Monday, March 26, 2012

Games, movies, and favorite parts

Playing some Uncharted 3 over the weekend through my second (and most difficult) playthrough, and it occurred to me how much fun the game was.  Gone were the manual labor searching for treasures (well, not for the obvious ones, anyways), the cautious walking to anticipate surprise attacks, and the need to pace oneself.  I was playing the game as it was meant to be, all along - as a movie, chuckling to the same parts that made me smile, and getting worked up on all the exciting action scenes.

Think about it.  For any movie you remember, do you talk to people about the entire story from beginning to end?  No, you describe to them your favorite parts.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?  Running away from giant boulder.  Titanic?  "I'm the king of the world!!"  Lord of the Rings?  The humongous orc battlefield.

Games are the same way.  Everyone has their favorite Final Fantasy, Gears of War, and Battlefield 3 moments, I'm sure.  The slight difference with the Uncharted games is that these movie-like qualities are littered all around the game, and are not necessarily just the cutscenes in-between actions, and Uncharted 3 accomplishes this in spades.

For example, halfway through Uncharted 3 there's a chase on foot through a building.  At one point, the man closes the door, so you expect to ram it down with your running momentum.  Right then is when the cut scene is triggered without a hitch; Nathan comedically fails to knock down the door, making him stumble back.  In that motion, his hand inadvertently slams a nearby door open, revealing the runaway - who, at that moment, utters "shit," ending the cutscene and continuing the gameplay with the pursuit.  Running after a man is hardly anything difficult, and there are obstacles certainly in the way.  But it's the way they're seamlessly woven into the entire scene that makes it so enjoyable.

Another good example is from Uncharted 2 when Nathan's fighting atop a moving train.  Instead of having a static train track and background, the constantly-moving scenery is dynamic and changes during gameplay.  So, you could hide for an indefinite amount of time, and the train will never reach its destination, like a backdrop on an infinite loop machine.  Only when certain cues are made (like reaching a certain point or enemies have been defeated) will the equation change and the level will progress.  Again, all this is done during gameplay at once, so the effect is transparent

A lot of people will say the Uncharted series plays like a lot of good action movies, but it's really these little things that make the game seem movie-like.  The devil is in the details, and Naughty Dog has gotten that skill to a T.  Say what you will of the gameplay and the story, but their cinematic timing is impeccable.
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