Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review
By Figboy
I’ll make this really, really simple: If you own a Playstation 3, go out and buy this game. All done here.
Alright, I guess that won’t exactly do for a review, so here we go. Uncharted 2 is one of those rare games that fully encapsulates what it is that makes the video game medium so damn special. If you’ll permit the hyperbole, there are very few games that come around a generation that truly define it, and expresses why the current generation is markedly better than the previous generation. Uncharted 2 is one of those games. It manages to define it’s genre, the Playstation 3, and even game design.
For the uninitiated, Uncharted 2 follows the continuing journey’s of one Nathan Drake, some time after his first adventure. He is lured into a pact with two rather shady people, Chloe and Flynn, who are working for a man eager to find out what happened to Marco Polo’s lost fleet. Naturally, they are not the only parties interested, and a crazed war criminal named Lazarevic is racing to find the fleet before Nathan and company do. What happens next is a globetrotting adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones filled with action, romance, betrayal, and all the juicy stuff that makes a story worth telling. I won’t go into any more details, because honestly, the story is one of the best parts of the game, filled with fun, 3 dimensional characters and truly the best voice acting in the industry. Each character lives, breathes, and manages to bond with you in some way, for good or ill.
It’s hard to talk about Uncharted 2 without mentioning it’s breathtaking visuals. The first game in the series boasted visuals better than any game out at the time, and the sequel sets a bar so high that it may be a while until it is surpassed, if ever. The character models immediately stand out, with faces that scream character, with lines and creases detailing faces, stubble, hair that flutters in the wind, and clothing that actually looks like cloth, and not molded plastic. The environments are the next thing that drops your jaw, with amazing texture work, lighting, and don’t even get me started on the snow, which cakes onto Nathan’s clothing and hair(and even ices his pants when walking into a frozen puddle) and leaves tracks and footprints in his wake. I was ready to put on a snow coat while wandering the icy tundras. Immersive is a word that I don’t even think does the game justice. The character animations are the best in the industry, and it really feels like Nathan and company are a part of their environment, moving, stumbling, and climbing across the world. It doesn’t feel like just a backdrop, but an actual place.
If you own an HDTV, that is the only way to play this game and truly appreciate what it’s doing graphically. Depth of field, motion blur, and all of the other technical buzzwords are in full play here, and I don’t deny it when Naughty Dog says they have pushed the PS3 hard. All cutscenes are done real time, using the same graphics engine as the gameplay, so the result ends up being very seamless, and helps to sell the “movie” presentation. Graphics Whores will absolutely delight in Uncharted 2’s presentation.
Of course, what’s a pretty game without pretty gameplay to go along with it? Fortunately, Uncharted 2 packs in some amazing gameplay in it’s rather lengthy single player story. The game’s a third person shooter, with platforming and puzzle elements, and I have to say that, compared to the first game in the series, there’s a wider balance between platforming, puzzle solving, and shooting. Just when you think you have done too much of one thing, they throw in something new, from jumping across train cars in pursuit of a mystical dagger, to pulling off a museum heist, to sprinting across rooftops in an attempt to avoid a pursuing helicopter, the game is constantly switching up it’s objectives and presentation to keep things fresh.
The controls are tighter and more responsive than in the first game, which is saying something, since the original had superb controls, but the feel of moving around the environment and aiming and shooting are much smoother, with better transition animations between actions like leaping, taking cover, and melee combat. Speaking of melee, the system has been tweaked a bit, and is a bit more button mashy, but fisticuffs were never really the draw of Uncharted. By pressing the Square button, players can throw punches (or, if behind an enemy, deliver a stealth attack), but enemies can counter, forcing players to quickly press the Triangle button to avoid a blow and get a chance to counterattack. It’s very simple and straightforward. It’s probably the only real negative aspect of the game, and it’s barely a negative. While you can certainly get into fisticuffs in the game, it’s designed for the shooting aspect and that part is glorious.
Nathan’s arsenal is pretty standard stuff; pistols, sniper rifles, automatic machine guns, rpgs, etc, so no prizes for originality there, but they get the job done. As stated before, the game is rather well paced, both in storytelling, and in the level design. There’s a healthy mix of platforming, shooting, and puzzle solving, with the puzzles being a bit more involved than the first game, but not brainteasers like in other games in the genre (ie, Tomb Raider). This mix works great, and keeps the game from getting monotonous. Of course, the rather epic setpieces and constantly changing locations helps as well. They also do a great job of blending elements like platforming and combat, as Nathan can fire his pistol while hanging from a ledge or street pole. This opens up game design, as enemies are no longer confined to just attacking you while you are on the ground, but while you’re also trying to climb to a destination. There is a feeling of tension as you never know when you will be attacked.
