Review by Menji
"Fall into the Uncharted"
I was hesitant to start Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The first game had its share of gameplay issues that ruined the experience in an otherwise excellent game. Luckily, just about every issue has been fixed in this game. Kudos to Naughty Dog for making a playable game! At the start, the gamer is thrown into a nasty scene. The hero, Nathan Drake dangles from a train car that itself dangles from a cliff. This serves as a great tutorial for basic climbing gameplay and just jumps straight into controlling Drake rather than watching an endless intro video. After reaching the top, the game cuts to another segment: either the events leading up to this crash or Drake reminiscing this event. In the midst of thought, Drake is interrupted by his old crony Harry Flynn who presents Drake with the heist of the century. A crazy rich old man has hired Flynn to find Marco Pollo's lamp which may lead to something huge. Flynn then says that they should screw over this man and take the treasure for themselves. Drake agrees but wants one more hand to help with the heist. Enter Chloe, a sexy lady from Drake's past.
From there, the game plays almost identically to the first. Literally, take the first game and just replace certain characters with others and you got Uncharted 2. This presents one of the few problems with the game. All the twists are predictable and the puzzles are basically the same thing too. But there is a reason this game is leagues above the first. First, the combat has been fixed almost in its entirety. The first game had problems recognizing headshots. I would like to say it has been completely fixed but that is not the case. There are times when the gamer will get a headshot and it will only register as a body shot. Using a small handgun makes headshots easier, and headshots are almost impossible with machine guns unless you unload into the enemy's head. Of course, this problem is nowhere close to how bad it was in Uncharted. The only other problem has to do with the evasiveness of enemies. In the last game, I hated how enemies would literally dance while Drake shot at them to avoid fire. One of the dumbest things I have witnessed in a game.
Luckily, that no longer exists. Enemies will take cover instead of dancing around in the open. The one weird thing they do is duck at blinding speed. An enemy will peer out from his cover and look for Drake all while Drake sets him up in his sights. At the last second, the enemy will use his lightning fast reflexes to dodge down and not get hit. It's weird but it does happen enough to be annoying. Another annoying problem is working with a computer controlled teammate. About half the game is working with one of the few friends of Drake and the other is solo stuff. For some reason, Drake's teammate can not die, which is cool but they do not do much anyway. The problem is when you want to hurry through a level. Sometimes, Drake's team will wait for him before moving on but other times the character will be on its own path. If Drake jumps to a ledge and begins to climb, the character will still jump and since two characters can not occupy the same spot, Drake will be the one to fall! A bit dumb, but something that must be dealt with.
I have to give major props to Naughty Dog for fixing the biggest problem with Uncharted. The enemy tracking system was horrendous but still has not been completely fixed. Before, enemies knew where Drake was at all times despite hiding behind something. In Uncharted 2, enemies will follow Drake's gunfire and then Drake can move around and sneak up behind them still thinking Drake is hiding somewhere else. The problem is that every enemy will automatically lock on to Drake the minute his presence is made aware by another enemy or if Drake fires. The main problem this causes is that it messes up any chance at being stealthy in the game which admittedly is pretty damn awful after playing the Metal Gear Solid series the last eight years.
Physical combat has been improved. Naughty Dog dropped the complicated combo system from the last game and decided to go with a simple system. Essentially the gamer must mash a button until the enemy blocks it. At this point, the fight will slow down and the gamer must then tap the counter button and then the attack in a quick sequence to finish the enemy off. I definitely think this improves the combat system and loved it for the most part. Naughty Dog also found it fit to ditch the pointless motion control system to cross narrow bridges and logs. Now Drake has perfect balance ability and will not fall off unless it is to hang on the edge. Another similarity from the first game is Drake's ridiculous ability to jump around on ledges. Luckily, this time around Drake will not jump unless there is another ledge to grab onto. This saves the gamer from experiences countless deaths that again, plagued the first game. But that does not mean that Drake does not die stupidly anymore. He still does, plenty of times. There seems to be some unwritten height that automatically kills Drake. Perhaps it was implemented so the gamer does not skip huge parts of the level by falling to the bottom. Naughty Dog did not seem to have a problem creating unrealistic jumping physics though. The other possibility might have been that it creates numerous checkpoints so the gamer does not have to repeat certain areas of a level. This does help but it creates a few problems. There were times when I wanted to skip a bit of the climbing and swing right into the platform I was moving toward. But I died! The game actually would not let me skip a bit and I had to climb slowly until I reached the ledge.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of Uncharted 2 exists not in the gameplay but in the voice acting. The voice acting is near flawless. The voices are perfect for each character, match lips perfectly and the conversations are incredibly realistic. Just like the first game, Drake models the hero in textbook form. He has catchy lines, gets the ladies but still is a bit dorky at times and things do not always work out for him. In fact, the entire cast in Uncharted 2 is quite excellent. The story is a bit of the same but still fun and the humor is Grade A stuff exactly what I have come to expect from Naughty Dog.
One of the most popular features of the game has to be the online multiplayer experience. There are a few levels based off certain locations of the game where players can fight through deathmatches, elimination, plunder, and other capture the territory games. This line-up is pretty standard with nothing special. Players are generally matched up with others of similar experience for some exciting and fair matches. There are some problems with games that cause major issues. In elimination games, some players will glitch and throw their grenade right at the start, possibly eliminating one of their teammates. Games also turn to crap when a player leaves. It is truly amazing how much the game changes when the teams are unfair. In elimination and plunder games, it is downright impossible to win if your team is down a player. Luckily, heavy penalties are in place for players that leave. Another cool ability online is the extra set of trophies available. Unfortunately, the gamer has to buy the map pack(s) to unlock the trophies so they are available. I am against purchasing DLC but apparently it is quite cheap compared to other games such as Call of Duty.
Uncharted 2 improves on nearly everything wrong with the first game. If you loved the first, there is no reason at all why you will not love the sequel. If you hated the first like I did, I am sure you will still like this game. A rental is fine if you just want to run through the game. Definitely buy it if you plan on playing online. I obtained the Platinum trophy in two weeks time so a rental was perfect for me. But you definitely should check this out.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/18/10
Game Release: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (US, 10/13/09)
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