Monthly Archives: October 2009

Uncharted Territory

So my long wait came to an end this week, as Sony’s bonafide blockbuster Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was released on tuesday. Being that I’m an idiot, and I ordered online through amazon.ca however, I received my copy on thursday (which admittedly isn’t much to grumble about since it was free shipping and they were quite prompt about it.) and have now just finished the single player campaign. And boy do I have a review for you.

Uncharted-2-Among-Thieves-Box-Art

It’s important for me to preface here that the expectations I had for this game’s release were immense. I mean to put it in perspective, I had been anticipating the sequel since seeing the initial teaser two years ago. After playing the original I had come to expect a lot since it was easily my favourite action/adventure title of the current generation. Now, as if that weren’t enough, Uncharted 2 stole best in show at E3 for several notable game journalists, and a week before it was release it had a 98% rating on metacritic with heavyweights like eurogamer, gamespy, IGN, and G4TV giving it 90 or higher…yeah, I expected a lot.

So the question is did it deliver on the hype? was all that anticipation worth it in the end? is Uncharted 2 the game to get as a PS3 owner?

The short answer on all of these questions is…well, yes. However it wouldn’t be very fair of me to leave it at that, so let me tell you why this game kicks unparalleled levels of ass.

Let’s begin with the story. The essentials of this one are that your character Nathan Drake is convinced into getting involved in retrieving some artifacts for an unknown buyer. What appears to be fairly inconsequential relic recovered from the ship of Marco Polo turns out to be the key to unlocking the secret of Shangri-La. Discovering this our intrepid hero sets out on a quest to find Shangri-La and recover the mythical Cintamani stone (pronounced chin-tah-mah-nee) which sends him to various parts of the globe including Turkey, Borneo, Tibet, and Nepal. Returning from Nate’s previous adventure Sully, and Elena join Nate at various points, as well as the additional help of Harry Flynn, a fellow fortune seeker and his partner Chloe, as well as the tibetan villager Tenzin who also assists Nate. It’s a plot straight out of a summer blockbuster film, conjuring up obvious comparisons to Indiana Jones and providing all the banter and snappy comebacks to fit the bill. While not necissarily deep or cerebral, the story keeps you interested and does an excellent job of developing it’s characters.

Presentation was clearly a cornerstone of this project’s development when you play. from the very opening sequence you are introduced via a sort of cinematic immersion which serves as your tutorial. As you progress, the story is uncovered mostly through cutscenes however ther is a wealth of backstory to be gained from listening to in game dialogue and via drake’s notebook, which has been beefed up substantially from the first game and allows you to flip through it’s pages, which is both revealing and entertaining as it provides you with a better idea of just who Nathan Drake is. Aside from the story itself, the game delivers on a grand scale to deliver cinematic action and suspense in game. Train sequences featuring a fully articulated train moving through an environment are breathtaking, and camera angles often shift dynamically to provide dramatization to key sequences. The environments as a result have a feeling of realism and life to them as the very ground you are on is moving in sequences where the floor falls from under you or the very building your in collapses. the game also limits the use of quick-time sequences (press X now as you’re watching a video of something exciting happening) and actually puts the reticle in your control as you frantically have to react in real time to over the top action sequences. Polish isn’t quite the right word here, they did something truly special in this game. While very linear, the game feels incredibly engaging, as if you were thrown into the very thick of this larger than life adventure.

Graphically the game is breathtaking. Easily the very best visuals I have seen in a game to date. The environments are articulate and feature stunning picturesque backdrops. character models are interactive and detailed, getting wet accurately when going into the water (as in the first) and piling on snow as they trudge through frigid mountains. The snow I actually have to stay on for a moment, it’s amazing, watching as characters left realistic tracks I was mesmerized as the snow powdered around the characters legs and left it’s traces on your pants. it’s downright magical, and I am actually curious to know what other games have used snow techniques even close to this (references to this will not be acknowledged) because to my mind snow hasn’t really been a big thing on this generations titles. Really, I could go on for a while about this, but I think I’ll just sum up the graphics with this:

It's ok if you got an eye boner, I know I did.

It's ok if you got an eye boner, I know I did.

