Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. This video game title has been making the rounds on every gaming media site on the net over the last couple of weeks, hasn’t it? The hype surrounding this title has lead it to be a traffic driver for many sites and has lead to early talks of ‘Game of the Year’ winner and best PlayStation 3 title to date. Many of these sites utilise words to describe Uncharted 2 such as “Epic,” “Masterpiece,” “5 out of 5 Stars,” “Engaging,” and “Perfect;” however, as hard as I tried to come up with a description for it, the best I could manage was, “Oh S***.” Sounds like sensationalism to you, doesn’t it? It’s not – some may believe it to be, but Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has provided more “Oh s***,” moments throughout its campaign for me than any other game I’ve ever played.
I spent quite a ridiculous amount of time playing this title before writing the review. I actually saved at each Chapter to make sure that I could re-live certain moments in order to provide the best opinion I could in regards to the game. While many of you have been enjoying the multiplayer beta for the last couple of weeks, only a certain few have had the chance to play all the way through the campaign. I consider myself lucky to be one of those few. Also — Make sure to check our Uncharted 2 Giveaway we’re currently running. Get the game for free by the launch date!
So, without further ado, let’s get down to the review.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves takes place roughly two years after the original, Drake’s Fortune, and follows our famed treasure hunter Nathan Drake on his newest quest. When an old friend shows up to include Drake in his scheme to steal a priceless artifact, it’s quickly revealed that gamers will play and watch while Drake traces those daring steps of Marco Polo during his voyage home from China in 1292. Marco Polo stated that if he had revealed half of what he experienced on that voyage, nobody would have ever believed him.
You see, Marco embarked on his voyage with 14 ships and 650 crew members. However, when he returned home, there was only one ship remaining with 18 passengers on board. Polo never revealed what happened to those 13 ships and the mystery surrounding that tragedy is one that intrigues Drake dearly. Thankfully, Nathan Drake isn’t as closed minded as men in the early thirteenth century and because of this, Uncharted 2 sets you out on a journey unlike any other.
The gameplay in Uncharted 2 is going to remind you a lot of the first one. After all, if it isn’t broke, there is no reason to try and fix it. Gamers can expect a lot of pinned down gunfights and platforming as well as the occasional puzzle in which Drake turns to his trusty journal to solve promptly. While this may sound like gamers can expect more of the same, Naughty Dog has still found a way to make the gameplay seem significantly improved over the course of the game in comparison to Drake’s Fortune.
Something that helps set apart the gunfights in Among Thieves is the ability to take the fight to the enemy at different levels of play. By this, I mean you’re capable of either fighting on the ground (like in the first title), or you can move to a mid-level platform and take cover while firing down at your opponent or you can go one step further and get to the top of a building for maximum potential. Usually each level of height has its advantages, but they each can come with their own disadvantages as well. Sometimes remaining on the rooftop may leave you susceptible to fire from an incoming helicopter or via a sniper. However, hanging out on the second floor of an urban home can cause a grenade to pin you into the room, forcing you to find a way out quickly. These different elements allow for a strategic play style that wasn’t always evident in the first game.
The freedom of choice that Among Thieves provides in this regard is one that isn’t unnoticed. Each battle can be walked into with a different tactic in mind and this makes playing through the game more exciting than ever before. Enemies continue to flank you and guys holding riot shields will just make their way directly towards you, carelessly shooting off rounds behind their shields. These bad boys won’t let you get close either or you’re met with a nice shield to the face – finding yourself down for the count pretty quickly. On top of the riot shield enemies, the heavily armored shotgun wielders are also very relentless and I found myself dying over and over again because I couldn’t shoot off their helmets quick enough to nail them in the forehead once more. Naughty Dog’s way of mixing of enemy types throughout the course of the battle helps keep things moving forward and prevents them from becoming stale. This is a nice addition to the title, if I may say so myself.
Another nice addition to Among Thieves is the importance placed on stealth tactics. While some of us love to run and gun our way into glory, other prefer to conserve lead and take out enemies gracefully. Naughty Dog has done a fantastic job mixing up the ability to take out enemies without making a sound and certain sections of the game require you to use stealth to advance throughout the chapter. The ability to disarm your opponent with ease and without being noticed also prevents a lot of unnecessary dying when the odds are obviously stacked against you (which is often). There are often times in the game where you can take out 4-5 guys before having to even draw your weapon to finish off the rest of the enemies. This is a smart tactic to take because you never know when an RPG wielder is waiting up high for you to show yourself.
