Review by Archmonk Iga

"Enough of this frivolity, kids. Uncharted 2 is a masterpiece."

Sometimes I wonder why the hell I write these reviews. I'm not getting paid, and I am only one little gamer among many. But I've got my reasons. It's fun, for one thing. I like writing about my hobbies, and I think I'm pretty good on a keyboard. I also think my reviews have gotten much better over the years… Just look at my Advent Rising review and compare it to my Last Story review. Ugh, it's hard for me to believe I wrote some of that crap.

But beyond the fact that I enjoy doing it, the content itself is a good reason too. I play crappy games, and I like to talk about why I think they're crappy. But even more important to me are the great games. Games that I think everyone should play… Games like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. If I had to pick one single PS3 classic, then this game would be it. It makes me thankful I'm such a big gamer, and playing it so many times makes me look forward to completing this review that you're reading right now. The first Uncharted was gorgeous and fun, but its platinum trophy can be earned in a single day's worth of playing. Its level design was also a little too concrete, with its two very separate types of gameplay. Uncharted 2 retains the original's beauty, charm, solid gunplay, and platforming, but it does away with the cut-and-dry pacing and adds in some excellent multiplayer. It is not only Naughty Dog's crowning achievement, but also the PS3's.

STORY:
As we know by now, Nathan Drake loves treasure. So when his old friends Chloe Fraser and Harry Flynn invite him to infiltrate a Turkish museum to help lead them to the riches of Marco Polo, our lovable hero just can't resist. Once they find what they're looking for, Nate's latest adventure takes off in full force.

Of course, betrayal and treachery abound in this historical mystery, and poor Nate is once again caught up in the middle of it. Sure, he'd love to cash in on the innumerable treasures he's bound to discover and find the answers to Marco Polo's lost fleet, but certain people would like to beat him to it. And while Nate is quite formidable on his own, we are thankful he's got the savvy Elena Fisher and the rickety old Victor Sullivan back to help him out. The surprises and discoveries and twists and turns in Uncharted 2 are wondrous to witness, even more so than the original's. But the cast of characters is stronger than ever, and even the new ones like Chloe and Harry add so much to this fascinating story. What makes it even better is that this time we aren't limited to a single island—instead, Nate and company will be travelling all over the world as one clue leads them to another and one answered question leads to, well, more questions. It's fun, it's full of action, and it fully maintains the charisma of the original.
STORY: 9/10

GRAPHICS:
It was difficult for Naughty Dog to improve the visuals for this sequel, but somehow they did it. First of all, UC2 isn't limited to the single island setting of UC1. Our detailed views of Istanbul at nighttime, the tropical jungles of Borneo, the civil war-ravaged Nepal, a high-speed train ride to the peaks of Tibet, and much more make for some unbelievable sights. If I don't end up travelling the world at some point in my life (which I hope I do), I guess playing through UC2 will help make up for it. This game is absolutely stunning, whether you're looking from a distance or up close. Even the characters act more realistic, with Nate constantly checking out his surroundings while you're controlling him. In battle, things can get hectic too. Bullet holes, shrapnel and gigantic explosions abound with absolutely zero slowdown during both gameplay and cutscenes. UC2 is an absolutely amazing looking piece of art.
GRAPHICS: 10/10

SOUNDS:
The excellent cast from the original return, and all the new characters sound just as believable. I am especially impressed by the maniacal roar of the game's main villain, who gets crazier and crazier as the game goes on. The soundtrack is much more diverse in UC2, since there are so many more locations, but it never lets up in its powerful composition. Sound effects are equal in quality to what they represent visually—rapid gunfire, crumbling stoneworks, creaking floorboards, and deafening explosions make this game come to life that much more.
SOUNDS: 9.5/10

GAMEPLAY:
My biggest complaint with the original UC was that its setup was too obvious—jutting rocks acting as blatant cover for both you and the enemies, long sections of climbing and jumping followed by long sections of shooting endless spawns of bad guys, hilariously easy puzzles, and an overall feeling of some lost authenticity throughout it all. Uncharted 2 has very little of any of that, making for a much more fun package as well as one that makes the story feel way more believable.

Action sections are so well done because the cover system is much more realistic. For example, at one point Nate will have to hang from a signpost up high while enemies are coming from every direction. The sign itself will act as a safe cover, but the fact that he's hanging 50 feet in the air makes it much more challenging—not to mention the enemies are coming from all directions so he'll have to jump from one side of the sign to the other to stay alive. That's an unusual case though, because much more of the game is standard action/gunplay fare… it's just that the environments where these take place are so much better designed than before that no two replays will be the same. The enemy AI is just as strong as before, but they have to adapt to the environments too, so the game is that much more challenging and fun. The clunky six-axis grenade controls are gone too, and melee combat is more user-friendly.

What makes the gameplay even better is that the platforming sections provide so much more. For example, you could be scaling the wall of an abandoned building, and when you finally climb through the window there's a well-armored shotgunner waiting for you. The insane train level is full of intense moments and combines both the platforming and action elements perfectly.

Also better implemented is stealth—you are introduced to it in the first level, and while it's not necessary at all for the remainder of the game, certain parts will end up being much easier for you if you move quietly.

Nate will still have to do some puzzle-solving, and while they are still mostly easy, the work you must put into them adds a bit of challenge. Remember to take advantage of ALL the pages in Nate's diary, since simply opening it up won't always reveal what you need to solve them. The puzzles are still among the weakest parts in this sequel, but they're still more rewarding now than they were before.

And I suppose that's all there is to say about the brilliance of UC2's gameplay… unless you're interested in its online multiplayer (which you should be). Climbing the ranks through the multiplayer's many modes (from deathmatch to capture the treasure) proves to be extremely rewarding for those who give it enough time. Even better than the competitive modes is the co-op. Playing through various levels with a friend is different than playing alone, and while the single-player is reason enough to purchase UC2, the co-op mode is too fun to deny. Not only that, it is a huge challenge. What's great about both competitive AND co-op is that their maps are basically identical to the levels from the main game. The only problem I can think of is that with UC3 out now, it has become significantly harder to find people to play with online in this three-year old game. UC2 is worth the money for the single-player alone, but the fact that Naughty Dog went those extra steps to provide some excellent multiplayer says a lot about their devotion to videogames.
GAMEPLAY: 9.5/10

REPLAY VALUE:
The campaign in UC2 will take you three to four hours longer to beat than UC1's campaign, and if you're like me then you'll be replaying it again and again to achieve its platinum trophy. But even that might not get you past the 30-hour mark, so be thankful for the multiplayer, which is so well done it is only outmatched by UC3's multiplayer. For an action game like this, UC2's staying power is among the strongest this generation.
REPLAY VALUE: 9.5/10

OVERALL:
Why do I love videogames so much? Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is why. It's beautiful, it's fun, and its “frivolity” is just as enormous as its heart. It has everything you ask for in an action game to make it a masterpiece. If you own a PS3 but haven't played UC2, then you have no idea what you're missing.
OVERALL: 9.6/10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/14/12

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


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