I guess most important to discuss is gameplay, which is probably the only real point of contention people will have with this game. Often in the past, Uncharted has been compared to other over the shoulder shooters with cover mechanics (cough, Gears of War) and how little it had innovated in it’s gameplay mechanics. Well the sequel is no different from a strictly gameplay perspective and as such has been open (albeit not nearly as strongly) to the game criticisms. The game does indeed borrow it’s core gameplay mechanics from other successful titles, having a platforming mechanic much like Prince of Persia, a cover and shooting mechanic similar to Gears of War, and a multiplayer format very obviously inspired by Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. However, I can’t stress enough that you cannot find all of these elements in any other game on the market. So really does that not give it originality in itself? Anyhow, to tackle the issue of gameplay more concretely, the game feels very good, offering a stealth element which was absent from the first game, the game features all of the gameplay of the first. You traverse difficult terrain (usually climbing), you solve big elaborate environmental puzzles, you run for cover and shoot baddies when they come at you by the dozens, and you run for dear life as things go terribly awry. The formula works very well, and though occassionally the game will feature sluggish controls when you don’t execute properly, it all handles very smoothly. The multiplayer is also very good, and if you have a PS3 you can find that out on your very own. There is a variety of gameplay modes both competively(deathmatch, capture the flag, territories, etc)  and co-operatively (both an objective and a horde-like mode) and the now standard leveling system along with unlockables and perks slots.

Sound is superb throughout, featuring orchestral scores which were actually recorded with skywalker sound (Lucasart, muthafuckas) and voice acting from some true talents the quality is clearly there. As previously stated the game fatures frequent in game dialogue sequences which sound great and are well acted. from the technical side, all the effects are also top notch, gunfire sounds punchy while explosions can shake your floorboards if your sub-woofer is up too loud. I’m not sure how much else I can really say other than it sounds really really good and I was never thinking to myself that the sound isn’t really up to par.

In conclusion I hate to say this will continue what has become an unfortunately lengthy positive streak for me in reviews, just to lay any fears to rest, I do in fact hate a great many things and I promise to spend more time in the future letting all of you know how much I hate these things. However I felt it poignant to post this review today as I have just finished the game and this is the soonest I could put out an open and honest review for your reading pleasure.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: 10/10

Thank you for reading and I also just wanted to note that if you did want me to review…well pretty much anything, feel free to send me an email at: theblunderblogs@gmail.com

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My Mid-week Media Medley (with complimentary alliteration)

So yes I’ve been behind on my blogging. Rather than explain I’ll simply say this: Fuck you, you want me to have consistent and regular articles than bloody well pay me (paypal transfers accepted, address emails to theblunderblogs@gmail.com) otherwise deal with my irregular posts and savour the rare treasures that they are! At any rate however, due to my literary constipation I now have to write a whole bunch of shit…

motivational-i-want-you

So to begin with, I guess I’ll first talk about the first medium of entertainment that I have failed to discuss, being comic books. I finally got around to reading what many might consider to be one of the must read comics of the modern era, Hellboy. The other week I got around to reading the first volume, titled Hellboy: Seed of Destruction. The book shares some parallels with the movie however upon reading it I realize the movie took some very serious departures from the first story’s general plot. However the bottom line is that Hellboy is caught in the middle of stopping Rasputin who has apparently become an evil sorcerer from conjuring up some ancient evil demon that hellboy is apparently the key to unlocking. If this all sounds rediculous and stupid that’s because largely it is, however if you’ve seen the movie you will probably agree that it’s at least moderately intersting and certainly gets points for orginality. The real head turner about the franchise that has created a legacy for Mike Mignola and John Byrne is the art style, which doesn’t do any favours for Byrne (who is only credited as script writer) but does establish Mignola for being a standout in the field. Having a very angular style and using sharp bold lines he creates a very crisp and clean style thats emphasized by simplistic but effective monochromatic backdrops with typically sparse scenery but using very bold colours. I have to admit, this is one of the few comics I’ve read where the story didn’t exactly have me enthralled but the art kept me in it. 7/10

