in defense of weak game storytelling. “Game storytelling is unimaginative in general.” Firstly, it’s an incredibly weak excuse that brings to mind a stock phrase that begins with the words “if everyone else jumped off a cliff.” Secondly, it’s palpable bullshit on toast. Tons of games have unique stories. There’s Borderlands, Modern Warfare 2, Brooetal Legend, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Darkest of Days, Overlord 2, Infamous, Prototype, Bionic Commando, Velvet Assassin, Madworld, and that’s just from 2009. Note I said unique stories; not necessarily good.
Sorry, getting sidetracked again. You were saying?
“While some might find the character uninteresting, one must at least recognize that they have exceptional voice acting and, in a rare moment for a game, quality physical acting as well.”
If I thought for a moment you were being ironic, I’d call that a good example of damning with faint praise. I hear the Hindenburg had some very well-polished silverware, too. But regarding your first statement, I never said the character was uninteresting; I said he was a smug unlikeable tosser and I hate him. He might make an effective villain, or possibly one of those cannon fodder sidekicks who goes into the temple with Indiana Jones only to cockily misstep onto a touchplate and end up with an arrow up his nose.
The reason I don’t think Uncharted 2 is well-written is because I asked myself the question, “Would I be interested in watching a movie or reading a book entirely about any of these characters?” and the answer was to burst into bitter laughter. Maybe that would change if we had any context for Drake’s actions besides the fact that he’s an irresponsible, idle, sardonic cretin, who wouldn’t do an honest day’s work even if you held a gun to his head. I want to see more of Nathan Drake than a wisecracking bubble that grunts a lot.
What does Nathan Drake do in his spare time? Does he have a house somewhere that he lives in and maintains when he’s not adventuring? Does he vacuum the crumbs off the floor after he’s been eating Cornish pasties? Does he watch Desperate Housewives, telling himself that he’s doing so ironically but secretly he’s really interested in the characters? Does he have a pet that he cares about? Does he have a little dog named Biscuits? Does he slip him scraps of his Cornish pasties under the table?
I’m not saying I want to see a whole game about this. I’d just like to see some spark of humanity. Maybe in the intro he could lovingly sprinkle some fish flakes into a goldfish bowl before he heads out to ransack a temple and murder a prostitute.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.