Review by AuraLine

Reviewed: 12/14/09

One of the best games not only for the PS3, but of all time.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was considered one of the best and most beautiful games on the PS3 when it was released. Now that the sequel has come, can it match its predecessor's splendor? The answer to that question is a huge yes. Uncharted 2 takes everything great about the first Uncharted and improves them all and yet, it doesn't steer far away from the first.

You play as Nathan Drake, a witty treasure hunter who seems to be very lucky and has amazing upper body strength and once again, you are tasked to find an ancient artifact that is worth a hefty sum of cash. The story is your basic treasure-hunting flick. Think Indiana Jones on this one, except more modern. It isn't original per se, but it keeps you hooked and entertained throughout the game that you could find yourself putting the controller down very hard as the pacing of the story is very well done. The story lets you travel from different parts of the world in search of Marco Polo's lost fleet and of course, treasure. As you would expect from you basic treasure-hunting flick, there is a lot of action and this game doesn't want you to look away or put the controller down. Every chapter is jam-packed with intense action that it really is an interactive movie where the line between cutscenes and gameplay is nearly invisible. There is also the occasional humorous dialogue from the characters which lead you to liking them and give them more character. The cast in this game is just full of character that you start giving a damn about them when they're emotional or gleeful. They’re not always at the same mindset like most video game characters, they have their own traits which make them more believable.

As you would expect from an Uncharted game, it would look beautiful and this game just delivers. The attention to detail, the lush and vivid environments, the overall presentation, it's just stunning to look at. There are moments where you might just end up staring at one locale and that is understandable as this game just screams beauty. The first Uncharted had water and foliage as its strong graphical points. The second one boasts its snow effects. It's just incredible to look at. As the characters step on the snow, it reacts very naturally, it gets crushed and sticks to your character’s outfit. They also end up with frost on their clothing which is a very nice touch to detail. Speaking of detail, there are very many minor details that you wouldn’t even notice being done by your characters or the environment itself that it just seems very lifelike, like you’re watching a movie with real people acting with real locales and scenery behind them. Also returning from the first game are the stunning emotions brought out by the characters. You would clearly see them disappointed, happy, amazed and you’d see their faces do the appropriate action for that emotion. Unlike the first game, this one doesn't just set you in one area. As previously stated, you travel throughout the world following Marco Polo's trail to hopefully lead yourself to the treasure. This means that snow isn't the only new effect that would make a huge impression on us. There is this one chapter where you ride a train across jungles and rivers. If you stop shooting for a moment and look at the background, you'll notice that it seemingly doesn't loop and that every scene takes place in another place giving you an impression that you are really traveling to a specific destination. It just bombards you with amazing scenery while you shoot away at henchmen while traveling at least a hundred miles an hour. This game is just polished in terms of graphics and presentation so thoroughly that it makes every other game seem dull in comparison.

