Review by jasten

"Nearly Perfect"

Let us get one thing out of the way: this game is not perfect. It is damn good and really pushes that line between greatness and perfection, but it doesn't quite make it. It is a testament, though, that this game came very close to being granted the second perfect score I have ever given. It is fun. It is engaging. And the story is an adrenaline rush from start to finish.

(Possible Spoilers)

Story (10/10): the reason I play games. And this game delivers perfectly. It starts out by thrusting you into the middle of the story and immediately the adrenaline is pumping. Questions and intrigue are swirling from the start as Nate struggles through this chapter. Everything is falling apart around Nate and it actually feels as if his fate rests on a mere split second... and all of this is merely the tutorial for the game mechanics. Yes, the story is already at full speed and it is only the tutorial!

The game eventually tails back into the beginning of the story and the events begin to unfold. The story is quick and forceful, but it never feels rushed. The pacing is perfect and the rising tension only intensifies with each passing chapter. The mythology unveils itself gradually and the revelations that suddenly erupt later are beautifully woven into one tight, cohesive unit. Nothing ever feels contrived or out of place.

The final chapters are a climatic explosion of action, unease, and even a tiny bit of uncertainty. When the epilogue finally plays out, all of the tension from the game is perfectly crafted into a wonderful sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. It doesn't hurt that the humour that Uncharted proudly displays is front and centre for the final moments. The story is simply perfect.

Characters (10/10): one of the best casts ever. And that includes any other form of art or entertainment, not just gaming. From the lead in Nathan Drake to Harry Flynn, and even to characters such as Tenzin... each of the characters are fully developed and fleshed out. Granted, there the typical cliches within these characters, but the parts are designed so well that those cliches are completely enjoyable. It helps a great deal that Uncharted: Among Thieves boasts one of the greatest voice overs in the business. Hell, one doesn't even speak English and yet it feels perfectly natural in how the characters interact with one another.

What really makes these characters special are the segments of banter between them during fire-fights, platforming, or even simply walking around. The interaction breathes life into the characters and not only makes them feel real, but the situation in which they are mired in. This aspect is refreshing to witness since many recently games have ignored such smaller interactions outside of cut-scenes. These smaller moments sparsed through-out the story are what truly connected me to the characters.

Music (10/10): a lot of tens so far... hmmm. The soundtrack to this game is astounding. From the moment the title screen faded into view the music had me. The rising orchestral movements were great matches to the action on screen. It didn't matter what scene, but the music fit wonderfully and added to the emotional connection between me and the characters or me and the events unfolding.

I really need to purchase the soundtrack and listen to it repeatedly (and without worrying about Nate dying) in order to truly give this musical score justice however. It is spectacular, but sadly many of the tracks are all in the midst of intense fire-fights with either a crowd or a chopper. While the great bass and thundering instrumentals gave a rise to the action, one cannot simply sit and listen to the marvelous track as it plays. Well, without your character horribly dying of course.

Gameplay (9/10): the only imperfection. Normally gameplay wouldn't play that big of a role in my final score. But here it does come into play, especially considering how special this gameplay is. But it is that element that also brings a spotlight onto the minor flaws within the mechanics.

First, it is truly rare for the game's mechanics to get any truly worthy mention from me. Usually I simply give it a tertiary glance and delve into what I feel are the truly significant aspects of gaming: story and characters. But this game does what few other games do; it ties many of the mechanics directly into the story. In other games, various sequences would be saved for cutscenes and would simply have the gamer sit back and watch. But Uncharted thrusts you into Nate's role during many of these sequences and forces you to act: the immediately infamous train sequence, the various chopper sequences, the final rush at the end of the game, and even the smaller moments of banter that suddenly turn into dashes across crumbling bridges or climbing walls. The game mechanics are built into the story sequences and greatly increase the immersion into the story.

But, as I stated before, it is this immersion that does give light to some issues with certain mechanics. The cover mechanics are spotty, especially in tight quarters, and during those varied chopper sequences this can become quite grueling since one could be trying to dive to another cover point and instead stand up directly into a spray of bullets. It is also extremely frustrating to try and stand out of cover only to find yourself diving to a different cover point.

Also, there is a slight problem with jumping. For some reason Nate will turn just before he jumps and miss an intended target from time to time. I could understand if it was a slight misdirection on my part, which does happen once in a while, but the sheer fact that it will be a near 90 degree shift points to slight issue with the mechanics. Neither is game breaking, but it is noticeable and enough to mar this otherwise perfect game.

Graphics (10/10): beautiful. The detail is astounding, the immense size of the vistas awe inspiring, and the wondrous design of the characters makes this the greatest graphical showcase of both design prowess by Naughty Dog and the capability of the PS3. Simply put, the power of the PS3 is quite evident in not only the beauty, but the simply fact that there is minimal loading for such an open and large world. The infamous train sequence is a perfect display of this with the terrain changing gradually as Nate progresses to each car.

The graphics also do a wonderful job of creating more realistic characters. The body language and facial expressions are the best in gaming and greatly compliment the voice acting.

Last word: This game is simply a treat and if only for those two minor flaws, this game would merit a perfect score. I simply loved this game from the moment I started until the final lines before the credits. It is rare for game to deliver on its burdening hype, but Uncharted: Among Thieves not only delivered on expectations, but vastly exceeded them. If Uncharted 3 makes this big a leap as this game did from Drake's Fortune... well, gaming is in for a revolution.

9.9/10... yes, it was that close to being perfect. I wasn't lying.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/21/09

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

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