You can only carry two weapons at a time, the armoury covers a wide range from pistols and SMGs to assault rifles, shotguns, explosive shotguns, grenades and sniper rifles, and the AI is surprisingly sophisticated. Lower-class enemies will simply do the standard duck-and-cover routine, but the smarter mercenaries play tough, fanning out to outflank you or using a combination of snipers and shotgunners to flush you out and leave you open for a killer shot. Given the studio’s background we might have expected Naughty Dog to handle the platform aspects well, but the surprising thing is that the gunplay is every bit as good. And did I mention that it does close-quarters fisticuffs better than Gears or even Metal Gear Solid 3?
From here I can see why some critics have looked at the basic gameplay, remarked on how competent or even excellent it all is, then gone on to talk about the graphics and considered their jobs well done. You see, the graphics tend to distract your attention from the game’s finer points, seeing as in an alternate reality where Crysis had not been launched, this would have been the year’s best looking game. From the screenshots you can see that the jungle scenery is lush and colourful, that the lighting is moody and glorious and that the ruined architecture is heavy on surface detail. You might also note the superb lighting, reflection and refraction effects on the water, the brilliant use of atmospheric haze and the sheer amount of rubble and vegetation on screen at any one time. Depending on the stage of the game, the look evokes everything from Ico (dramatic structures, diffuse light with gloomy shadows and vertiginous drops) through Gears of War (magnificent ruins and gritty realism) to Resident Evil 4 (it’s bloody dark and bloody scary in here). You might even be able to appreciate how beautifully modelled and detailed the characters are.
What you can’t see, however, is how marvellous the animation is. As with Altair in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed, Drake has been animated so that he moves fluidly and naturally no matter what surface he is running or clambering over or what gap he has to leap. The controls are a little more old-school than with Altair’s free-running antics, but the visual effect is every bit as impressive. Your companions – the older mentor figure and the feisty blonde girl reporter – are handled just as brilliantly, and even the meanest foe has a nice repertoire of nervous peeks and excitable slides into cover. Meanwhile, if you thought Lara’s wet look was impressive in Tomb Raider: Legend, it has nothing on the way a quick dip darkens and shrinks Drake’s clothes for a while. Details like this show just how much thought and effort Naughty Dog has put in. Put it all together and you have an absolutely stunning game, and one of the first to really showcase the graphics horsepower of the PS3.