* Awarded 'Best Action Game' 2009, 'Best Graphics' 2009, 'Best Sound' 2009,
'Best Character' 2009
'PS3 GOTY' 2009, & 'Game of the Yar' 2009
Nathan Drake returns in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves to show that men can also make a strong gaming franchise out of treasure hunting. In this new adventure, Naughty Dog realizes the full potential of the cell processers by giving us double what we expected. Among Thieves is one expedition you won’t soon forget.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a powerhouse action/adventure game like no other. Gamers who have played the original Uncharted will have a clue what you’re about to get into with Uncharted 2, but for all others buckle up because you will simply be blown away. Not only is Uncharted 2 a major improvement on an already great game, it is quite possible one of the best action games in this cycle of consoles. The developer behind all is masterful gaming magic is Naughty Dog (Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Dexter), who deserves all the praise they are receiving with Uncharted 2. Naughty Dog has really gone for it all by making a sequel, the way a sequel should be made... bigger, badder (that's a good bad), and faster. Even without reading the rest of this review you should know that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a must-have for all Playstation 3 owners, and one of the best games of the year.
"Say Hello to the Cast"
Similiar to Drake's Fortune, Among Thieves carries on with the same humours wit and sense of adventure. Uncharted 2's storytelling is at the top of its game and if you didn’t see polygons in front of you, you would swear that you are watching the next evolution in Indiana Jones. Like the others that have come before Nathan Drake (ie, Lara Croft), Drake has a human touch to his personality that makes him instantly loveable. His effective fighting skills, uncanny ability to take punishment, and acrobatics is all over-the-top, however the character of Nathan Drake isn't. Nathan Drake feels real and relatable on so many level which helps him translate into something more than a simple videogame character.
Beyond Nate, his side-kicks like the cigar-smoking best friend, and his love interest Elena who returns from the first adventure with their equally interesting quarks. Along with the returning characters, Nate is also joined by the seductress adventurer Chloe Frazer, who is a stunning to look at, mysterious and interesting all at once. Like Drake his group of friends seem to fit into the world perfectly and provide some equally interesting characteristics that build on this rich world that Naughty Dog has created. Unlike other games Uncharted 2 doesn't only focus on its star player.
The exploits in Uncharted 2 follows Nathan Drake and a band of treasure hunters searching out an ancient artifice related to Marco Polo from the late 1200s. This leads Drake through the normal treasure hunting hazards such as double crossings, private military groups and the madmen who fund them. Uncharted 2 also includes mysterious artifacts, extreme situations, and exotic locations like we’ve seen in the first game. As Drake stubborn attitude keeps him motivated he continues down the rabbit hole as this entertaining story sucks you in as it unravels. The treasure-hunting plot might be a little overdone over the years; however Uncharted 2 is the oddity that still feels fresh, even if its inspiration isn't.
"Chasing the Mouse"
One way Naughty Dog keeps this subject matter feeling fresh is how they tell the story. Uncharted 2 is told dynamically with the use of flashbacks mixed in with current situations. Uncharted 2 really knows how to keep you on your toes as you never know when the next twist, or next “big” moment is going to be... and trust me, Uncharted 2 has its fair share of big moments! Uncharted 2 is very much a cat-and-mouse experience that will have you hanging on the end of your seat. From running narrow escapes, to exploring crypts filled with hundreds of dead people, Uncharted 2 has all the angles covered without any missteps or un-educated decisions.
"Building on a Solid Foundation"
The strength of Uncharted 2 isn’t only reflected in its storytelling, it’s in its gameplay mechanics as well. This time around Naughty Dog had already completed the ground work and could focus their attention on making everything bigger and more exciting. The tools and game engine has been flushed out and rather than introduce a pile of new features, Uncharted 2 focuses more on making each dynamic sequences like nothing you have ever played before. Helping to do this they turned to the Havok physics engine to drive some of the more memorable moments like the helicopter chase that you have probably seen in the trailer, or for simple things like dynamic lighting, or giving weight to the objects in the world. Uncharted 2 is more polished and refined from the first game which honestly didn't have a lot wrong with it in the first place.
All this adds up making Uncharted 2’s world feel real. From the characters on both sides of the conflict, to the world you play in, Uncharted 2 feels like an advneture that could happen in real world. The detail and realism is realised the second you get into the game, and more you travel down the path to adventure, the more realistic this world seems. This is a major accomplishment for a story driven linear experience, unlike open-world games, this world has to feel alive when you are set on straight path, no pedestrians, or diverse missions to help the emersion. Uncharted 2 is the real deal, a pedigree in gaming with all the polish you would expect out of a top notch partnership like Naughty Dog and Sony.
