Review by horror_spooky

"Thick as thieves"

The original Uncharted game was a major factor in me deciding to purchase a PlayStation 3. I owned the original PlayStation as well as a PlayStation 2, and loved Naughty Dog's work on both those platforms. The Crash Bandicoot games kicked ass, and so did the Jak series. Because of their track record and because the game just looked so damn badass, I had an extreme urge to play it. It took about three years after it came out, but I finally bought a PS3 and played through it, and loved it. I was then super-stoked to get my hands on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, since Naughty Dog usually improves vastly upon the original installment with each game franchise that they create. Uncharted 2 is not an exception to this rule.

Uncharted 2 isn't really all that of an ambitious adventure, though. I mean, the game is considered by and large one of the greatest video games of all time, and certainly one of the best games available on the PS3. It probably takes the crown for greatest PS3 exclusive (at least it does for me at this point). Most of the time games that hold these titles are ones that have done something totally new or ones that have innovated gameplay in a way that is so great that they are copied endlessly. Uncharted 2 is just like any other game of its nature. It's similar to Prince of Persia or Tomb Raider in that there's a lot of platforming that involves climbing on ledges and making long, incredible jumps across dangerous gaps. The difference is that Uncharted 2 does everything that we've seen before, but it does it better than any other game has ever done.

These platforming segments I described are plentiful in the game. The controls have been very much improved from the original game. In the first game, I experienced issues with Drake jumping in a completely different direction that I intended, oftentimes resulting in his demise. I never ran into that problem in this sequel. The platforming is executed in such a fluid and perfect manner that it's really impressive and astonshing. Even though this kind of game has been done to death with the Prince of Persia games, the original Uncharted, and the ton of Tomb Raider games that are out there, Uncharted 2 really does do this type of platforming a lot better than any of its predecessors that it has borrowed elements from. Unlike those games I mentioned, it never becomes frustrating or tiresome when it comes to the platforming. It's platforming done perfectly.

Uncharted 2 also manages to make platforming feel a little more fresh. First-person shooters have endlessly been copying the Call of Duty franchise by employing "set pieces" into their games. While the idea of a "set piece" wasn't invented by Call of Duty by any means (Valve used them to great success with Half-Life 2 and its DLC episode expansions), Uncharted 2 greatly improves upon them. Instead of just seeing a bridge being blown to hell in the distance or a fantastic explosion as the result of a nuclear bomb, Uncharted 2 turns set pieces into interactive affairs of platforming greatness. There are times when Drake has to run along an ancient stone bridge as it crumbles, jumping from one section of the crumbling bridge to the next, with certain death imminent should he mess up on his jumps.

Its moments like these that help set Uncharted 2 apart from the first game and from other games in general. Never before has a game been able to capture cinematic excitement and translate it into video game form this good. Uncharted 2 has set a new benchmark for cinematic flair in video games, and it's not even with the cut-scenes or with the storyline. Uncharted 2 is cinematic with the gameplay, blurring the lines between movie and game, and they didn't even use stupid QTEs to do it.

QTEs do exist in Uncharted 2, but they are very few and far between. And, really, they aren't truly quick-time events anyway. There are certain moments during fist-fights and such, especially during boss battles, when a button prompt will appear on the screen. The game allows room for mistakes and doesn't require players to have lightning-quick reflexes. The result of applying a more forgiving QTE system to the game is immersion, and it makes the already brilliant experience even more engrossing.

Combat plays out much like it did in the original Uncharted. Players run around dropping and picking up guns like crazy, rolling around to get to cover, and taking on oncoming enemies Gears of War-style (hence the nickname given to the franchise, "Gears of Dude Raider"). However, there have been some tweaks, and they are certainly for the better. Grenades no longer have to be equipped, and can be simply tossed with a press of L2. Melee combat no longer uses the brutal combo system of the original, but instead uses a fluid and realistic combat system that reminded me of Arkham Asylum in a way. During first-fights, the game kind of goes into slow motion, and players have to react to the moves of the enemies in order to be successful. Pressing square allows Drake to perform offensive attacks, but when an enemy is about to land a blow on Drake, players need to press triangle quickly to counter the attack in a natural fashion.

Essentially, the gameplay of Uncharted 2 is like taking the formula of the first game and putting it on steroids. Everything is bigger. There are now bigger guns that have to be carried around and can't be thrown into the inventory that absolutely destroy all enemies. Instead of 61 treasures lying around to collect, that number has been bumped up to 101. Not only has the gameplay been improved like this, but the graphics have, too. And, oh man...