Of course, Uncharted wouldn’t be Uncharted without its platforming and climbing sequences, correct? This is also one of the areas of the game where something negative can be said. Like the first installment, Among Thieves is riddled with a very linear path of platforming and climbing. While Naughty Dog kind of offers up amazing visuals while you’re doing your routine, it doesn’t make up for the fact that sometimes gamers would like an option as to which way they tackle an element of the game. I will say for sure though that some of the climbing sequences do involve moving parts and this helps keep hold of your attention span enough to be amazed by the technical marvel that Uncharted 2 truly is.
And finally, the last piece of the Uncharted gameplay puzzle, is indeed, the puzzles! See what I did there? Good. Anyway, the puzzles in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves are very clever and often work in a similar fashion as Drake’s Fortune. You’re placed in a room with no scalable walls or doors, so you’re forced to figure out a way to get out. This is usually accompanied by a flick through your journal where entries give you little hints as to how to solve each puzzle. One of the cooler aspects of this iteration’s puzzles is that they can sometimes force you to read over 5-6 pages of the journal to figure the entire feat – giving you a sense of accomplishment when you’re done. It is without a doubt a step up from the first game and continues on the trend of improving something that isn’t broken rather than fixing it.
In essence, the gameplay truly picks up around midway through the game itself. It’s at this time that the game starts to truly pick up the pace and test your skills as Nathan Drake. It also gives you a good sense of what to expect from your AI partners. Elena and Chloe are with you throughout the majority of the game this time and much like Elika from Prince of Persia, neither leading lady ever feels as though she gets in your way or impedes your progress throughout play. This is one of the strongest points of Uncharted 2, because unlike other titles where you’re stuck with AI partners, Drake’s friends are actually useful and eliminate bad guys with precision and ease. Of course, they’re not too overpowering where you can sit back and watch, but they’re capable of holding their own so that you don’t feel like you’re doing all of the work.
Continuing on the AI train is the enemy AI. It reacts and works just like the original and enemies utilize cover and the level design just as well as the player can. Enemies will move to higher ground if it proves helpful, flank around you, come towards you if cover fire is being offered, etc. It’s all a really nice touch and there may be a slight improvement from the first one, but it’s really hard to say. Overall, the artificial intelligence is top notch in Uncharted 2.
Unrivaled. It’s a word that I never thought I could put out there for a title on the PlayStation 3 when it comes to visuals – especially when the console has already delivered such marvels as Metal Gear Solid IV and Killzone 2. However, Naughty Dog has taken animation, cut scenes, explosions, and obsessive compulsion to meticulous details in the environments unlike any other developer before them. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has this uncanny ability to drag you through your television and put you into a world that’s as believable as the one around you. Everything sucks you in completely. It’s unlike any interactive experience I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in the gaming industry.
The most impressive part of it all is sometimes it’s hard to tell when a cut scene ends and you have control of Drake again. There aren’t many games out there that can cause an effect like that, if any at all. Uncharted 2 is realistically one of the best games ever created to date, which I think says a lot.
As for sound, the dialogue is some of the best I’ve seen in a game. I know it sounds like a review chalk full of praise and I’ll admit that it is. It’s very hard to find true fault within this title. However, when it comes to character development and growth through the art of dialogue and animation, Naughty Dog has taken it up a couple of notches from Drake’s Fortune. Every character creates an understanding in the game and causes you to hate, love, or stay neutral towards them through their actions in the exact way the developers wanted you to. It’s astonishing.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a technical masterpiece that words can’t do justice. Without a doubt this is the best exclusive to date in this generation and anyone who thinks otherwise is entitled to their opinion, but when push comes to shove and this generation is long over – Uncharted 2 is a title we’ll still be talking about.
As for the Game of the Year talks, well, I’ll have to end this review with a great remixed quote from Kanye West (it’s overdone, it’s played out, but screw it, why not)…
“Yo Modern Warfare 2 fans, I’m really happy for you, I’ll let you finish celebrating another great title, but Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has got to be one of the best video games of all time. One of the best video games of all time!”