Thursday, October 15, 2009

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review

 Score: 10/10

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Playstation 3
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release: Oct 13th, 2009

Pros: Incredible Campaign, Dozens of multiplayer modes including Co-op and Deathmatch, Above-average voice acting and story, few load times, some of the most impressive visuals to grace a console

Cons: Slight trouble with platforming controls at times, rare occurrence of trial and error in some segments

  Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a mix of a ton of great elements from popular franchises all into one. It's got story similar to Indiana Jones, shooting similar to Gears of War, stealth similar to Metal Gear Solid, Online Multiplayer like that of Call of Duty...are you getting the picture yet?
Hands down, Uncharted 2 took the first game and added much more than a sequel usually does. If you own a PS3, you should own this game.


  Nathan Drake awakens on a train hanging off a cliff with a gunshot wound...awesome opening. Once in a safe place he flashes back to the events that lead him there. He is approached by some old friends who are looking to hire him for a job. Without giving away spoilers, the basic flow of the story leaves him searching for the lost fleet of Marco Polo and the legendary hidden valley of Shambhala. Of course, he is not the only one after this treasure, and he must race against a power-hungry war criminal to get to the treasure first. Along the way there is betrayal, love, and a reunion with some friends from the first Uncharted.
  It's basically your run of the mill treasure hunting storyline that hooks you in and keeps you playing to find out how he ended up on the train and how the story unfolds from that place. Some story elements feel repeated from the first, but the original dialogue and interesting characters keep it alive and well.

  From a somber melody in a dark and dreary cave to the upbeat full on orchestra that accompanies a good chase scene, the music in Uncharted is truly fitting. Each scenario you are placed in is elevated by the soundtrack. No silly rock music or whaling guitar solos, but a pure symphony that every action/adventure blockbuster of the late 90s possessed.
  To accompany the stellar soundtrack, Uncharted has some of the best voice acting a video game can have. Drake has an incredible personality, and it is made twice as awesome by the hundreds of hilarious lines of dialogue he exchanges. Naughty Dog hired some truly exceptional voice talent, improving the impact of each character on your playthrough. It's always good when the main character is not the only one with a unique personality, as Uncharted provides a colorful cast that you're sure to enjoy.


  There are moments in this game where you just sit still as the camera pans out and refuse to move, because the visuals are that damn impressive. The temples and architecture you encounter is incredibly detailed, down to the last shiny ingot. You think you are watching a pre-rendered cinema scene only for the game to immediately pan the camera around for you to control your character. Even subtle elements like rain completely change the look of an environment with shiny textures and soaking wet character models as waves of enemies approach without the slightest hint of a frame rate drop. The explosions look fantastic and never disappoint as debris flies in all directions. This is one visually impressive game.


  Uncharted does something very unique as far as gameplay is concerned: it continually mixes it up. One minute you will be in a firefight, the next a platforming element, the next a puzzle, etc.

  The main component is the combat. In a similar style true to Gears of War, Uncharted 2 provides a basic cover system. You find cover, jumping around as needed, and have the ability to poke your head out or blindfire to pick off your foes. Your health regenerates, but can dwindle quickly if you aren't playing smart. While hiding behind cover is basic at first, it soon becomes much more complex. Enemies begin to charge at you, don Riot Shields, toss grenades directly at your feet, even destroy the cover you are hiding behind. This keeps you constantly on the move, not letting you sit behind one wall and pick them off one by one.

  Combat also comes with a melee component. You are thrown into a very small minigame in which you dodge and counter at the appropriate times with Triangle and Square, incapacitating your enemy.
This also brings up another aspect of the game, stealth. You have the option to go in guns blazing, but a stealthy approach is encouraged. You simply move from cover to cover picking off unwary gaurds one at a time by simply pressing the melee button when their back is turned. You can post up on corners and take them down when they pass by, throw them off a ledge while you hang underneath them, or simply run in when they turn their back. One the more difficult settings, this becomes a much more efficient plan of attack.

  When the combat ends, the platforming begins. Drake acts much like the Prince of Persia: leaping long distances, swinging on ropes, and climbing things that normally should never be approached. The platforming seems standard at first, but becomes much more complex as the game wears on, requiring you to stop and think about your next move carefully or rush through before a platform collapses. Unfortunately, this is where Uncharted 2 has a slight problem. The platforming, especially in tight spaces, can be occasionally troublesome. Sometimes you will jump toward a ledge where Drake just doesn't grab on or goes in a different direction. Other times the game provides little guidance on the direction you are heading and it becomes a game of "trial and error" where you must jump around for few minutes until you find that ledge you didn't see.  Still these occurrences are rare and do not last long.

