"Man only interested in the climax. You must be a real hit with the ladies."
12 months have passed since we crowned LittleBigPlanet our writers' game of 2008, and as your mousewheel has no doubt just informed you, Sony has made it two in a row. Having compiled votes and considered pleas from over a dozen staff and contributors, we can reveal that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is Eurogamer's Game of the Year for 2009.
As was always the case with the business end of what used to be our Top 50 Games list, the vote was far from unanimous, with strong support for Batman: Arkham Asylum and Demon's Souls in particular giving Sony and Naughty Dog's action-adventure a run and a jump for its money. But unlike last year's victor, Uncharted 2 does enjoy the honour of being more of our writers' number one choice than any other, as well as appearing on virtually every voting form.
As you may know, it's already the first 10/10-scoring PlayStation 3 exclusive in Eurogamer history, and we've lavished it with praise once already in our festive rundown of the games of the year. But apparently we just can't get enough. Read on to find out why Uncharted 2 won so much of our applause - and, in strongest Eurogamer end-of-year tradition, why a few disagree.
"You just count to five and pull the cord. Easy, right?"
"A thoroughly deserved victory," Dan argues. "It was a close race between this and Batman to receive my sloppiest of kisses this year, and the fact that the caped crusader squeaked into my top spot may simply be due to the fact I spent a lot more time on his game than in the company of Nathan Drake.
"Much like Batman, on the surface Uncharted 2 doesn't do anything particularly noteworthy. It doesn't redefine genres, or reinvent physics. There's no eye-catching gimmick or new twist. It's a game built around solid, well-crafted gameplay mechanics rather than marketable press-release bullet-points. The result is simply a phenomenally polished action-adventure, packed with instantly gratifying spectacle and adventure - the core of what gaming is all about."
"Great, power's out, and a girl's trapped. I swear to God, if there's a Zombie around the next corner."
"After all those years of brown first-person shooters and games set in mutant-infested post-Apocalyptic American cities," says Ellie, "I was glad to see beautiful, colourful action-adventure games make a comeback in 2009. Especially following Tomb Raider Underworld, which was something of a disappointment despite the fact it marked a return to the series' roots and had Keeley Hawes in it.
"Good job, then, that Naughty Dog decided to return to Tomb Raider's roots too with Uncharted 2. I'll always love Lara more than Drake, but his silly wisecracks and stubbly chin grew on me this year. Tight pacing, rock-solid gameplay and a storyline that is almost not completely rubbish despite the fact it's in a videogame are combined in one visually stunning package.
"It makes you realise you're not the only one who still likes games about climbing and puzzle-solving, and glad that studios like Naughty Dog are still putting in the effort to make imaginative, great-looking games like this."
Simon Parkin is one of the nicest people you can possibly hope to meet, and has been politely taking names for Eurogamer for over four years. This year he went all Columbo on Tim Langdell and also reviewed Modern Warfare 2 and Street Fighter IV.
"This is the problem with blind democracy: it reveals the group's true feelings. Because, ask any of Eurogamer's writers to individually name their favourite game of the year and I doubt many would hoist this unapologetic blockbuster onto their shoulders," Simon begins, having clearly not read the intro.
"There's nothing wrong with a big, dumb feel-good matinee, and Uncharted 2 certainly deserved every accolade laid at its feet, but is that really what we're going to point to as our very medium's best in the last 12 months? Dead Nazis, yetis, stubble and one-liners? It's like picking The Temple of Doom over the Seventh Seal.
"As a piece of spectacle, Nathan Drake's rip-roaring adventure is certainly peerless in 2009: not even Modern Warfare 2's airport massacre scene could top its parade of arresting set-pieces. It's also a technical marvel, effortlessly outclassing anything else on the platform. Naughty Dog's gleeful trading of the washed-out, desaturated colour schemes that have characterised the mainstream gaming aesthetic for three years for exuberant high-contrast tones bespeaks the developer's wider aim: a celebration of childlike wonder over try-hard maturity.
"But at the end of the rollercoaster ride, there's a nagging feeling: was I, the player, really an integral part of all that? Peel away the visuals and put a sock in Nolan North's mouth (so he can no longer win you over with his warm quips) and the systems that underpin Uncharted 2 are straightforward and lightweight. There are relatively few places for players to feel as though they're doing something particularly well or changing the story in tangible ways. It's closer to an interactive movie than we might wish to admit.
"It may be a stunning, game-changing interactive movie, but in its cozying up to the triumphs and techniques of that elder medium, there's a danger that Uncharted 2's success may take us away from the potential that videogaming has twitching in its womb."
"There's a guy below you, there's a guy below you!"