Uncharted 2 is absurdly gorgeous. The textures are wonderful, the amount of detail in the environment, the animation, the character models...everything is so damn good looking that it's really unbelievable. Sony has always boasted that the PlayStation 3 is more powerful than the Xbox 360, but there have only been a handful of examples that actually prove this fact. Uncharted 2 is proof that the PlayStation 3 is capable of far more, graphically, than the Xbox 360 is by a long-shot. Better still, the game, for the most part, runs like butter. The framerate never slows down, but the game did crash on me a couple of times. The forgiving checkpoint system alleviated the annoyance from this, but the fact remains that there are still a couple of bugs and technical issues to be ironed out in these games, and hopefully Naughty Dog addresses these concerns in the next installment.

Speaking of concerns, the gameplay isn't all perfect like I may have made it seem. There are stealth sections scattered throughout the game, and while it's not necessarily required to play the game steathily, if one doesn't use stealth in these situations, then it often results in giant, one-sided and extremely annoying firefights. While I actually like stealth video games like Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, Uncharted 2 uses stealth in a very incorrect manner. Instead of intuitive stealth segments that use improvisation and thinking on the part of the player, the stealth in Uncharted 2 boils down to trial-and-error with a little bit of luck. Not only is it a huge change of pace from the fast-paced platforming and gunplay that makes up the rest of the game, but it really just doesn't fit with the Uncharted "vibe".

But I think I covered enough about the single-player gameplay. It's time to shift the focus back to the game's presentation. I already mentioned how insanely great the game looks, but how does the game sound? Well, equally as awesome. The voice actors from the original game return and do a stupendous job. Uncharted 2 probably has some of the best voice-acting in the history of video games, and that's not an exaggeration. The soundtrack is fantastic as well, with a lot of intense modern music mixed in with appropriate tribal themes.

The fantastic audio and mind-blowing graphics work well together in helping bring to life the story in Uncharted 2. Set an undetermined time after the events of the previous game, Uncharted 2 begins with Nathan Drake injured on a train that is hanging perilously off the side of a cliff. All that happens next is breathtaking, heart-pounding, and adrenaline-inducing. I can't go into details without spoiling parts of the game, but rest assured there are moments that are going to make you smile, and moments that will shock. Naughty Dog has successfully crafted another Indiana Jones-like adventure with Uncharted 2, but there are times when the game becomes a little too unbelievable (which hurts the validity of the characters and their perils), and a lot of the dialogue is way too corny and phoned-in for its own good. Regardless, the plot in Uncharted 2 is great, with a cast of awesome characters. It's a must-experience adventure for PlayStation 3 owners.

Supplementing the amazing but flawed single-player adventure is a very impressive multiplayer mode. While it's a head-scratcher as to why Naughty Dog chose not to include split-screen in this game (it would have fit perfectly), the online multiplayer still kicks ass. There is a variety of modes to play, including regular deathmatch modes, a CTF mode where the goal is to return treasure to a treasure chest, and other objective-based matchtypes. The online experience is clean and polished. I never once experienced lag or any technical issues online, which I doubt I can say about any other game I have ever played. Besides the competitive modes, Uncharted 2 also features co-op modes that are a lot of fun, and one of them is like Horde Mode from Gears of War 2, which is definitely always a good thing.

With a lengthy and exciting single player campaign and a multiplayer component that, in this reviewer's humble opinion, kicks the competition right in the ass, Uncharted 2 is stuffed with replayability. But wait, there's more! Players earn cash in the game for completing objectives. These are medals that were present in the first game. This cash is used to buy new skins for single-player and for multiplayer, new weapons, and cheats to make the game more interesting for different play-throughs. There are multiple difficulties, including a Very Easy mode that I felt should have been included the first time around for those that just want to screw around and have fun, and the end result is a game that's going to take hours upon hours upon hours to finish. And that's a very good thing. On top of all that, there's DLC for the game that I will review once the PlayStation Store is up and running again, plus there is a bunch of trophies to earn. Uncharted 2 is definitely the way to go if you're looking for a solid action game that's going to last a very long while.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one of the best games I have ever played, and certainly one of the best PlayStation 3 exclusive titles. It's right up there with Metal Gear Solid 4 and LittleBigPlanet, that's for damn sure. Anyone with a PlayStation 3 should have this game, even if the first one didn't appeal to you. Naughty Dog has once again proven that they are the absolute best of Sony's "big three" studios with another game that's sure to become a timeless classic.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/20/11

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

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