Review by HighOnPhazon

"Talented developers once again deliver an epic adventure worthy of your collection"

What I have to say about Uncharted 2 may seem familiar to some of you, because you will most likely feel the same way. As such, I feel like I'm speaking for a collective group of gamers and entertainment lovers that were given a gift. It's easy to admire what Uncharted 2 brings to the table. It's a blend of cinematic action and adventure that shines with a level of quality that isn't common among games, and essentially, this is where Uncharted 2 sets itself apart from the competition. Naughty Dog brought us something that is in a whole new level of gaming immersion, and it should give you every incentive to play it and soak it all up. Uncharted 2 is quite possibly the best game to come out this generation.

Already highly acclaimed and receiving stellar praise and reviews, you may come across phrases such as “Uncharted 2 is good, but it treads all too familiar ground” or “Uncharted 2 doesn't stray from the norm.” These aren't exact quotes mind you, but some consensus you may see in some professional reviews is that Uncharted 2 takes some of the better elements from the action genre, and utilizes them in the best way yet. This is true; the escapades of Nathan Drake in this installment share similarities to many games and movies, but nowhere have you even played these types of scenarios, or felt so good doing it in any game before it. Any guy in his mid to late twenties like me will feel instantly absorbed into this game, it's the very feeling we got while watching movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark as children.

Nathan Drake is the perfect hero, and may yet be the most human protagonist in video games. Nathan is identifiable, likeable, easy going yet smart, tough and sexy. He's the video game equivalent to the 1980's Harrison Ford. The voice work is testament to making Nathan a true character, as it's some of the best and most natural flowing dialogue you will hear, and often it will make you smile and laugh. The entire cast of characters, from Nathan to Chloe, Victor “Goddamn” Sullivan and the antagonists are all fleshed out, engaging and speak to each other in believable ways. Interaction between characters is one of the high points of this game, but its something you will have to closely observe to understand.

Gone are the days of uninspired, canned gestures, or lifeless facial expressions. The characters in Uncharted 2 are truly interacting. Frowns, realistic movements, body language, detailed face work, and the perfect voice acting to emphasize their behavior are all designed to bring you into a movie quality epic adventure. While the story itself may not be all that original or special, it sets itself apart from generic “save the world” garbage by making you feel like this could really happen. The team behind the cutscenes and animation should be given an award. I have sat at the edge of my seat on more than one occasion, watching these video game characters become more exciting to watch than some movies I own.

Uncharted 2 claims quite possibly the achievement for best looking console game this generation. The level of care Naughty Dog took to create realistic and thoroughly believable characters was also applied liberally to the world around them. There is just so much detail and life that is breathed into this game. I haven't stopped to look at things in a game as much as I have in Among Thieves. There are opportunities for those of us who appreciate such marvels of technology to sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Often, you will be so mesmerized by the high octane action and story that there is little time to admire the landscape, but this is probably intentional.

You will be pit against relentless adversaries, getting lost in tombs and temples and travel to many different locales that all feel so unique and fresh, that your head will not grasp what you've actually accomplished until it's all over. Nathan Drake has gone through one hell of a day. The brisk pace and incredible way you are traversing this epic is often staggering. Uncharted 2 is easy to finish in one sitting, because it's just so good. There aren't many games that can claim that distinction. Built with replay value in mind, Among Thieves rewards the thorough player with medals, statistics and trophies for using different guns, finding carefully hidden treasures, and using different combat tactics.

Fans of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune know that the game was at heart, a third person shooter first, and a platforming adventure second. Among Thieves somehow breaks this barrier and melds them both into one. No longer separated out in obvious spots and breaks, the platforming and action sometimes are so intricately woven into the story that you won't realize it. You'll be scrambling up, down and around so many different areas trying to flank, avoid and counter that you'll not really appreciate the excellent level design or balanced gameplay until you're through a section. Often I've barely scraped by a fire-fight and then stopped to notice just how thoughtful the area was laid out. I could have done so many more things, or used a different tactic. As I have said, replay value is high and encouraged.