Uncharted 2’s awesomeness is hard to boil down to just it’s individual parts. It’s the whole stew that goes down so well. The superb visuals that are a testament to the PS3’s capabilities as a gaming platform, the tight controls, excellent level design, and great story all gel to form an amazing gaming experience that no PS3 gamer should be without.
But Uncharted 2’s offerings don’t end there. Responding to criticisms from the first game, Naughty Dog have implemented a robust multi-player offering that takes some of the maps from the single player game, and tweaks them to multi-player play. There are lots of game modes: Deathmatch, Elimination, Plunder, Turf War, King of the Hill, Chain Reaction, Survival, and Gold Rush. These modes support up to 10 players, and feature all of the gameplay mechanics from the single player (minus puzzle solving, of course). To add to the MP, Naughty Dog have implemented a Perks system, a la Call of Duty 4, which allows players to add modifiers to their character. The Perks can do many things, like adding extra ammo to your clip, or granting you faster reload speeds to name only 2.
Players purchase these Perks by spending money they earn in MP matches. Performance in a match also adds to your player’s level, where leveling up will grant you access to more and better Perks.
Despite the multi-player being filled with the standard modes, the “Uncharted twist” to it that keeps things fresh and exciting are tied to the traversal mechanics. Being able to climb up surfaces, hang off of walls, and shoot at enemies adds a nice layer to what would be “ordinary” MP. The smooth animations and fantastic visuals are icing on an already sweet cake.
Naughty Dog also added a “Cinema” or “Machinima” Mode, where MP matches are automatically recorded, and players can rewatch the match, tweak features like lighting, depth of field, fog, color, etc, take screenshots, and output it to video format or upload it directly to Youtube. Players can also enable Twitter support, which allows them to update their Twitter profiles with their latest exploits. The Machinima mode is a little more complex, and allows the player to, basically, craft their own movies starring the Uncharted cast. There is a vast array of tools at the users disposal, from green screens to animation sets and voice support (you can talk into your headset to record dialogue, and character’s mouths move accordingly). I’m eager to see what the Machinima community comes up with, and may play around with it myself.
The competitive MP would have been a great compliment to the single player experience, but ND didn’t stop there. They also added a 3 player co-op mode, where, naturally, 3 friends can join up online and tackle two modes: Co-op Objectives, and Co-op Arena. I’ve never been much of a competitive MP player, so Co-op mode has always been a favorite of mine in any game. In Objectives, players are tasked with going from point A to point B, helping each other across obstacles and defeating enemies and bosses. Players also earn money and level up in this mode, which they can use to buy better upgrades for their characters (no Perks, but new weapons, etc). Co-op Arena is more like a Capture the Flag (Plunder in Uncharted 2), where players must work together to capture a gold idol, while battling enemies in waves. The twist is that the waves get increasingly more difficult. It’s like a survival mode, but with an added objective.
Needless to say, Co-op is my favorite MP mode, although the competitive MP is certainly enjoyable.
VERDICT: BUY – I can’t stress it enough how excellent of a game Uncharted 2. Naughty Dog has packed so much gameplay, detail, and unlockables into this game that it quite literally could not have been done on another console. What would be DLC on any other system is included on the disc in Uncharted 2. The single player campaign is lengthy, engrossing, and ultimately satisfying without being a plug for part 3, and the MP and Co-op offerings are genuinely enjoyable, rewarding experiences. Value for dollar is rather important these days, and I can’t think of another game this year that matches Uncharted 2 in that regard. Now go out and buy it.
Uncharted 2
Genre: Action/Adventure
Platforms: Playstation 3
Developer: Naughty Dog
Price: $59.99 (USD)
I’ll make this really, really simple: If you own a Playstation 3, go out and buy this game. All done here.
Alright, I guess that won’t exactly do for a review, so here we go. Uncharted 2 is one of those rare games that fully encapsulates what it is that makes the video game medium so damn special. If you’ll permit the hyperbole, there are very few games that come around a generation that truly define it, and expresses why the current generation is markedly better than the previous generation. Uncharted 2 is one of those games. It manages to define it’s genre, the Playstation 3, and even game design.Uncharted 2b
