This fall continues to be a very good season for games. The latest, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, is an excellent and addictive action-adventure where you portray an Indiana Jones-styled explorer searching for the lost treasures of Shangri-La, as you follow clues left behind by Marco Polo.
I know that sounds nerdy and familiar, Lara Croft-ish, but this is a beautiful shooting-and-climbing game, featuring unpredictable storylines and quirky twists, tongue-in-cheek cinema scenes and clever dialogue delivered by perfectly cast actors.
The game begins with one of the best starts I've ever seen, as you, Nate Drake, wake up, sitting on a train seat. The train is not in motion. You look out the window and the world appears sideways, because inexplicably the train is dangling over a snowy cliff. How did you get here?
In the next five minutes: You nearly fall out of this broken train car, then you use basic wall-climbing techniques to climb up the outside and inside walls of the shaky train, reaching the cliff before the train falls off the ledge into a great void of lovely, snowy forest far below.
At this point in the game, you may think, "Well, this game won't be this pretty or creative during the rest of its time." But you'd be wrong. Among Thieves ranges, level to level, from basic fun to outright awesome, never dipping into suck or even average.
You travel from Nepal to Borneo and beyond, dodging through forests and cityscapes, sneaking up on bad guys and breaking necks, or shooting them down en masse.
Your nemeses are rival explorers who shoot at you, set you up for double-crosses, and generally act like jerks.
Along this perilous and precarious path, there comes lots of fairly amusing dialogue, delivered by actors like Nolan North, a soap opera pro who voices Nate. North's voice delivers urgency but lightheartedness. He makes Nate a confident but unthreatening everyman.
At one point, you kill a bunch of bad guys in one room, then turn to a female explorer by your side, and Nate teases rather than taunts her: "Are you impressed I got all those guys by myself?"
My favorite noir-ish conversation: A woman explorer turns to a bad guy's henchman and demands to know, "How can you work for that monster?" The henchman, in an unfettered British accent, quips, "Beats workin' against him, love."
The only downer: controls can respond slowly, sometimes.
Online, you can play multiplayer-competitive, or three-person cooperative shoot-outs.
In all, you climb vines, squeeze through tight spaces, hide behind many obstacles while shooting at villains with rifles and dart guns, solve ancient puzzles involving rocks and maps, and shimmy across many a ledge.
I wouldn't go so far as to say it's worth buying the PlayStation 3 for this PS 3-only game. But if you play an Xbox 360 but not a PS 3, Uncharted 2 is another reason you're missing out.