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Played Out: Uncharted

Have you noticed that my "Played Out" and "Something Smells Gamey" series have pretty much overlapped as they've dwindled in frequency? "Played Out" was originally supposed to be my reviews; however, since a majority of my internet time is spent reading others' impressions of games, I constantly feel devoid of fresh input. I can hate or love, or tread the middle, or try to sound smart with my interpretation of a certain game mechanic's manipulation of my interactive psyche; yet in the end, I will simply be another post in the forum, which is the modern way of saying "another fish in the sea"... especially now that the ocean is dying and filling with mercury.

"Something Smells Gamey" on the other hand was intended to deal with video game news, relationships, whatever. Ultimately, though, it's just a really incredible pun, so I think I'm going to use it and it alone for all my game-related columns from now on. Except this one. And maybe some others.

I could have discussed this behind the scenes, sure, and no one would have known or cared. I figured I'd give ya'll a little insight into the blogging industry, though. It's a tough one to get into, and to rise the top you have to have a computer, the internet, and something to say. I have some of those things. For instance:

Uncharted. Ever heard of it? No, I'm not talking about the incredible spice-trading sim Uncharted Waters for the SNES. I speak of the Playstation 3's Uncharted, a series now featuring two games and a possible movie upcoming. It's pretty easy to summarize. Take the adventure of Indiana Jones, make it into a video game, change the name from Tomb Raider to Uncharted, et voila! Oh, and improve upon almost everything Tomb Raider has struggled with the past few years, especially through the addition of gunplay a la Gears of War. And make the big-breasted girl an everyday dude (who's a treasure hunter) who wears his shirt half-tucked.

Nothing too fancy here. In fact, almost every review of Uncharted and its recently-released sequel emphasize how little the series actually does that's new to video games. Yet still the games are praised, and still they deserve it. The storytelling is notably well done; again, not because it's original (I feel like I'm enjoying a less cagey National Treasure-esque popcorn flick), but because it features great voicework atop witty dialogue, smooth cutscenes, and pleasing pacing.

Yeah, National Treasure is being used to compliment here. Deal with it.

Knowing my dad's love of National Treasure (deal), I just started him on the first game. I'd have liked for him to start with the second, which is a much more polished product and importantly includes not only an "easy" mode but an "easiest" mode; however, there were some plot points in the first that I didn't think he'd want to miss out on if he actually ended up enjoying the series. Admittedly, it's been a battle adapting him to the modern game environment. He played a surprising number of shooters in the past, including Perfect Dark and Goldeneye for N64, and every other Bond game for Gamecube. But it's taken me days just to teach him how to turn on a modern console, much less log into his own profile to use his own save slots.

Once he makes it past the start screen, my dad has been liking the game so far. And why shouldn't he? Uncharted features alongside its protagonist a leading lady with spunk and sass, a wizened old partner in crime, an upper class nemesis... all the ingredients to a great summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, some producers plan to make the game into a real summer blockbuster. Rumors bounced around just today that Hugh Jackman is being targeted for the main role...

Why? I ask. Uncharted is great because it's a video game emulating everything that we've seen in the Indiana Jones movies. Everything we've seen.... Maybe there are some slightly different story arcs here and there, but this is largely the same stuff Hollywood's been feeding us for years. The reason it's awesome now is because this game is possibly the strongest interactive bridge yet to what has previously been a passive pastime. Transform the active game back into a theater experience and much of its essence is lost.

There are a myriad of reasons that video game movies haven't worked so far. Sometimes the base material is simply adolescent fantasy (Doom). Oftentimes the projects are handed to idiot directors (Uwe Boll, the husband/wife team who directed Super Mario Bros). And sometimes the campy fun of the game canon just shouldn't be repackaged into a consumable good for the mass public to chomp down in 90 minutes (Resident Evil).

I do believe the Prince of Persia future blockbuster will satiate critics and fans alike, courtesy of Jerry Bruckheimer and everyone's fave Iranian actor, Jake Gyllenhaal. The connection will be moot, however, because the film will be indecipherable as a video game movie. It will play up the action and the setting and take the "cool" aspects of a dashing yet rebellious Middle Eastern Indiana Jones, but those pieces aren't what make The Sands of Time so memorable. That game, and its story especially, are great because its focus on time is echoed in its key play gimmick, allowing players to rewind the action when they screw up and die. That device is non-transferable to the screen, so no matter how good or bad the movie is, all it will have to owe its source are malleable story elements non-specific to the gaming medium.


The best game-to-screen translation yet? Television's Super Mario Brothers Super Show, because it provided the perfect character supplement to 8-bit heroes who previously had nothing more than bleeps and bloops. Uncharted already has full-fledged cinematics and talking avatars to accompany the play experience. There is no need to expand.

Is there money to be made in a screen adaptation of Uncharted? Probably, but that's not the point. Everybody's seen Indiana Jones. Not everyone's played it.

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  1. Blogger chris | 5:36 PM |  

    What makes you think Prince of Persia will be a critical hit, Doktor?

  2. Blogger DoktorPeace | 12:29 AM |  

    I mean in the sense of maybe the Pirates movies, which I just looked up to find were not as highly-rated as I thought.

    I'm guessing a 64 on Metacritic, which would be pretty good for a game-based action movie.

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