According to Naughty Dog they are using 60-70% more processing power in Uncharted 2 then the original, giving you a heads up on how great this game looks. Beyond all the little details, the game engine can dynamically calculate massive set pieces being altered while keeping the gameplay intact. This result makes the player able to play cut-scene like moments that involved a masterful amount of programming and testing. I would jump as far as saying Uncharted 2 is “photo-realistic”, however this is one of the best realistic styled games that has been released to date. Uncharted 2 is one knock-out looker that finally screams, “this is next-gen”.
"Sounds So Good"
The voice work is also another piece of work that is outstanding in Uncharted 2. The actors really seem to have gelled in the production of the game making the project even more believable. When you see the banter between the characters it feels like they have known each other for years. This is exploited even more when Nathan is interacting with the female characters, Drake isn’t the smoothest cat in the world, but he gets his lines in. Unlike other titles that usually ending up hitting and missing with their comedic satire, Uncharted 2 hits all their cues. Beyond the voice-work which is the standout aspect of the audio, the explosions and music comes into the score perfectly with in sync to the onscreen action. The only downspin to all this is that Uncharted 2 doesn’t try and go outside of the box which is fine when the inside of the box is done so well.
"Shooting Bullets is Fun"
On a basic level, the core mechanics are solid. Even without the big explosions and set pieces, Uncharted 2 is a lot of fun. Firefights are often set up to be very intense with the ability to go between acrobatics, melee combat and gunplay in a seconds notice. You can choose to approach every situation in the game differently in something Naughty calls "traversal gunplay". There are times when Uncharted 2 pushes you to use a stealthier approach, but you don’t have to listen. Full out combat is always an option and in some of the levels, it’s just more fun. The hand-to-hand mechanics are stepped up with a number of different animations that load up when fighting an enemy including the ability to react, doge and break out of the enemies grasp. This is the most noticeable difference in the combat in Uncharted 2, for everything else it’s pretty much the same deal. The best thing about all this combat in Drake is that it draws you in and feels important each time you go up against a group of soldiers, big or small.
"... Now For the Multiplayer"
Included with one of the best single player campaigns in recent history, Uncharted 2 has a multiplayer portion as well. Online Uncharted 2 is a lot of fun, and more strategic then you might think. In comparison Uncharted 2 actually feels a little like Gears, except with more speed and less gore. The real difference between Uncharted 2 and other multiplayer games is the ability to traverse the terrain just like the solo player game. This means you can climb all over the place; ducking and shooting your way past up the leaderboards. Deathmatches are extremely tight and will require you to move and think a little quicker than normal. It’s not Unreal Tournament III speed, but it’s pretty darn close. Along side the normal multiplayer modes is the online co-operative modes that take small groups which asks you to take on waves on enemies, similar to the Horde mode in Gears, or Firefight in Halo: ODST. The only downside to this explosive mode is that it is limited to three players.... but that not all. There are also a number of multiplayer modes that have team-based objectives that run around like alternative version of capture the flag, etc.
Like other modern multiplayer games Uncharted 2 also has a Call of Duty type system where you can rank up and access new boosters (perks), weapons, and skins. This instantly adds another level of depth to the multiplayer which is deathly addictive. Unlockables like these multiplayer ones are also found in the single player campaign as you gain cash in each level. Beyond changes to your character there is bonus art, movies, and graphical filters you can add to the game. Again, making Uncharted 2 even more addictive, like it wasn’t enough already! Besides fighting in groups in all an arena style, or running around trying to capturing a location, you can also play through three co-op missions that involve a lot of battling. Both selections are a lot of fun and make a good escape from the normal Deathmatch multiplayer stuff. It seems like "horde battling" is becoming popular in gaming and I’m glad to see Uncharted 2 embracing it, and going beyond the call of duty.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is more than a step up from its original adventure, it’s a complete package filled with memorable moments, death defying gameplay and online multiplayer modes. It is hard to imagine Uncharted 2 being any better than how diligently Naughty Dog has pieced it together. Their clear focus and attention to detail showcase how close an action game can be compared to a blockbuster action film. Around ever corner, Uncharted 2 seems to top itself in an uncanny fashion making this one of the must-have gaming experiences of 2009. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one of the most cohesive and memorable action adventure games ever made, and what Naughty Dog has accomplished won’t be duplicated anytime soon. All those who own a Playstation 3, I urge you to pick up this game, you won't be disappointed.