It belongs in a museum? Well not on my watch!
Uncharted was a ground breaking action/adventure game that set a high bar on the PS3. