Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Review by Chapstickman
"The Definitive Reason To Own A PS3"
PS3 owners rejoice! This is one of those rarities that comes along every once in a blue moon. This isn't your next Call of Duty or your next Halo, (great franchises don't get me wrong). Instead it is the breath of fresh air that the gaming industry has been asking for. This is something special. Everything oozes detail from the voice acting and conversations to colorful set pieces which take you from the tropics of South America to the snowy roof of the world in Tibet. Everything basically screams Hollywood style production here. The shrines and temples you will explore are absolutely breathtaking. The end result will leave you feeling truly satisfied with the game and the series as a whole.
For those who might be unfamiliar with the Uncharted franchise I will break it down simply. Uncharted 2 is an action/adventure, 3rd person shooter with a little platforming and puzzle solving thrown into the mix. At a first glance one will notice extreme similarities to other games of those genres. Gears of Dude is the name a lot of Xbox360 gamers are calling it and with good reason. It basically has the 3rd person over the shoulder aiming and the 3rd person controls just like Gears of War. I personally to find the controls to be much tighter, and less clunky than Gears. The over the shoulder aiming also feels spot on. The same take cover against a wall, and then pop up, aim and shoot mechanic is also here and it works great. However, what really separates this gameplay from Gears is that it seamlessly integrates platforming into this game formula. This affords the game unique opportunities to showcase the beautiful environments that you get to climb, jump, and swing your way through. It also allows you to use unique maneuvers to get around behind enemies and kill them stealthily or pull them off the sides of cliffs, whichever you prefer.
The story is without question the best part of the game. You follow treasure hunter Nathan Drake as he gets persuaded to pull off a heist with an old accomplice for a nice sum of cash. However, what Drake does not know is that the relic he is going to be stealing from a museum is a treasure from Marco Polo's great journey. What Marco Polo found was a key to an ancient lost city of Tibetan lore and myth.
Without spoiling too much I will say that, it turns out Drake isn't the only one looking for the entrance to this kingdom. There are other parties involved that would try to gain entrance to this lost city for promises of untold power, wisdom, and fortune. Drake spends much of the story fighting against these people. It is also revealed that this lost city does not want to be found either. Many deadly traps, puzzles and other obstacles are waiting for any adventurers that might come looking for its entrance.
Single Player: 9/10
The single player starts off a little slow, sending you through a tutorial type level. Which is almost entirely all stealth based. Then the game heats up rapidly in gunplay action mixing in the stealth action you learned in the earlier levels and shows you the benefits of not rushing straight into a pack of enemies. The game will show to you that maybe climbing around to another side of the area and trying to choke them out one at a time is more efficient. Sort of like the Metal Gear series except it does not force you to just play stealth. The game only builds on these basics as it progresses into the final levels where you are basically forced to be creative with maneuvers and choosing the right weapons for the right enemies. My favorite thing about the later levels is it opens up to larger areas. This lets you have freedom in the form of several different options and attack routes you can use to destroy a group of enemies. There might be a tower nearby which you can grab a sniper rifle and climb up to the top and take out your enemies from there. Or you might just want sneak up behind some of the enemies and choke them out. The game leaves all the important choices to you.
The gun selections are somewhat varied. They range from four different types of pistols, three different types of assault rifles, two shotguns, one sniper rifle, one grenade launcher and a heavy duty back strap machine gun. They all appear scattered throughout the single player and multiplayer. You can only hold two weapons at a time and up to four grenades. Each weapon has a different function and purpose to it. It's not just a matter of preference but more of rock paper scissors type game with the enemies you use them against. Some enemies are particularly weak against certain weapons.
If there ever was a game that had perfect pacing this would be it. Just when you think you've figured everything out to the enemies they throw you a curve ball to keep it interesting. This break-up of the gameplay comes in many forms. This could be a new heavily armored enemy getting up close and personal or a twist in the very basic gameplay like having you man a gun turret on the back of a moving vehicle. You will find yourself jumping rooftop to rooftop while being chased down by a murderous helicopter one second and then climbing through the catacombs of an ancient temple solving puzzles the next. This pacing makes the game feel so fresh. The situations you find yourself in were very well planned out to say the least. They also fit into the story well without feeling tacked on.
The cut-scenes are all very interesting and necessary to explain the story. None of them go on longer than a minute or two so it won't leave you yawning. All of them have been carefully placed throughout the game at key points and I absolutely just love some of these scenes. It really feels as if a top notch Hollywood writer crafted some of the dialog in these cut-scenes. I should actually be calling it screenwriting because it is better than a lot of what is commonly passed off as screenwriting in movies these days.
The sound deserves a special mention for this game because it was so well done. Voice acting is completely on the money here, in my opinion very few games if any at all can hold a candle to this. The voices sync up nearly perfectly with the facial reactions and personalities of each character. To top it all off the title screen theme song is very reminiscent of the Indiana Jones theme song and has an orchestrated feel to it. All the weapon sounds are very realistic as well with exception of the pistols.
The wonderful thing about Uncharted 2's multiplayer is that it has a variety of modes to play around with. The classic deathmatch/body count, king of the hill, and turf or territory war, are a few of the ones you might be familiar with from other shooters. Plunder is sort of a newcomer. It's basically capture the flag, with a twist. The treasure, which both teams fight over, slows you to a crawling speed and forces you to use only a pistol. This of course encourages teamwork and inspires some creative techniques to be employed. All of the weapons are very balanced for multiplayer. Many of the better weapons are in central locations and it is more or less a race to get to them first. The maps are all varied and convoluted. All have multiple entrances and exits and high perched spots from which to snipe. There really is no such thing as camp spots in these maps that are not easily countered with a well placed grenade.
The multiplayer does not end just there, there is also a co-op objective mode which is a scenario based mission which you and two other friends can join up and tackle together. One thing about the co-op matchmaking system which should be noted is that you don't need to have two friends standing by waiting to play. You can literally click find match and the game will hook you up with competent players around your skill level to play with at any time. The Uncharted 2 community is also one of the better gaming communities out there when compared to the cesspools of World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare 2. The vast majority of players are very good, even if many don't play with headsets. There is also a Survival Mode and Gold Rush; these are co-op modes which are similar to the horde mode from Gears of War 2. The difficulty of the multiplayer modes should also be mentioned, expect to have your booty handed to you at least the first time, This AI is brutally efficient.
The single player game is somewhat short. I beat it in about 4 days which equaled out to be about 10 hours gametime the first time, including deaths and re-tries. The game does offer up harder difficulties and achievements which will take you a little longer to beat. The harder difficulties (Hard, and Crushing), do not change the difficulty of any puzzles which was a disappointment for me. They do however ramp up the hit points of certain enemies and reduce the amount of hits you can take drastically. The single player is short and sweet and you will want to play it all over again because it is just that fun.
The multiplayer is fantastic if competition is your cup of tea. There is a global ladder rank system which you have to work your way up if you want to unlock new boosters and the cooler characters. Boosters are basically little perks your multiplayer character can have in certain situations. You can only have 2 boosters on at a time but you can switch them out between games. My personal favorite is situational awareness, which lets you see your foes nametags through walls. The boosters get better as you climb the ranks and purchase them with the multi-player cash you accumulate. The new DLC packs which are out extend the life even further by adding new maps and new player skins for your character. If multiplayer is your thing you can really add endless hours to this game.
Much of the hype surrounding this game is based on the strength of the single player adventure but the multiplayer is also very deep and satisfying as well. If you just want to beat down foes in multiplayer there is many hours of that for you to enjoy but I would not buy it solely for multiplayer. For me it just hit in all the areas that mattered most. The gameplay only comes second to the fantastic story and memorable characters. This is one is a top running candidate for game of the year. If you don't have a PS3 at this point you might want to consider buying one now before the third game of this franchise hits.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/24/11
Game Release: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (US, 10/13/09)
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