Naughty Dog's true testament to gamers however is its own love for the material. You can tell they care greatly about Nathan and his story, and it shows with every scene, every detailed level or puzzle, and in the amount of content that was published as the final product. The enemies in this game however do not love you, and are made as efficient and extremely exciting foes to engage and fight. Drake's Fortune had a handful of different pirate and merc enemies, often indistinguishable from the next. There were enemies with pistols, Ak-47's and the bigger ruffians with shotguns, or the boonie hat mercs who would pelt your position with grenade launchers. Uncharted 2's enemies have a bit more character, and carry their own weight in threat. Standard enemies wield a variety of weaponry, from pistols, riot shields, uzi's and rifles. There are now armored assault troopers who lead the charge in their intimidating, thick black Kevlar. They will close down on your position while their more vulnerable, but just as deadly friends, move in for a flank. As Nathan, you're often pitted against a squad of eight or more enemies, but you never feel like you are being bogged down as in the first game. Waves of enemies don't seem to just keep coming and coming for the sake of being there. Enemies seem like they are positioned just right, and no combat situation feels forced, nor do they drag on endlessly to the point of tedium this time around; something that sprang up on a few occasions with its predecessor.

When you aren't dodging bullets or running away from helicopters raining fire down on you as you jump hurriedly from building to building in an attempt to escape, you'll be solving puzzles the Nathan Drake way. Nathan is able to complete some amazingly false theatrics with his body. Lunging, gripping, falling, grabbing and sliding all over the walls or often mountain sides. While this may seem silly, it just works, and it never pulls you out of the context of the game. Nathan is quite the stuntman but for some reason, it just works perfectly. Most of the puzzles in this game are larger than life, yet none are going to make you scratch your head or actually think on how to complete them. Often, puzzles are solved by navigating Drake around an elaborate, trap filled room, or ancient tomb. All of these “puzzle platforming” sections are a joy to play, and some are just so wild and imaginative that I was in awe. While heavily steeped in eastern Tibetan mythology, none of the seemingly absurd set pieces work against the story, but only enhance and emphasize this wonderful fictitious marvel. Naughty Dog looks to have done their homework heavily when it comes to authenticity, as each area feels distinctly foreign and just seems to look right, yet at the same time, it's so epic and “out there” in scope that it can only inspire our own imagination.

If there is truly anything wrong with this game, it's that Naughty Dog can create these vast, intricate ruins and temples, sometimes to epic and wild in imagination and scope that you can't help but feel that they could be in fact real. The problem lies in that they fail to tie up the whole game with a strong final showdown that matches the entire game itself, much like the first episode in the series. It's an altogether anti-climactic event that culminates in displaying a slight feeling of laziness, or lack of ideas. The entire game you are set with these amazing battles of frantic pace and multiple branching options to combat these foes. The last battle leaves much to be desired, and actually works to create a problem with the often impeccable controls that are have been so used to using throughout the adventure. It almost works against you. Once it's all over with, Naughty Dog somehow seems to save the ending from being a complete wash by adding an exciting final sequence and satisfying final scenes to wrap up the story.

I could go on and on about this game, the level of quality, the details, and most importantly the craftsmanship that went into designing this. If you haven't figured it out by now, this game is a worthy entry into your Playstation 3 library. It's a must own title. The story is a brisk 10-12 hour thrill ride, being just the right length for replay, and there is cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes complete with unlockables to spice the gameplay up. There isn't much wrong with this game, maybe the occasional freezing hitch during one particular chapter. Visually, it's impeccable, without equal on the console market. It goes deeper than just looks, it's the way it moves, the way it seamlessly blends all the elements together on the screen to make a truly interactive block buster movie. You can't go wrong with a purchase of Uncharted 2, this holiday's sure fire hit and a memorable gaming experience that other developers should envy. Take notes industry; this is the new standard.

-HighOnPhazon-
10/16/2009


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/20/09

Game Release: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (US, 10/13/09)


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