Saturday, January 2, 2010

REVIEW: Uncharted 2 and Assassin's Creed 2

I might as well review both of these games together, because they make for a good compare/contrast on what PS3 games (and franchises) are capable of.

Uncharted was the reason to own a PS3. It looked amazing and it provided a fresh game-playing experience. In fact, only the best kinds of games can make you forget the normal game mechanics. Yeah, we've seen 3rd person shooter games, platforming games (Crash Bandicoot), and puzzle games (Tomb Raider), but never before in such a beautiful, intense, humorous, and flat-out entertaining package.

For Assassin's Creed, even though it was a massive seller, people kind of look back on it with a sour look to their face. It took a sweet premise and sick graphics, and then made it repetitive and a little boring. AC also put a unique twist on familiar gameplay.It took the sandbox mentality of Grand Theft Auto and added a new dimension to it. You weren't just walking the streets during the Crusades-era Middle East. You could now climb walls and traverse rooftops whenever you felt like it. Nothing was off-limits. But of the two, AC had a lot more ground to make up.

For the sequels, the interesting thing about this comparison is how each game adapted to the complaints from their first efforts. People say Uncharted was too linear. You were always moving along one path from A to B. Guess what? They didn't care, because it's still that way for Uncharted 2. Instead, they took what was so great from the first one and elaborated on it even further. The character interaction in Uncharted 2 is unparalleled. Whether it's the well-acted cutscenes or the one-liners during gameplay, you can't help but care about the characters and the plot because of how it's delivered to you. Also, they took the big set pieces from the first game and kicked them into high gear. You get to be inside a building while it's collapsing from helicopter fire. You get to travel along a moving train like Steven Seagal in Under Siege 2. You get to jump from truck to truck while narrowly avoided explosions. This game delivers big time on it's ability to make you feel like you're in a Hollywood movie. Bottom line: if you ever wanted to be Indiana Jones, then buy this game.

Assassin's Creed 2 took a different approach. It listened to the critics and fixed almost all of it's many flaws. Combat, exploration, traversal, and side quests are all more complex and interesting. There's a currency system, new upgrades, and home-base to decorate with armor and paintings. You can invest in your local town to increase tourism and trade. You can do the main story at your leisure, accept missions from local townsfolk, or just explore. The music, costumes, scenery, and voices make you feel like you're in Renaissance Italy. The only knock I can think of is they went from a boring, borderline stupid character in the first AC (Altair) to a pompous, unlikeable brat in Ezio. Fortunately, there's so many little things to keep yourself invested in (changing your clothes to something more fashionable, exploring underground Roman Ruins, getting revenge on the jerks who pickpocket you) that you forget about the jerk main character.

In a year when Modern Warfare stole all of the buzz and the sales (review forthcoming), it's worth mentioning that Uncharted 2 was hailed as the game of the year by almost every major gaming magazine, and Assassin's Creed was almost always a nominee. I didn't even mention that Uncharted 2 offers a online multiplayer component that is just as addicting. But if you're sick of games serving up the same old space marines vs. aliens shoot-em-up plot, or if they're rehashing franchises to the nth degree (that would be you, Mario), then look no further than Uncharted 2 and Assassin's Creed 2. These games highlight what creative originality can get you.

Bottom lines:

Uncharted 2 - Pound for pound, the greatest single-player adventure you'll ever take.
Assassin's Creed 2 - Open world addiction at it's best... takes sandbox mentality and turns it into a work of art.

Obviously... both games get an A+

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