Art by Mike Mignola

Art by Mike Mignola

Ok, on to the second diversion, Zombieland. If you read my previous post you might not be surprised to discover I was eager to see this movie. When I heard there was a zombie movie featuring a zombie kill of the week…well I got a little excited…

To give you the abridged summary of Zombieland, 4 people engage in a comical journey through a world torn to pieces by zombies and experience a variety of challenges with living with one another and learning to trust each other. Without dishing any spoilers I’ll say this, the movie is a riot. Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus) proves that Michael Cera isn’t the only dude in Hollywood capable of playing the comedic akward kid that pretty much every deems necissary at this point. The story follows him as the protagonist and revolves around his rules of survival (which appear in very clever ways throughout the movie) as he is travelling back to his home town from college until he encounters Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) who teams up with him to help him get where he’s heading. Harrelson is essentially a quintessential badass with moments of both comic machismo and unexpected vulnerability which to my mind made him easily the most varied character in the picture and easily the most interesting. The two encounter Wichita (Emma Stone) and her younger sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) who seem to have some very deep seated trust issues. As would be absolutely necissary for any popcorn movie, Columbus and Whichita have a love interest plotline tied in there for good measure, though in all fairness it’s not terribly heavy handed and certainly doesn’t overshadow the fantastic comedy throughout the movie. The final result is a very satisfying comedic adventure movie with an absolute ton of pop culture references and joyous visceral gore. It’s tough not to love a movie this good, especially when it never seems to take the miss-step of taking itself too seriously. 9/10

For my third little tidbit to tell you about, some TV news as I have recently discovered to very little surprise that HBO continues to produce some wicked awesome content. I am speaking of course about Bored To Death. starring Jason Schwartzman playing a depressed slacker who is having a sort of identity crisis and decides to moonlight as an unliscenced detective. Yeah I know, not exactly the biggest stretch as far as roles are concerned for Schwartzman who’s more of an indie film underdog than John Wayne was a cowboy.

The show’s production values are staggering, from the very pilot I felt like I was watching something by Wes Anderson. Schwartzman’s neurotic protagonist is supported by a very capable supporting cast primarily in the form of Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) and Ted Danson (Cheers…). Galifianakis plays his needy friend Ray who is seemingly void of tact and rarely helpful, while Danson plays his New York urbanite boss George who lives primarily for debauchery and generally affluent decadence. Both Danson and Galifianakis share screen time with Schwartzman at different times and provide interesting and funny banter which adds texture to the humour. The premise of the show is mostly based on Schwartzman responding to people contacting him in regards to his craigslist add as an unlicensed  private detective, which means it could have a lot of material to work with, and allows it to have a fun tongue-in-cheek noir vibe which gives it character. I can’t really rate this one cause it’s still too early in the series to really decide with any conviction. I will say this however, if you havn’t checked it out yet, it’s definately worth a look.

bored_to_death_poster

Alright and lastly, Music. as an aside, if you’ve hung in this long I really must thank you for being such a trooper. But lucky for you this one is the freshest of the news bullitens. Just out this week, Tiesto dropped his latest album Kaliedoscope on the 6th, and in a word, it was…surprising.

His fourth official studio release (not counting his Athens 2004 parade of the athletes) Kaliedoscope sees Tiesto expand his trademark style of euro-trance into a fairly diverse album that really changes tempo and avoids falling into the common pitfall a lot of trance music encounters, tedium. The first thing that jumped out at me when I took a look at the album was without a doubt the collaborations. While some might argue that collaborations are hardly a gauge of an albums quality, what struck me was the musicians from very different genres. With the vocal talents of Nelly Furtado, Tegan & Sara, Kele Okereke (of Bloc Party), and Emily Haines (of Metric) Tiesto seemlessly merges their distinct vocal and lyrical styles with his infectious rhythems, pulsing beats, and complex melodies creating some of the most interesting listening I’ve experienced in a while. The tracks are all primarily synth driven and consist of layered sounds that build slowly until culminating, stopping completely, then sweeping in hard and fast. It’s a tried and true forumula that resounds pure and true. While I could go on a lot more to be perfectly honest I’m a lousy music critic and I’m getting tired of writing this god damned article. So I’ll just leave you with this…8/10

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