  Along with platforming the occasional puzzle must be solved. This is done in the great way the first Uncharted went about puzzle solving. You enter a room and must reference Drake's journal to decipher what to do with the elements you are given. The answer is not always clear and you must actually think about what to do with the information Drake has down in his journal.


  Uncharted has possibly the best campaign I have played in a long time. Virtually every adventure scenario you can imagine is thrown into the story in some way. You could be scaling a train on the verge of falling off a cliff one minute, to being chased by a helicopter over the rooftops the next. Just when the campaign seems like it could be getting dull, they throw something incredible at you that makes you forget the possibility existed. Usually in a game you find one or two great moments that when you play through again you wait in anticipation of experiencing. In Uncharted 2 there are a dozen of these moments scattered evenly throughout the campaign. The campaign is actually longer than the first game, and all 26 chapters hold something great. Little things like camera placement during a chase scene adds so much to the game and makes it more than a standard shooting or platforming game.

  Like the previous installment, there is a nice side objective to collect various smaller treasures throughout the campaign, encouraging exploration. These are nice touches for the collector-at-heart, and add to a "store" that you can purchase additional skins/weapons/behind the scenes movies. So there is plenty of incentive to go back through a second or third time to find all the treasures and earn more cash for the store.

 The AI is no pushover, they will throw everything they have at you on later levels. Luckily, your co-op AI is smart. Finally a game where my AI buddy is actually useful. For the few moments you have a partner, they perform exactly how they need to; they will draw fire from the enemy, pop a few shots in to stun them, and occasionally take a few out themselves. They don't overdo it, but are more than just decorations.


  As if the Campaign weren't enough, a huge multiplayer experience has been added this time around. You would think a simple Deathmatch option is all that they would include, but it is much more than that: Deathmatch, Plunder (CTF), Elimination (Deathmatch w/o Respawning), Chain Reaction (CTF in specific order), Objectives, etc. There are a slew of modes to choose from, ensuring a good mix in multiplayer fun.
If going against live people proves too difficult, there are two co-op modes to choose from. This pits you and 2 others against the AI. If you play Co-op Arena, it's simply a test of how long you can last or how much treasure you can capture while fending off never-ending waves of baddies. If you are looking for a more linear experience, Co-op Objective acts much like the campaign in which you play through a section of the Campaign levels working together. This involved not only shooting but some platforming as well. IE: While one of us climbed a large tower to open the door on the other side, the other two had to fend off snipers that were attempting to pick them off from across the level. In either scenario, teamwork is key.

  The multiplayer possesses a "store" to purchase various items. After any multiplayer match you are given cash based on your performance. This can be used to buy new taunts, skins for your character, or weapon upgrades. The most important thing you can purchase are "Boosts". These act much like the Perks from Call of Duty 4. These range from allowing you to shoot more accurately to seeing through walls if you stand still. The unfortunate effect is that if you are late to the game on playing multiplayer, your opponents already have a leg up on you as the better perks are locked until you reach a higher level. Play enough, and you will eventually catch up to them.

  The matchmaking system seems to work well, with few games being completely one-sided. The lag is virtually non-existent, but then again it is only a 5 on 5 game max. The only real downside is if the host drops out in co-op there is no host-merge feature so the game will end and you will get no experience/cash at all.


 Overall, Uncharted 2 provides an experience few games seems to offer. With an incredible Campaign and expansive Multiplayer, it's easy to overlook the slight flaws the game possesses.I really did not expect to enjoy the game nearly as much as I did. Uncharted manages to take what made other games great and combine it into one thrilling experience. This is a huge contender for Game of the Year, and a must-play if you own a PS3. I don't plan on handing 10's out to any game and was wary to do so for this one (as it is my second review), but Uncharted is a title that deserves every point.


  1. Great review. I was hoping to be playing this game already, but it was already sold out on release day. Hopefully, seeing this game will cause other developers to push the PS3 even further. I've felt like Insomniac have been the only ones really setting new benchmarks for the system, so it's nice to see Naughty Dog raising the bar.

  2. Nice Review! Ive only played about an hour at a friend's house, but it was so much fun. I really like how they did the multiplayer as well.