The gameplay is similar to the first. Several major and minor tweaks have been made to make the game more streamlined and accessible. For example, you need not to equip grenades anymore as they are usable even with a gun now. Also, aiming with the grenade has been improved by making it more traditional (using the analog) rather than the clunky SixAxis arc-aiming used in the first one. It is, however, still an option if you prefer it. Sadly though, you can't customize your own control scheme, but it isn't really necessary as the default controls work well enough. While blindfiring, there is now a reticle so that you would be more certain at what you are actually firing at. Melee combat has also been revamped. Instead of timing your punches to make them connect, you can mash the square button and press triangle to counter. Stealth has also been more implied in this game than the first. There are more ways to stealthily kill your opponents than before, like pulling them down from a ledge or grabbing them from behind cover and cracking their necks. These kills give you more ammo and a chance to get weapons they aren't holding or are not even supposed to be in that area. This gives you more strategy on how to approach an area crawling with enemies. You can either alert them of your presence immediately by shooting a gun, or stealthily take them all down. However, once you or a dead body has been spotted, the guards will start shooting you down. Speaking of enemies, they vary a lot in this game. There are your normal goons then there are ones with armor and riot shields. These enemies will really encourage you to aim for the head as they will go down easier that way, that is if you have a shotgun or grenade launcher at your disposal. The game also offers more weapons and equipments than the first, like shields, gatling guns and RPGs. Returning from the first game is the treasure hunting aspect of it. I mean, it wouldn't be Uncharted without treasure right? There are a hundred in one in total and some of them are very cleverly hidden that it would take more than looking in every corner of a room to find a treasure. This just makes treasure hunting a lot more exciting than the first. Like the first game, there are different difficulties, the only difference here is that there is an Very Easy mode. As the difficulty rises, the game becomes more tactical than a run-and-gun fest. You get more damage, you stay in the red (near-death) for longer and the AI will seem smarter, attempting to flank you if they have the chance. The counter window in melee will also be more critical and will depend on your timing. Taking cover is crucial in later difficulties as these serve as your safe spots. The game has a few flaws. For example, you want to take cover behind a box on a bridge, instead, Drake picks to hang from the bridge leaving you open. Another is when you are panicking and instead of taking cover behind something, you take cover beside it. These instances fortunately happen rarely. Climbing can also get a bit iffy for you would sometimes find yourself jumping down instead of going up. These are all pretty minor and are in no sense game-breaking to say the least. There are also certain objective medals that reward you with case which you can use in the store wherein you can purchase tweaks and multiple skins to further enhance your single-player experience.

Something completely not found on the first game is online Multiplayer. There are several game modes available and they vary from each other. Competitive Multiplayer pits you against players from across the globe. It consists of Deathmatch, your standard five-versus-five brawl. It also has different modes like an RPG-only deathmatch or a Pistol and Grenade deathmatch. Plunder is basically capture the flag, except you can throw the idol (the flag) to make for more teamwork. Elimination is like deathmatch, except you don't spawn after you are killed. King of the Hill is your capture the base mode where you or your teammates must stay in the area to claim the hill as yours. The hill also changes position after a time. Chain Reaction is another capture the base type mode where you must capture the bases in sequential order to advance and finally, there's Turf War, a glorified King of the Hill with three bases instead of one. All of these modes offer diversity and all are fun. Then there's Co-op. This has you playing with two other people in an attempt to complete a certain objective with goons thrown at you to disrupt you from that goal. There are three modes, the first is Objective where you play through a mini campaign. There's Survival where you must defeat every enemy in a round before advancing to the next. Then there's Gold Rush which is a co-op Plunder, except the ones trying to take you down now are hordes of henchmen. These modes really test your teamwork and are a blast to play through. Leveling up is more than winning. You need to perform well to actually obtain more experience. Like single-player, there are certain objective medals that grant you cash, or in this case, experience. There is a multiplayer store as well. The cash earned in both SP and MP are shared. The store offers several skins, upgrades and boosters. Boosters are aids that help you in battle. There are two slots and you can assign one booster in each. Most of the items that can be bought in the store have a level requirement though so you are encouraged to play well to both level up and earn cash. The online experience is decent, there are several bugs that again happen rarely. There are also some glitches but they are pretty minor and can only be done in two maps out of the seven. Overall, it's very fun and very addicting.

The sound of this game is just incredible. The score is captivating and really sets up the mood for a certain scenario, the sound effects are just explosive and very real, but the real highlight of the sound department is the voice acting. It's just terrific. As stated before, the voice acting really gives soul to their characters. It's done so very professionally and perfectly that this game is probably the game to have the best voice acting, ever, in a video game.

The single-player takes at least 9 hours, but it really depends on how you play it. All the scenery to look at, the treasure to hunt for and the amusing dialogue to hear, it's just hard to speed through a game this beautiful. If you're done with single-player, go online and take on multiplayer which can last a long time because of how fun and addicting it is.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, to be hasty with this conclusion, IS the game to have on the PS3. If you don't have it, you're just missing out completely on one of the best games, not just for the PS3, but of all time.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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

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