Review by GTAMYTHMAPPERJ
A game for everyone... especially fans of the first
When I first got Uncharted: Drake's Fortune I thought it set the standards for 2007. A few things were amiss however such as a multiplayer component and a reason to replay the game. Now in 2009, I have bought the Uncharted 2 limited edition from GAME and have to say that the game has improved on the first one in almost every way.
The game itself starts off with a familiar loading screen that will get any fan of Drake's Fortune pumped to start jumping around the lush environments while shooting pirates. After the mega CGI introduction starring alot of frost and the Naughty Dog logo you are greeted with the blare of the original Uncharted's theme and an amazing looking menu that will make anyone stop in shock and awe for a minute. Yes, the menu itself tells you what a ride you'll be in for and that you should probably brace yourself for the highest production values you've ever seen in a game.
- Story -
After you've started a new game the story begins instantly from a quote from none-other than Macro Polo. When the first cinematic ends, the game embeds a tutorial into a set piece that can feel dodgy, unresponsive and slow. Fortunately, this does not reflect the rest of the gameplay and you should by no means give up or stop playing at this stage - it does get better. I will not spoil the plot for you, but the twists and turns the game leads you down is guaranteed to give you goosebumps at least once whether it's an explosion or a re-accruing symbol that has been gently placed into the background.
Throughout the many cinematic cutscenes, alot of events will take place such as new characters being introduced, people dying, insane stunts and general chatting making the storyline feel ultra-realistic beyond what any game has ever done before. Even the small talk dialogue when playing the game with an NPC is rewarding and is witty and can even be laugh out loud funny. This makes a nice change from the likes of Killzone 2 where generic marines shout "Ooh-rah" and swear alot. Which brings me onto character development.
The characters are the best cast I have ever seen in a videogame. Period. They are all extremely well developed whether they are "last years model" or introduced in this installment meaning you can often feel as if you are the everyman in the form of Nathan Drake himself stuck in his situation trying to juggle this original, yet cliche based, cast. The voice acting for them is the best I have ever heard in the game as they do not only have voice actors playing the characters, but the characters are made with full motion senor acting. You can easily tell the actors put their all into their characters. The story is definitely the strong point of the game being near perfect and alone it' is worth the full £40.
- Gameplay -
The gameplay is so well blended it's unlike anything I have ever played. The control of your character is so well rounded that you'll (no joke) sometimes mistake the game for real life when you're concentrating very hard on leaping that gorge or beating up that mercenary. As the game is based on two elements - platforming and shooting Uncharted 2 is full of variety and you'll never get bored because they are both implemented next to each other so well.
The shooting and cover mechanics are triple A with the ability to blind fire while running or slow down for an over the shoulder view. Drake can also take to cover like the first one but because Uncharted 2 features alot more building and even some interior environments, the cover system can easily get confused and pressing O can sometimes latch onto a parallel wall to the one you were trying to ram your back against. This can sometimes lead to cheap frustrating deaths that breaks up the flow of the game but for the most part the cover system does its job well.
The platforming mechanics are truly "next generation". No matter what distance the jump or ledge might be, Drake will have an appropriate animation to make him look like a real human being interacting with the environment. This ranges from him just making a large leap by hanging onto a ledge with one hand before looking down and going "phew" to running up a wall to reach a rope to where he can swing on. The major downside of the platforming is that alot of movements like swinging on monkey bars can feel horrifically clunky and contain pre-rendered animations specifically for that section. For example, on one level there are some flag poles sticking out a hotel that you need to use to swing across in a monkey-like fashion. These poles need to be swung off in a certain way or you'll end up falling into the streets of a beautifully constructed Nepal. Overall however, if you're like me and love to climb things be-it free running or just vaulting fences you will be able to immediately relate to this game.
- Graphics and modeling -
There is nothing I can put here that hasn't been said already by other reviewers and players alike. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is pure eye candy. You can tell that every texture in this game is hand drawn and that 80% of the cell processor has been used on marvelous draw distances. Despite the fact that Crysis and Killzone 2 were pretty, they did not contain the different variety of environments that this game takes you through. From the war-torn Nepal to the Snowy tundra to the Peruvian swampy-jungle, this game has been so finely modeled and tweaked that you genuinely wish you were there just to be able to reach out and touch everything. Although the vibrant, alive green jungles of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune oddly do not make a return you can still see hints of the greenery from plants grown in gardens and roofs. This is probably to tie in with the darker, perhaps grittier, theme of the game. Nevertheless it's a shame to leave out such amazing, positive scenery.
The game is a masterpiece and the character models make no exception to that. From the reflection in the eyes of a mercenary's gas mask to Sullys mustache; everything abut the characters is brimming with presentation. A few character models such as the mercenary grunts do have blocky faces however and this can become quite a problem as the only villain type you fight for most of the game are Soviet soldiers with no pirates making an appearance this time around making it feel quite unusual having an everyman like Nathan Drake taking down hordes of highly trained mercenaries.
- Replay Value -
Things to do after you have completed the storyline come thick and fast. There are tonnes to do. The main option obviously being multiplayer. You probably wouldn't take Uncharted 2 as being a great multiplayer game and rightly so as it is a platformer at heart and when platformers take on a multiplayer component they end up being mediocre like Bionic Commando. This is not the case here. You can expect every bit of top quality matchmaking here that you could expect from Call of Duty 4 or Halo 3. The playlists are rich with match types including co-op and competitive type rules.
Main competitive game types include of the standard death match and objective based gameplay such as Drake's gang vs Villains to deliver treasure across the map first. The co-op game types conclude of Naughty Dog's take on Horde (with an objective to complete) and co operative gameplay extracted from levels in the game itself just like how Resistance 2 perceived online co-op in 2008. There is also a fabulous exclusive custom game type called 'Machinima mode' where you and your friends that are in your party can act out a short movie or programme using the multilayer maps to then edit using cinema mode and upload the results to Machinima.com. This feature is no doubt the standard for future games as it's very easy to use and the results can be fantastic if done correctly.
If you've done everything else the game has to offer you can go around the story mode collecting treasure from hidden places in exchange for medals and trophies. Medals give you in game money that can be spent on the single player or multiplayer store on skins, perks, weapon upgrades and various other fun addons. Going around the story mode again as the big villain skin is funny on many levels... especially when you (in the villain skin) meet the real villain face to face.
- Information about the special edition bonuses (in the UK) -
If you're unsure whether to get the regular or pay an extra £10 for the special edition, I would recommend getting the special edition. This includes a tin case, a XMB theme which unfortunately is nothing special and has half the buttons missing, gold plated AK-47s and pistols for your character to use in multiplayer, two postcards both containing artwork and for some unknown reason - contain the Playstation controller buttons hidden into the background and two multiplayer skins. One villain and one hero. The bonus hero skin is Drake with the baseball shirt on who was also an unlockable in the first Uncharted and the villan is a rough looking pirate who is now named "Paransko". He was also the skin you unlocked in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune after completing the game on easy. Both skins feel rushed in but have been programmed to look wet if they go in water and get covered in patches of snow in the train wreck level.
- Overall -
Overall this is my favorite Playstation 3 game with a story that puts Hollywood to shame, characters that feel lifelike and original, flawless animation and art style, tremendous multiplayer action and most of all: Addictive gameplay. I would give this installment in the ever developing franchise that is Uncharted a 9 out of 10 as no game can be deemed perfect, but it's the closest we'll probably ever get.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Limited Edition Collector's Box) (EU, 10/16/09)
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