Review by brochattey
"How far does this sequel surpass the original?"
Naughty Dog does a brilliant job with their sequel to Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and improves literally everything that made the original so amazing. Hands down, this is one of the best reasons for owning a PlayStation 3.
You are treasure hunter, Nathan Drake, tattered, bloodied, and in life threatening danger. The story pits you up against Zoran Lazaravic, an infamous war criminal, in a race for the legendary Cintamani Stone. Plenty of dangerous adventure ensues, but you'll soon encounter some new characters along with a few familiars to help you along.
Arguably, the best thing about the Uncharted series is its cast. Everyone's personality is unique and interesting. I love that despite how perilous a situation becomes, Drake pulls through with a witty quip and humorous self-confidence that makes it so you can't help but like the guy -- hell, even wish you were the guy! Moreover, the chemistry between Drake and the supporting characters is completely genuine and serves to emotionally invest you in the story.
Gameplay is similar to the original, meaning that you'll get into frequent shoot-outs with enemy soldiers, requiring the use of the environment for cover. However, there are some tweaks that improve the system. One that I was very happy about: grenades no longer require the use of sixaxis controls, making them much more user friendly. Entirely new to the game are riot shields and tossable propane tanks that explode when fired on. In addition, there is a stronger emphasis on stealth attacking this time around. It could be a bit more polished, but I found it useful to quietly disable an enemy without alerting the entire room to my presence.
Fortunately, fighting isn't the only thing Uncharted 2 has to offer. I'd say slightly more than half the game is comprised of climbing, shimmying, and propelling yourself from ledges. This is all handled gracefully thanks to the intuitive controls. For the most part, you'll never find yourself accidentally leaping to your death (something I did fairly often in Drake's Fortune). If I found myself making a bad move, Nathan would grab onto the ledge instead of insanely leaping towards open sky.
Among Thieves is not without its puzzles, either; however, none are extremely difficult to solve. At one point, you are asked to do a simple color matching puzzle, which proves no more difficult than plugging in color-coded cables to the back of a PC. I don't want to be stumped for an hour on a puzzle, but a little more cleverness would have been fun.
The game is obviously not flawless. Boss battles are repetitive and consist of repeating the same action over and over again; furthermore, the area of combat is usually extremely constricting, so any strategies you can come up with are limited. Don't get me wrong, the fights are much cooler than what was found in the original, but they still don't offer much depth or variety.
I know it should be obvious from the start, but the graphics are stunningly beautiful. Often, I found myself standing at the top of a building simply panning the scenic views. From the vibrant cityscape in Istanbul to the sprawling mountains in a small Himalayan village, this game is a visual treat.
The intense level of detail is best exampled when traversing the war torn streets of Nepal. Trash litters the ground, buildings are scorched, and the city appears completely authentic -- even despite the conveniently placed footholds and ledges.
The game's music is not remarkable in any way except for the fact that it blends into the game well -- which is exactly how it should be. In a game like this, music is there to add to the ambience, not take center stage.
Also, major props to Nolan North for the voice of Nathan Drake. Everything the character says is conveyed with the perfect direction and tonality, and the ability to have the audience easily identify with him is the mark of good acting. Luckily, strong performances are given by the entire cast, new and returning alike. The Uncharted franchise serves as a cardinal example of how quality voice acting can elevate a game's story.
It should also be noted that most of the trophies are repeats from the first game, so if that doesn't dispirit you: happy hunting! Additionally, the Treasure Hunter trophies won't be so easy this time around. There are 100 well hidden treasures to collect; don't be ashamed if you need a guide to find the more obscure ones.
If all of that wasn't enough, the game also contains a robust online multiplayer mode. You'll find standard competitive modes such as Deathmatch, Plunder, King of the Hill, and Elimination, all of which pits 5 on 5. Online matches feature rank leveling and unlockables, so there's a lot to keep you busy. In my games, matches took up to one minute to queue players, and once the match loaded, I experienced no noticeable lag whatsoever.
Along with the competitive online, there is a solid co-op mode for up to 3 people. The missions are on the longer side, and they are good for a challenge -- even on easy mode. Granted, my games were done with strangers, so there was no strategy beyond "stay alive." I would recommend you play them with friends; they can be quite frustrating without coordination.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a fantastic game that I highly recommend. It may not be perfect, but the pros far outweigh the cons. The puzzles and bosses could use a little more creativity, but it's still not enough to disappoint. Fans of Drake's Fortune will be very pleased with the multitude of improvements here. Additionally, this game has a solid online multiplayer mode for those who enjoy competitive play. At its core, Among Thieves is about cinematic storytelling and its wonderful cast. I can't imagine anyone playing through the game and not loving it.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/16/10
Game Release: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (US, 10/13/09)
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