Cinematic gaming experiences are dime a dozen these days, and while there have been some heavy hitters over the years, the Uncharted series delivers the goods time and time again.
This generation we have been treated to some truly cinematic experiences - games like Bioshock, Condemned: Criminal Origins and Assassin's Creed have given us tales that wouldn't look out of place in Hollywood movies. While they possess the story, the charisma and the necessary flash to pull it off, they lack the one quality that Uncharted possesses.
Characters; believable and loveable characters. I wrote an article a few weeks ago about how the series captures the spirit of gaming, and those very same qualities are what makes the series provide such a cinematic experience. Nathan Drake is a scoundrel, but his emotive performance puts him on par with likes of Indiana Jones, Lando Calrissian or John McClane. His character is bigger than life, and while other video games lack this human quality to their protagonists, Drake and CO possess it in spades.
Some may argue that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the epitome of cinematic gameplay, and in a sense they are right. MGS4 offered up a tale that had more twists than most thrillers, more suspense than half the crap that comes out of the movie industry, and had over three hours of cinematic cutscenes. The game is still a work of art in my eyes, but it is a niche title, one that only appeals to fans of the previous titles.
Compared to the characters of Uncharted, Solid Snake and his partners seems sterile. They lack the true personality that Drake exults in simple matters, whether it be during a cinematic or even just stumbling a little after a jump.
A game like Uncharted opens up the gaming experience not only for regular gamers, but even those who have no interest in our favourite pastime. My mother was not a fan of extended sessions of Metal Gear Solid in the living room, but she saw the opening of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves she was instantly enthralled. Gaming was usually met with "can't you do that in your room?", instead it she was saying "keep playing, I want to see what happens".
In that respect, I feel that the Uncharted series is quickly blurring the lines between gameplay and cinematic experience, and using the characters as a driving force to keep everything in motion. It's one thing to have great gameplay, but when you thrust in a series of two dimensional characters, it becomes hard to care about the experience.
Same can be said to the other extreme; throw in the most loveable characters in the world with sub-par gameplay and people are not going to take the bait. The key is to create a balance - one that offers fun gameplay, and human qualities to the story and characters.
When it comes to that balance, the Uncharted series is simply too hard to beat.
By Stephen Heller