Review: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, created by Naughty Dog and released back in November of 2007, was a special game. All things considered, does the sequel Uncharted 2: Among Thieves put the series as one of the PlayStation 3's golden franchises as it was anticipated to be? Or has it met its downfall?
- Worth The Time?Yes, every amazing moment of it.
- Things LovedThe gameplay has been fantastically refined and improved, the new option of stealth, the chemistry between characters and the engaging story, the absolutely epic action, the jaw-dropping visuals, the numerous memorable moments, the spectacular sound and voice acting, the entertaining multiplayer.
- Things HatedThere are some rare crash bugs, the enemy AI can be quite stupid at times, you can get lost.
- RecommendationEvery single PS3 owner should pick up what is now one of the best new franchises on the console. Those without PS3s should do their best to play this and not miss out.
- Name: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online (10 players)
- Platforms: PS3 Exclusive
- Developer: Naughty Dog
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: R599
- Reviewed On: PS3
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, created by Naughty Dog and released back in November of 2007, was a special game. Not only was it a great, triple-headed gameplay blend of action, puzzle solving and platforming, but it was also the birth of something entirely new for the PS3. Granted, the game wasn’t Game of the Year material nor was it anything completely new, but there was no doubt that Uncharted was an awesome game that PS3 owners became very attached to due to its great gameplay, fantastic visuals, enjoyable story and likable characters. Now, this year, Naughty Dog has released the sequel, which promised to deliver a great deal more action, variety and, of course, the all-new online multiplayer mode. So, all things considered, with Uncharted 2, is the series now one of the PlayStation 3’s golden franchises as it was anticipated to be? Or has it met its downfall? Well, I feel I can safely say that PS3 owners can rejoice, for the console has, once again, struck gold with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, except this time it has just produced one of the greatest games it has ever seen before. I’m positive that by now you’re already familiar with how good the game really is and I honestly can’t stress it enough. Uncharted 2 is everything you could have hoped for – and more. I can even go as far as to say that it is a sure contender for Game of the Year. However, I wish it were as simple as merely stating the above, but quite naturally I can’t leave it at that, so let’s get going and talk about Nathan Drake’s latest adventure.
I don’t want to give too much away of the story, because, quite simply, the entire game needs to be experienced at its fullest to truly appreciate just how awesome it really is. What I will say is that Uncharted 2 picks up roughly a year or two after the events of the first game. Once again Nathan Drake’s adventure is about an unsolved, mystery of a historical event – this time about Marco Polo and the location to his lost treasure fleet. What initially turns out to be a harmless search, soon becomes a journey of betrayal, survival, death and mystery. That about sums up the story or, at least, what I’m willing to reveal of it. One of the things that makes this adventure so much better than the last is that throughout the game you’ll be exploring many different locations and, courtesy of the fantastic level design, you’ll become engrossed and accustomed to these changes in settings very easily. Ultimately, the different settings you explore and the events in the story that lead you to them really makes the game an enjoyable and varied experience.
Once again, except done even better than the first game, the quality of the voice acting and cinematics, added to the fact that the graphics are simply incredible, really make the game look and feel like a blockbuster action film – sometimes even better. You’ll even see some character depth and progression in the mix, done in a manner which allows you to understand some of the game’s characters, relate to their decisions and even care about what happens to them, which not many games manage to do effectively. Throughout the game you’ll find yourself cheering on Drake, cursing when things go wrong, holding your breath when he faces one of the many, many tense situations and feeling relief when he achieves victory. While the story itself may not be the best and can be quite predictable at times, it’s just presented and told so well via the dialogue, acting and cutscenes that it all becomes very compelling. If not the story, the characters themselves will keep you hooked until the end, especially since you’ll be seeing the return of Sully and Eleyna from Drake’s Fortune in a manner that allows them to feel part of the story and not merely added to please fans.
