Review by Probester
"Not even Dr. Jones could chart something so good"
Ever wanted to explore an ancient civilization? Make a living as a treasure hunter living on the edge? Jump from truck to truck while fighting for your life? Save the world? Uncharted 2 is the game for you.
Uncharted 2 follows yet another adventure of treasure hunter Nathan Drake,descendant of famous explorer Sir Francis Drake. Taking place a few years after the events of Uncharted 1, Drake is lured back into his adventures when two old friends of his bring him information on the lost fleet of Marco Polo. Drake soon finds himself matched against Lazarovich, a psychopathic war criminal bent on uncovering the mystery himself. The game sees the return of friends from the previous game, as well as a larger cast of new allies and enemies.
Much like a summer action movie, Uncharted 2 has you doing the most outrageous things, such as blowing up a tank, fighting on top of a speeding train, breaking into a museum, and exploring ancient ruins. The game starts off a bit on the slow side when compared to the first game, but once Uncharted 2 gets going, it really doesn't stop until you reach the end of your journey. What makes the story in this game more interesting than most shooters is that the characters are very human. Drake and his friends aren't the superhuman characters found in other shooters; you'll often hear Drake complaining about having to perform a crazy stunt, or lament that he is again being shot at by a small army. When bullets fly past him, he's going to cringe or wince. When he gets shot, he'll scream out and change his posture. Run out of ammunition for your gun? He'll probably be saying Uh oh before you do.
Beyond this, Uncharted 2 has all the makings of a good, involved action movie. The characters are completely cliche, and you want Drake and his friends to beat the bad guys to the punch every step of the way. You love to hate the bad guys and you cheer when the protagonists triumph in a small way. The story is so cliche; Hollywood, that if you played the game on mute with the subtitles off, you'd probably get the gist of what is being said during the cut scenes if you've ever seen an action adventure movie, such as the Indiana Jones series. I don't recommend this though, as there are some surprisingly good lines written into the game, much better than most shooters will ever have to offer. Knowing all of this, you'd probably know exactly what'll happen when Drake runs across a collapsing bridge, or appears to have a large APC tailing his 4 by 4. This however, has no impact on the enjoyment of the game that you'll experience. Sure, you know that he probably won't get run down by the nasty bad guys trying to run him over, but all the same, you'll probably panic at scripted moments like these, which is probably exactly what Nate is doing. This makes it easier to relate to the characters and their problems.
The details are really what make Uncharted 2 a few steps above most third person shooters. The environments are extremely detailed, to the point where you'll be surprised that they even bothered animating such small details. You'll notice magazines from guns lying on the ground after they've been ejected. Unlike other games though, if the magazine happens to fall down a tunnel shaft or something, you'll see it hit objects on the way down. You'll be able to read parts of Nathan Drake's journal, see little sketches and jokes he made for himself, photographs of his friends, and what appears to be a page full of the names of past girlfriends. When characters get wet, their clothes look wet. When they walk into snow, snow appears on their clothes. These small things add together to create an immersive experience.
How does Drake get past his numerous obstacles? Uncharted 2 features almost every single weapon from the first game, as well as a large number of new weapons. Drake will use anything from a crossbow to a rotary cylinder grenade launcher, with standard fare such as the AK-47 and the RPG-7 thrown into the mix. The fact that enemies occasionally use different weapons adds a little flavor to the otherwise standard diet of all enemies will drop AKs and Mossbergs. While there are enemies that you could readily identify with a certain weapon, sometimes a normal enemy will be totting a completely random gun, which stops the weapon selection from being completely mundane.
Like most good action movies, the game will kick into dramatic music when there's a huge firefight going on, and at other times there'll barely be any music at all. While Uncharted does the dramatic music thing well, it kind of dropped the ball with the quiet music. At times, you'll be trying to solve a puzzle with your journal, jumping around and pulling switches, and the quiet background music will crescendo into something involving a Chinese gong. While I understand that they were trying to go for a mood that conveyed Asian historical mystery, the moments it's inserted into the music are completely random it seems, and sections where they have this music are perhaps better suited to more of the low ambient music, or perhaps nothing at all, which better illustrates the sense of tension and suspense. With that said, Nate's theme and the Uncharted main theme have been brought back to Uncharted 2, with several remixes and arranged versions of the Uncharted theme being reminiscent of the way the Raider's March got remixed through the Indiana Jones series of movies.
The voice acting is probably an example of the finest voice acting I've ever heard in a game. There are no nonsense physical gestures or movements that seemingly accompany an unrelated line from the characters. The game feels as if they've simply animated a major motion picture, staring some pretty good characters. The characters regularly chatter with each other even when they're not in a cut scene, and some of these conversations shouldn't be missed. They offer an opportunity for character development where most shooters would simply insert a stupid two person puzzle segment, or a lifeless co-op mode during which neither of the characters so much as open their mouths.
Single player aside, Uncharted 2 comes with a multiplayer mode. The multiplayer is probably a selling point for a lot of people, and I can see why. There are the standard deathmatch modes, as well as several co-op modes, including missions where you fight together to get to the end of a level, or a mode that requires players to work together to steal treasure from an endless wave of enemies. Another prominent mode includes the survival mode. Players basically work together to survive as long as possible against an ever increasing amount of enemies. The difficulty escalates between waves. Uncharted 2 has a party system that allows friends to link up in the lobby before they join games, so that clumsy fumbling with the XMB is completely eliminated. Also of note is the store. Players earn money through playing both single and multiplayer modes. The currency earned can be used to purchase unlockables such as costumes and weapons for use in single player, as well as various boosters and upgrades to weapons in multiplayer. Each player is allowed two slots for these boosters, and each of the boosters has a different effect, allowing players to customize their experience in order to gain an edge with their favorite tactics. During multiplayer matches, players play as either the heroes or the villains, with a variety of different skins and costumes available for purchase. Even among the same deathmatch mode, there are a variety of different conditions that players can vote on, such as player map A with only rocket launchers, or simply playing map B with the standard weapons. These different rules add a bit of flavor to the multiplayer mode that keeps it fresh.
In closing, Uncharted 2 is probably one of the best games currently available on the Playstation 3, and it'll probably stay that way for a long time to come. The single player campaign is roughly ten hours long with an additional few hours needed to collect all the hidden treasures, as well as yet another ten hours needed to complete the Crushing difficulty. The multiplayer itself is worth endless hours of fun, making Uncharted 2 probably the best game for value you'll buy this year.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/16/09, Updated 10/21/09
Game Release: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (US, 10/13/09)
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