Killzone 2, Metal Gear Solid 4 and LittleBigPlanet usually lead discussions of big PS3 exclusives. But Naughty Dog has truly stepped up to the marker with this stunning third-person adventure.
From the very first scene, Uncharted 2 shows off a technical prowess and refined artistic composition that's above everything you've ever seen. The locations, set pieces, camera angles and lifelike animation; it takes everything you'd expect from a third-person adventure and does it better. This is how you make a game.
The opening scene underlines this. No boring tutorial, no slow start before the big bang and no long intro cinematic. Drake appears, clinging for dear life on to the rail of a train carriage that's hanging dangerously over the edge of a snowy cliff. The camera, positioned below looking upwards, gives you a clear view as the train edges precariously closer to the cliff's edge.
In the middle of all this tension the game cuts back and forth to flashbacks of the discussion that got you into this mess; Drake having joined new female character Chloe on a quest to find Marco Polo's lost fleet of treasure-filled ships.
Back to icy reality and you begin the climb to safety. Instantly you see Drake come to life; hands and feet animate perfectly as he carefully grips different parts of the train. You can hear the strain in his voice as he leaps fearlessly from a ledge to a pole hanging in mid air.
Drake swears in frustration as parts of the train break off and narrowly miss him. He yelps as rails snap away from the train and swing outwards as the camera pans out to give you a frightening look at the sheer drop below.
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The jaw-dropping visuals totally compliment the experience. You wouldn't identify with Drake's plight nearly as much if he wasn't so lifelike. His interaction and reaction to scenery and situations is phenomenal.
He grips surfaces and objects like they're real. He covers his face with his hands when near fire and twitches when shot at. He goes from calm expression to intense frown as enemies close in. You can even see the concern in his eyes when he's being out-gunned.
And what a difference some clever camera work can make. When you walk out into a new environment the camera pans right out to show you the stunning view; a huge cave full of ancient statues, the top of a snowy mountain or the rooftop of a building in a densely detailed city. It's all gorgeous.
Sometimes it's so well done that you think it's a cutscene, only realising that it's gameplay when you notice Drake standing still, awaiting your control. For in-game cinematics, it's unparalleled. Slightly better, even, than Metal Gear Solid 4.
But U2 isn't just a PS3 tech demo. The first game played superbly and the sequel builds on that foundation. It sticks with the same cover-based combat mechanics but builds on them with stealth sections.
We remember the hoo-ha forumites caused when Naughty Dog first spoke of U2's new stealth focus. Critics will be silenced. The stealth in U2 is some of the most natural in any game and it feels completely unforced.
You'll walk into an ancient monastery full of guards but it's the start of a mission and you have no weapons. Brilliant level design usually means you have a good view of the situation, so you can wait 30 seconds and survey the guards' movements.