In terms of gameplay, the game retains the same structure of the first game and once again brings back the triple-headed gameplay blend of action, platforming and puzzle solving, except this time it’s been improved and paced a little better. Added to the fact that stealth and utilisation of the environment, for vantage points or alternate routes, are now clear options, since Uncharted 2 now has a climbing system similar to Assassin’s Creed, except it’s not as unrestricted because the game is still linear, and the gameplay is already much better. Yes, the game has now added stealth to its collection of different elements and, to its favour, it has been integrated very well into the gameplay. It can be of invaluable help in some sections of the game where causing an alert will bring about an army to take you down and, once again due to the fantastic level design, you can use the environment to hide yourself and take out enemies one at a time with a stealth takedown. What’s even better is that while stealth is great, it’s actually a challenge to put it to good use, because to be frank, the simplest mistake or a slight instance of incorrect timing can result in you being seen (well, it certainly was like this on hard difficulty). As expected, because of this, you’re free to use stealth or go in guns blazing, allowing you to tackle situations at your discretion. Aside from the one-hit kill stealth takedowns, Drake can eliminate enemies while hanging from a ledge, reaching up to pull them off, and while lying in wait behind cover, which are both very useful.
To explain the gameplay in a nutshell, you basically play through a linear set of levels filled with over the top action, gun fights, platforming and exploration and puzzle solving – except there are noticeably less puzzles in this sequel and they are much easier, mainly because the solutions are so clearly given to you in Drake’s diary. Still, while they could have been more challenging, they are a nice distraction from the rest of the game and are relaxing instead of frustrating. Seemingly replacing the puzzles is the over enthusiastic action. I just can’t stress enough how amazing and polished the game and gameplay is, especially in these action sequences. Areas will get torn apart in heated gun fights, you’ll be chased down by helicopters on rooftops, shoot it out and platform on a moving train, go head-to-head with a tank, jump from car to car in a hectic chase scene – there are just so many memorable and intense action sequences, all of which are presented spectacularly with the graphics and sound, that make the game such an awesome experience. And thanks to the solid gameplay and responsive controls, all of these sections are just amazingly good fun.
Drake packs all of the moves he had from the first game, with some new ones added in. As I mentioned earlier, Uncharted 2 now features a climbing system similar to Assassin’s Creed, except, when not playing online, the game is linear so it is limited in its functionality. Still, it makes the platforming sections much more interesting and gives Drake one or two new abilities. However, the problem with the platforming is that sometimes the controls can be quite unresponsive at times (when platforming) and it will be quite annoying when Drake isn’t doing what you want him to. Added to the fact that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to go next and these sections can become quite frustrating. Granted, if you take long enough in some areas the game will thoughtfully provide you with a hint on what to do, but the problem here is that you are not pointed in the right direction, merely told what to do, so you’ll still be stuck with the issue of trying to find out where to go. The sad thing is that often enough the way forward is right in front of you and for some, inexplicable reason you’ll miss it. All in all though, the platforming sections are enjoyable and, with the puzzle solving, create a very good sense of balance between the action sections.
The brutal melee combat system from the first game makes a return, except this time enemies can fight back and get you into harsh grapples, where you will then have to counter with the triangle button. There are a lot more weapons this time around, mainly because there is a lot more action. You’ll find pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers and much more – but regardless, you’ll still follow what I call the “present gun” system, where you will basically equip yourself with the weapon that your enemies are currently using so as not to run out of ammo. Still, what keeps Uncharted 2 tense and entertaining is that despite ammo being in healthy supply, you’ll be changing guns constantly due to the fact that you’re always firing on someone or something. What makes the gun combat so fun is that in Uncharted you can basically fire your weapon, quite literally, from any position. While running, jumping, climbing, ducking behind cover, hanging from a ledge – there are no restrictions when using most of your weapons. I guess the intuitive and functional cover system also adds to this. Furthermore, you won’t feel like the game is being unfair to you, as you did sometimes with Drake’s Fortune. A lot of the reason is because this sequel is easier than the first game (since you almost always have a partner with you), but examples of this is that you’ll never have ten grenades land next to you at once, you’ll almost never be killed by someone you can’t even see and you won’t have the problem of facing enemies with telescopic vision and inhuman accuracy. What also needs to be mentioned, because it’s part of what makes Uncharted 2 such a thrill ride, is that there are no load times whatsoever throughout the game. Yes, there is a fairly lengthy load before you enter the game for the first time, but once in you’ll never see another load screen, which is really great.
