Review by ayame95

"A Highly Cinematic Experience"

INTRODUCTION

The first Uncharted game was one of the earlier shots fired from Sony in the exclusive title salvo at the beginning of the current console generation. Its impressive visuals and solid gameplay (for the time) resulted in fairly strong reviews, as well as a loyal following that garnered the need for a sequel.

Uncharted 2 comes a few years later and is being sold as one of the main reasons to buy a Playstation 3 this year (its release coincided with the debut of the PS3 Slim). As a result, you've got a lot of folks on both sides of the console war forming an opinion based on what they think of the Playstation brand, rather than judging the title by its actual content. This review will seek to cut through this nonsense and offer the reader a straight review of what is actually an outstanding game.

STORY & CHARACTERS – 10/10

Uncharted 2 harkens back to the days of classic adventure movies of the 1930's. The main character's style and swagger might be modern, but his essence is 100% Errol Flynn. A race against time, a callous hero with a heart of gold, a priceless treasure and a couple beautiful women thrown in makes for about as classic a story as you can imagine. It might not be that original, but the story is told in a compelling way, and cliches are used effectively and never feel tired. The pacing is terrific, with events moving along at an exciting clip, and virtually no downtime.

The shining jewel in Uncharted 2's crown is the characters, which literally come to life through masterfully crafted cutscenes and in-game banter. Each character feels like a fully fleshed out individual, and I found myself identifying with each one of them in turn. Uncharted 2 really takes its characters to a level never before achieved in video games, demonstrated by the fact that even someone watching the game can sit comfortably through most of it, without ever having to actually touch the controller to enjoy it.

GAMEPLAY – 7/10

If Uncharted 2 has a weakness, it lies in the gameplay. While the game is by no means terrible in this department, there is clearly room for improvement. Gameplay can basically be broken down into two elements: platforming and shooting. The platforming is reminiscent of the Tomb Raider series (a clear inspiration for Uncharted) and is the stronger of the two. Nonetheless, it can occasionally be frustrating to make Drake do exactly what you want, especially when trying to maneuver obstacles quickly.

The shooting, on the other hand, is the Achilles' heel of Uncharted 2. It utilizes a simple cover system in which both the player and enemies hide behind obstacles, “popping out” to shoot at each other. Taking cover and moving around works well enough, but taking aim and shooting feels a bit “loose” and while not a total failure, simply doesn't feel that exciting. It's not a dealbreaker by any means, but just as the quality of Uncharted 2's cutscenes and voice work makes other games look weak by comparison, it's hard not to compare Uncharted 2's gunplay to other titles in the genre, and find it lacking. With all the resources that were clearly devoted to this game, it would have been nice to see the developers take the combat to the next level.

Also worth noting is that the game does feature a stealth mechanic that is occasionally implemented. Usually it is optional, but in a few instances it is “forced,” resulting in a situation where getting spotted means game over. Sneaking around and attacking from stealth works reasonably well, but the enemy A.I.'s weaknesses show through here, as it is far too easy to remain hidden, even in instances where it seems like you should clearly be spotted (e.g. standing just slightly behind and to the side of an allegedly alert solider produces no reaction, nor does running around in a circle behind him). This results in these sections lacking tension, the whole appeal of a stealth element in the first place.

GRAPHICS & SOUND – 10/10

Uncharted 2, at the time of this review's writing, is one of (if not the) best looking console game on the market. The environments are beautifully rendered. Any number of times I found myself stopping just to pan the camera around and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Each individual environment is lovingly crafted, with a lot of attention to detail. Charter models and their animations are also top notch, having a distinctive art style but emoting in a near photo-realistic manner.

Uncharted 2's breathtaking graphics are rivaled only by its stupendous voice work. Cutscenes were filmed with motion capture and voice was recorded on set. The result is unbelievably high quality conversations between characters that bring them to life and pull the player into the story quite effectively.

REPLAYABILITY – 9/10

Uncharted 2 gives you many reasons to keep playing. For starters, there are four difficulties (with the hardest both appropriately and amusingly named “crushing”), as well as the ever-present collection quest for those who are interested (at least each item is individually labeled). The developer has also included a co-op mode, with specially designed levels for two players to enjoy online or off.

Also new to Uncharted 2 is the inclusion of a multiplayer mode. Players can choose a variety of skins from the singleplayer campaign and shoot it out. A system for collection money and leveling up your character has been put in place, and the ability to climb and traverse different obstacles gives an interesting vertical element to the game. While not the strongest entry into the competitive multiplayer market, Uncharted 2 is surprisingly competent in these regards, and I did find myself coming back to play it. If only the fundamental shooting was a bit stronger, this mode could have really been something incredible.

Also included, for those who wish to learn more about how Uncharted 2 was made, are several concept art galleries along with a number of “making of” movie clips. Of particular interest is one that shows how the cutscenes were filmed, comparing the actual film from the motion capture sections with the final products. It's almost scary just how closely the two resemble each other. These films are a quick aside, but worth checking out if you are interested in how the game was made.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION

Uncharted 2 has had the unfortunate luck of having become the flagship game for the Playstation 3 at the time of its release. While not undeserving of this title, it can be hard to make an objective assessment of the quality of the title without the argument breaking down into a judgment of the console itself. But platform aside, Uncharted 2 is a stellar title that any PS3 owner should check out. It would have been nice to see the gameplay live up, but the incredibly well done characters, stellar graphics and excellent pacing more than make up for this. If you have a PS3, this is a game you shouldn't miss.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/19/10

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


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