Uncharted and I have a love hate relationship. I love the games, but every time one comes out I get the flu. The question is, is Uncharted 2 worth said flu? In short, yes, I would contract a lethal virus to be able to play a game of this quality more regularly.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has achieved something very few games with its level of hype manage these days – it actually matches its claims. Naughty Dog promised to bring more to the table this time with less work needed upon R&D due to the engine now being in place. The developers had more time to work on the content of the game, rather than the mechanics, and it shows in every aspect of this huge adventure, that takes you around the world.
Nathan Drake returns to the PS3 in not the best of states. The game starts with our explorer in quite the predicament, hanging off the edge of an abyss in what remains of a train. From here you will gain control and the cinematic experience begins. Whether you are in control of the action or not, the world is ever moving and changing as you progress. The first task is simply climb up the train and make it back to terra firma – and this is the most epic climb you have ever played (yes even including the ladder boss in MGS3). Nothing seems to go right for Drake and it’s up to you to make sure he lives through it. The great thing about this whole thing is that it is actually quite difficult to die under these circumstances, but the fear and sense of urgency is thrust upon you at every turn.
This first section sets the tone for the rest of the game – you are constantly in danger and need to move quickly, but at no point do you feel rushed, so you can take in the marvelous world that Naughty Dog have created. The levels simply look stunning and towards the end of the game even manage to make the likes of Arkham Asylum look like a poor man’s attempt at graphical excellence. With Havok physics implemented this time round lighting, particle and environmental effects stand out beautifully. Strangely I found myself as a reviewer having to step back from the game to analyse the graphics, after your first impressions of the game have subsided you find yourself so absorbed in the game that you hardly take in the effort the developers have put in.
Among Thieves does an amazing job of dragging you into the adventure, something game developers, writers and film makers strive to do their entire life. The first Uncharted was praised for its voice acting and script and the second surpasses it, inspiring one of the writers for this very website arguing that it is the best legitimate voice work ever produced in a game, with the rest of us leaning towards agreeing with him. Every character in the game is so stunningly brought to life that the game is comparable to modern cinema. The story guides these characters through twists and turns, some obvious, some surprising but all enjoyable. The plot truly feels like an epic adventure, it honestly feels like the modern day Indiana Jones has been born. Not only does the game pace itself excellently, it ends itself perfectly, again something that a lot of modern games have failed to do.
Uncharted 2 controls like a dream, jumping from ledge to ledge feels as simple as running down a street, but this is unsurprising considering the fluidity of the first game. Unfortunately the only complaint I have of the game comes in this section, once again the cover button is attached to the roll button. Players will find themselves needlessly diving in front of gunfire while trying to attach to surfaces to avoid it. Getting in cover can sometimes take a few seconds in really hectic situations and on hard mode a few seconds in gunfire is a trip back to the checkpoint. Thankfully this problem is uncommon and checkpoints are well spread, but it does cause lasting frustration that will linger. On the upside the grenade function is no longer controlled by the sixaxis (unless you’re crazy enough to turn it on) and is now assigned to holding L2 with the arc controlled by the right stick, a much needed change.
The quality of production on Uncharted 2 is undeniable, every moment you play is a pleasure and playing is what you will do. Again unlike many games uncharted is reluctant to take control away from the player during action sequences. QTE sections are all but absent, only occurring during tough combat brawls, the rest of the time the control remains firmly in your hands. Even moments like jumping from vehicle to vehicle are fully controlled by the player. I may be going on about this point, but to many games now wrestle control away from the player to make the main character look awesome almost like they don’t trust the player to do it right. Among Thieves has gone in the opposite direction giving the player has complete control in moments that games of the past would not, it feels like freedom and it’s a joy.
Combat has been tweaked this time round with enemies getting an AI overhaul. Enemies will now lose sight of you and then actively search for you, unlike the first game where if you had been seen it was like you had been lit up like a Christmas tree for all subsequent enemies in the area. On top of this Drake will now stay low if he has not been spotted able to pull off a variety of different stealth kills reminiscent of Sam Fisher, capable players will be able to take down squads of enemies without a single bullet. Hand to hand combat has also seen some changes with triangle now acting as a counter button, this can be used to re-establish flow if the enemy start to smack you about, but in reality becomes part of your standard combo just the same as it was as a heavy attack in the first game. Gunfights remain the same with Gears of War comparisons again obvious, however with the design of the levels jumping to higher cover is now encouraged and unlike GOW you find yourself shifting around the battlefield far more.
With more levels, more guns, more set pieces and simply more variety Among Thieves improves upon its predecessor in every way creating a package that should be irresistible to gamers. The inclusion of Multiplayer was an unnecessary bonus. Multiplayer includes multiple levels, modes and an experience system that allows you to modify your character as you see fit. While it is never going to rival games like Modern Warfare and Halo for lastability, the multiplayer stands up as a great addition to what is already a great game. The search function for games could do with some work and I’m sure it will be dealt with in future updates.
If you haven’t got the jist already Uncharted 2: Among Thieves does very little wrong and nigh on everything better than right. Sony have just started to prove themselves this generation and Uncharted 2 could not have come at a better time as now they can make a claim no other console can: ‘Only on the PS3 will you find the greatest Single Player experience this generation.’ I am an avid believer that 10/10 means a perfect game and unfortunately there are small niggling issues with the game and we don’t do decimal places here, but consider the above to have .9 added to the end. There are a number of big games coming out this fall, and winter, that potentially could claim this title but for now Uncharted 2 is the best game on the current generation.
9 Ninja Heads Out of 10
For a long time, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune was my favorite game of this generation. That’s saying quite a lot. With games like Bioshock, Dead Space, Fallout 3, Super Mario Galaxy and other such gems, the current line of consoles have seen some pretty brilliant titles. However, none of them quite carried the spark that Uncharted did. This can be attributed to a lot of things, but chief among them is probably one man.
Nolan North was a relative unknown to a lot of people before 2007, but that changed pretty damn quickly. After his turn as everyones favorite half-tucked hero, Nathan Drake, Nolan can now be heard, almost literally, in every major game release today. Sure, that’s a pretty big exaggeration, but still. To me, Nolan North is like the Morgan Freeman of video games. And like Freeman, there’s a reason for it. In about 30 minutes of time spent with the original Uncharted, he had succeeded in creating probably one of the most likable, relatable, and downright humorous characters in all of gaming. Like Harrison Ford did with Indiana Jones, North made you care about what happened to Drake – made you want to be him.
That doesn’t change in Uncharted 2. In fact, he ups the bar about 110%. Sure, I could sit here and give you a second run-down of everything Yousif so wonderfully conveyed to you above, such as the brilliant look of the game, the much improved gunplay, or the epic set pieces. But not only would that be monotonous, it would also be understating things. Uncharted is nearly perfect. Yeah, that’s a pretty large statement. But to me, it’s true. And that’s due in large part to Nolan North. Games that succeed, to me, need to be a complete experience. They need to tell their story, while making everything feel complete in the world around them. No game, in this generation or the last, did this as well as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. You can instantly see the care and time the Naughty Dog team put into this, and it pays off.
I actually cared about every single character that made an appearance in this game, from Drake, Chloe and Elena, all the way down to Jeff the cameraman. Those who have played know – when you see what happens after you help Jeff out, you actually feel a pang of sadness. That’s maybe the best way I can sum up my feelings about this game. It makes you feel, in a profound way. All I can say is, Uncharted 3 is going to have a hell of a time topping this masterpiece.
9.5 Ninja Heads Out of 10