Best Cinematography of 2011: Uncharted 3
For Uncharted 3 the bar was set high this year, and it was the series’ own fault. Uncharted 2 blew the doors off of what was expected of an action-adventure game by way of huge, white-knuckle set pieces filled with death-defying escapes. It was a game that was as much fun to look at as it was to play; making a bowl of popcorn and sitting down to watch someone else tackle its challenges would not leave you unfulfilled. Drake’s Deception was tasked with matching the lofty achievements of Among Thieves. When it came to cinematography, it succeeded in ways both expected and unanticipated.
Uncharted 3‘s great strength is in the variety of its experiences. If Uncharted 2 was a cacophony, Uncharted 3 is a symphony; one starting with captivating melodies that builds into crescendos of magnificent heights. It’s a game that sets scenes for small things as well as it does big ones, making the small ones seem just as important; like the defining moments and origin of a young Nathan Drake. It also utilizes different styles to make sure your eyes are never left bored. There’s the opening that’s reminiscent of a British gangster film, the endless solitude of being stranded in the desert for numerous days and nights, and the secret-uncovering Indiana Jones-flavored adventuring that Uncharted owes so much to.
The stakes are always high in Uncharted 3, even in the early going – which keeps the game intense even when it’s not out-and-out spectacle. But when the game builds to its peaks, it goes above and beyond the call. When you’re hanging out of a cargo plane that’s falling apart at 30,000 feet in the scorching sun or trying to escape a sinking cruise ship being battered by massive tidal waves in the middle of the ocean, there is no doubt that Uncharted 3 surpasses the previous games. There’s something to be said for putting all your cards on the table too early, though, as Naughty Dog spoiled those big moments months before the game came out in trying to meet expectations. They had kept most of the aces up their sleeve before Uncharted 2 released; a tactic that would have made Uncharted 3‘s showstopping moments even more memorable.
Much was also made of the fact that there is only one right way to do things during Uncharted 3‘s big moments. To deviate means death after death until it’s done right. Such a thought can’t be discounted entirely, but it’s worth mentioning that every jaw-dropping event – every moment that ends with you breathing a sigh of relief that Drake somehow escaped – happens outside of a cutscene. The experience may be guided, but it’s your hands on the controller that ensure you survive. It’s also a feast for the eyes, unrivaled by anything else this year, that you get to take in the entire time. Grab your popcorn or grab your controller, the choice is still yours.
Honorable Mention: Dead Space 2