For the uninitiated, Uncharted 2 follows the continuing journey’s of one Nathan Drake, some time after his first adventure. He is lured into a pact with two rather shady people, Chloe and Flynn, who are working for a man eager to find out what happened to Marco Polo’s lost fleet. Naturally, they are not the only parties interested, and a crazed war criminal named Lazarevic is racing to find the fleet before Nathan and company do. What happens next is a globetrotting adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones filled with action, romance, betrayal, and all the juicy stuff that makes a story worth telling. I won’t go into any more details, because honestly, the story is one of the best parts of the game, filled with fun, 3 dimensional characters and truly the best voice acting in the industry. Each character lives, breathes, and manages to bond with you in some way, for good or ill.
It’s hard to talk about Uncharted 2 without mentioning it’s breathtaking visuals. The first game in the series boasted visuals better than any game out at the time, and the sequel sets a bar so high that it may be a while until it is surpassed, if ever. The character models immediately stand out, with faces that scream character, with lines and creases detailing faces, stubble, hair that flutters in the wind, and clothing that actually looks like cloth, and not molded plastic.
The environments are the next thing that drops your jaw, with amazing texture work, lighting, and don’t even get me started on the snow, which cakes onto Nathan’s clothing and hair(and even ices his pants when walking into a frozen puddle) and leaves tracks and footprints in his wake. I was ready to put on a snow coat while wandering the icy tundras. Immersive is a word that I don’t even think does the game justice. The character animations are the best in the industry, and it really feels like Nathan and company are a part of their environment, moving, stumbling, and climbing across the world. It doesn’t feel like just a backdrop, but an actual place.
Uncharted 2c
If you own an HDTV, that is the only way to play this game and truly appreciate what it’s doing graphically. Depth of field, motion blur, and all of the other technical buzzwords are in full play here, and I don’t deny it when Naughty Dog says they have pushed the PS3 hard. All cutscenes are done real time, using the same graphics engine as the gameplay, so the result ends up being very seamless, and helps to sell the “movie” presentation. Graphics Whores will absolutely delight in Uncharted 2’s presentation.
Of course, what’s a pretty game without pretty gameplay to go along with it? Fortunately, Uncharted 2 packs in some amazing gameplay in it’s rather lengthy single player story. The game’s a third person shooter, with platforming and puzzle elements, and I have to say that, compared to the first game in the series, there’s a wider balance between platforming, puzzle solving, and shooting.
Just when you think you have done too much of one thing, they throw in something new, from jumping across train cars in pursuit of a mystical dagger, to pulling off a museum heist, to sprinting across rooftops in an attempt to avoid a pursuing helicopter, the game is constantly switching up it’s objectives and presentation to keep things fresh.
Uncharted 2d
The controls are tighter and more responsive than in the first game, which is saying something, since the original had superb controls, but the feel of moving around the environment and aiming and shooting are much smoother, with better transition animations between actions like leaping, taking cover, and melee combat. Speaking of melee, the system has been tweaked a bit, and is a bit more button mashy, but fisticuffs were never really the draw of Uncharted.
By pressing the Square button, players can throw punches (or, if behind an enemy, deliver a stealth attack), but enemies can counter, forcing players to quickly press the Triangle button to avoid a blow and get a chance to counterattack. It’s very simple and straightforward. It’s probably the only real negative aspect of the game, and it’s barely a negative. While you can certainly get into fisticuffs in the game, it’s designed for the shooting aspect and that part is glorious.
Nathan’s arsenal is pretty standard stuff; pistols, sniper rifles, automatic machine guns, rpgs, etc, so no prizes for originality there, but they get the job done. As stated before, the game is rather well paced, both in storytelling, and in the level design. There’s a healthy mix of platforming, shooting, and puzzle solving, with the puzzles being a bit more involved than the first game, but not brainteasers like in other games in the genre (ie, Tomb Raider). This mix works great, and keeps the game from getting monotonous. Of course, the rather epic setpieces and constantly changing locations helps as well.
They also do a great job of blending elements like platforming and combat, as Nathan can fire his pistol while hanging from a ledge or street pole. This opens up game design, as enemies are no longer confined to just attacking you while you are on the ground, but while you’re also trying to climb to a destination. There is a feeling of tension as you never know when you will be attacked.
Uncharted 2e
Uncharted 2’s awesomeness is hard to boil down to just it’s individual parts. It’s the whole stew that goes down so well. The superb visuals that are a testament to the PS3’s capabilities as a gaming platform, the tight controls, excellent level design, and great story all gel to form an amazing gaming experience that no PS3 gamer should be without.