Kristan Reed edited Eurogamer for over five years and remains one of our most passionate and outspoken contributors. This year he reviewed Resident Evil 5 and, among many other things, played Fallout 3 long enough to cover The Pitt, Broken Steel, Point Lookout and Mothership Zeta.
"As a piece of cinematic entertainment, I loved it more than any game this year," Kristan begins. "The characterisation is superb, the pacing is spot-on, and the action unrelenting. As a spectacle, there's nothing quite like it. Naughty Dog can feel justly proud of its efforts.
"But purely in gameplay terms, was it really that outstanding? The shooting mechanics felt resolutely old-fashioned, and the over-reliance on excessive headshots to bring anything down felt cheap, repetitive and eventually irritating. I kept wondering why Naughty Dog didn't go for something more flexible and interesting, such as allowing players to target limbs to slow enemies down. In many ways, it still felt like a game bogged down in early-decade design.
"And as for the platform-puzzling elements, I couldn't escape the feeling that Uncharted 2 was content to play itself half the time. Being nudged along at every turn, and being able to make hilarious leaps of faith - and succeed nearly every time - wears thin after a while.
"If the game did anything brilliantly, it was giving players the illusion of success, with none of the frustration associated with so many videogames. But with so many concessions to player skill now present, the challenge was utterly neutered to its ultimate detriment."
"Despite my prattling niggles, I still enjoyed the game immensely, but it was by no means as outstanding as the potential suggested."
"Yep, that's my blood... that's a lot of my blood..."
Tom Bramwell is editor of Eurogamer. He wrote all sorts of rubbish in 2009, probably the most relevant rubbish being our Uncharted 2: Among Thieves review.
"So, last year LittleBigPlanet, this year Uncharted 2. What price next year Heavy Rain? We shall see, but you can already observe something fascinating about the mythical console war: following 2005's grand old E3 faceplant, Sony's grand old fightback is being fought by sharing, accessibility and drama - a far cry from the shock and awe of Xbox 360.
"Anyway, Uncharted 2 is a game I would recommend to any Eurogamer reader, and I do. As others have pointed out, it is slick and easy to play, beautiful to look at and charming and funny to spend time with. It is, as the TV ads keep reminding me that I said, an 'action-adventure masterpiece'. It may be a game about running around the world trying to beat a mad Russian to buried treasure, but few if any games have ever combined the qualities with which it has been imbued with this much confidence, style and mass appeal - and I doubt many will do so again, either.
"All the same, Simon and Kristan's criticisms elsewhere today are all valid. The mechanics are old-fashioned - flashing hidden treasure, for goodness' sake, and clumsy and shallow combat - and at times it's second only to Ubisoft's flawed but well-intentioned 2008 Prince of Persia in holding your hand through grand platform puzzles, which you just as frequently ride along with as solve.
"And while Uncharted 2 is a breakthrough, gaming still does lack its Ingmar Bergman, even though it does - thankfully - already have its Ken Levines, Clint Hockings and Chris Avellones. It is easy to raise Uncharted 2 up to mainstream scrutiny and watch it thrive, but if this is to be our champion in the battle for broader cultural recognition then it is slightly depressing to realise it projects a medium that hasn't moved on very much from the days when videogames literally were just childish pursuits.
"But perhaps, in our desire to appear all growed up, we're forgetting a few things. It may be dull to applaud Uncharted 2's technical qualities - the fact that characters are able to interact convincingly with each other, even embracing and finishing one another's sentences - but these are qualities so rare that you might be better off looking for your own Cintamani Stone than seeking out another game to offer them.
"It's also attractive to describe Uncharted 2 as a matinee adventure, as common as muck, and it would be excessive to claim this is our Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars, but it wouldn't be excessive to argue that key sections could live comfortably in the same sentence as either, nor that getting even vaguely close to those would be a triumph. Just ask George Lucas how difficult it is.
"Finally, those disturbed by its success and the message it may be sending out - however benign and basically wholesome - are perhaps forgetting the game's ultimate comfort; the one section of Uncharted 2 that I would happily show friends and relatives who probably last saw me playing games when it was Super Mario World, and need an update. It's still my favourite thing in the entire game, and my most memorable gaming moment of 2009 from arguably 2009's best game: the bit where everything stops, and you walk through a village where nobody speaks English, observing people going about their lives and smiling nervously to the locals.
"If Uncharted 2 is a sign of things to come, I'm really happy with the smallprint on the signposts as well as the whopping great headlines. In our lust for subtlety and substance, we must not forget that its success and inherent quality is founded in both."
Check out the Eurogamer Readers' Top 50 Games of 2009 for another take on the year.