Aside from the main path, the treasure finding side mission from the first game is back, as well as some other bonus content if that’s your thing. From money you’ve accumulated while playing the game and completing certain criteria, you’ll be able to purchase new weapons, art work, cinematics and other special content for the single player. But perhaps the best usage of your money is in the online mode, which I’ll explain in a moment. Aside from playing the game a second time just because you can, collecting treasures, playing the online mode and unlocking the bonus content are definitely good reasons to play the game some more after finishing it.
After completing the game, which should take you about 9-12 hours depending on your difficulty and pace, there is the online mode to indulge in. You’d have never thought that a game like Uncharted could have a multiplayer mode, but results speak for itself and the game has such a solid mutliplayer component that it could actually be released as a separate game and would still be considered excellent. The online supports up to 10 players per game and there are 10 modes to have a blast in. When going online you’ll have the option of finding a game, creating a local game or editing your profile. In your profile you basically choose a Hero and Villain (the two teams online) character to play as and select your upgrades, called Boosters, which, like all other online content, are unlocked as you progress in levels. Naturally, you gain levels the more you play and earn money and experience. By using your hard earned cash you can purchase more character skins, Boosters (you can equip two at any given time), co-op weapon upgrades and taunts. Boosters can do anything from increase your ammo capacity or accuracy to upgrade your proficiency with certain weapons. There is a great deal to unlock, especially with the boosters, which will ensure that you’ll be playing Uncharted 2 for a long time to come.
To first talk about the modes you’ll most likely be familiar with, there is Deathmatch, which is basically team deathmatch, Elimination, which is essentially team deathmatch where you don’t respawn until the round is over and Survival, which is self explanatory. Then there is Plunder, where you’ll fight for treasure, Turf War requires you to hold as many positions as you can, King of the Hill tasks you with holding “the hill”, Chain Reaction has you capture key points in order, Gold Rush, where you’ll have to steal treasure from other soldiers, Co-op and Machinima mode. The last one calls for some explanation and basically Machinima mode allows you to create your own videos and watch replays of Uncharted 2 online games. Overall, the multiplayer mode is simply awesome and it really has made the most use of Uncharted 2’s gameplay. The maps are large, allowing you to find vantage points by climbing, there are plenty of weapons scattered around for you to pick up and the delay isn’t all that bad, but it would still, naturally, be far better for you to play with South Africans, hosting your own games.
Visually, Uncharted 2 is breath-taking. The environments are simply large and beautifully detailed, the characters very life-like and overall the graphics are just incredible. It truly is amazing to think about the standard of graphical and technical power that games are equipped with these days. It really doesn’t need to be explained in words, how good Uncharted 2 looks, because your eyes can certainly be the judge of this. Technically the game is solid and you’ll very, very rarely face problems. In my fifteen or so hours of playing I experienced two crash bugs (although this was after long hours of my PS3 being on at one time) and two strange instances where I fell through a solid wall, but luckily I was able to escape in one of these. Furthermore, the enemy AI can be quite stupid sometimes; an example being they’ll often stand on top of your grenades. Still, these issues are extremely rare and you won’t encounter many problems while playing. It’s safe to say that graphically, Uncharted 2 is one of the best looking games of today’s times.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is, without a doubt, one of the best games on the PlayStation 3. It has delivered on all fronts and provides an action packed and awesome single player mode, spectacular visuals, a great sense of replayability and an amazingly fun and impressive multiplayer. With this, I guess now Nathan Drake can be considered an iconic PlayStation hero. Despite the fact that a few noticeable flaws prevent this game from achieving a perfect score, the fact is that Uncharted 2 is a definite contender for Game of the Year and it’s a thoroughly compelling and immensely enjoyable experience. Naughty Dog have truly outdone themselves.