But Uncharted 2’s offerings don’t end there. Responding to criticisms from the first game, Naughty Dog have implemented a robust multi-player offering that takes some of the maps from the single player game, and tweaks them to multi-player play. There are lots of game modes: Deathmatch, Elimination, Plunder, Turf War, King of the Hill, Chain Reaction, Survival, and Gold Rush.
These modes support up to 10 players, and feature all of the gameplay mechanics from the single player (minus puzzle solving, of course). To add to the MP, Naughty Dog have implemented a Perks system, a la Call of Duty 4, which allows players to add modifiers to their character. The Perks can do many things, like adding extra ammo to your clip, or granting you faster reload speeds to name only 2. Players purchase these Perks by spending money they earn in MP matches. Performance in a match also adds to your player’s level, where leveling up will grant you access to more and better Perks.
Despite the multi-player being filled with the standard modes, the “Uncharted twist” to it that keeps things fresh and exciting are tied to the traversal mechanics. Being able to climb up surfaces, hang off of walls, and shoot at enemies adds a nice layer to what would be “ordinary” MP. The smooth animations and fantastic visuals are icing on an already sweet cake.
Uncharted 2f
Naughty Dog also added a “Cinema” or “Machinima” Mode, where MP matches are automatically recorded, and players can rewatch the match, tweak features like lighting, depth of field, fog, color, etc, take screenshots, and output it to video format or upload it directly to Youtube. Players can also enable Twitter support, which allows them to update their Twitter profiles with their latest exploits.
The Machinima mode is a little more complex, and allows the player to, basically, craft their own movies starring the Uncharted cast. There is a vast array of tools at the users disposal, from green screens to animation sets and voice support (you can talk into your headset to record dialogue, and character’s mouths move accordingly). I’m eager to see what the Machinima community comes up with, and may play around with it myself.
Uncharted 2g
The competitive MP would have been a great compliment to the single player experience, but ND didn’t stop there. They also added a 3 player co-op mode, where, naturally, 3 friends can join up online and tackle two modes: Co-op Objectives, and Co-op Arena. I’ve never been much of a competitive MP player, so Co-op mode has always been a favorite of mine in any game. In Objectives, players are tasked with going from point A to point B, helping each other across obstacles and defeating enemies and bosses. Players also earn money and level up in this mode, which they can use to buy better upgrades for their characters (no Perks, but new weapons, etc). Co-op Arena is more like a Capture the Flag (Plunder in Uncharted 2), where players must work together to capture a gold idol, while battling enemies in waves. The twist is that the waves get increasingly more difficult. It’s like a survival mode, but with an added objective.
Needless to say, Co-op is my favorite MP mode, although the competitive MP is certainly enjoyable.
VERDICT: BUY – I can’t stress it enough how excellent of a game Uncharted 2. Naughty Dog has packed so much gameplay, detail, and unlockables into this game that it quite literally could not have been done on another console. What would be DLC on any other system is included on the disc in Uncharted 2. The single player campaign is lengthy, engrossing, and ultimately satisfying without being a plug for part 3, and the MP and Co-op offerings are genuinely enjoyable, rewarding experiences. Value for dollar is rather important these days, and I can’t think of another game this year that matches Uncharted 2 in that regard. Now go out and buy it.
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2 Responses to “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review”

  1. evildoomnerd Says:

    I’m going to have to cut off all of society for Uncharted 2 since my Deluxe edition of Demons Souls is scheduled for delivery on Thursday. On top of that, I have to fit Brutal Legend and the Fallout 3 GOTY edition in the mix somewhere, while grinding on Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days on my DS. Good review, and I hope to see you and your readers on the CO-OP mode!

    PSN: Evildoomnerd

    PS: I noticed that SCEA developers usually have an easter egg or two from their earlier games. Does this apply to Uncharted 2 as well?

    • i know how you feel. i’ve had Demon’s Souls for a good month or so now (Asian import version), and i absolutely love it, but i put it on the backburner for Uncharted 2 (Demon’s Souls can be a time sink, while UC2 at least has a clear cut conclusion, and the MP can be taken in small chunks), but then Ratchet 2 comes out. i’ll see about getting Brutal Legend at some point, but it’s not on the list for this year. not with my budget being the way it is.

      i haven’t found all of the secrets in Uncharted 2 yet, but it certainly has some nice easter eggs and references to the previous game and inside jokes.

      i also apologize for the formatting in this review. wordpress would not let me indent my paragraphs no matter how many times i adjusted them.

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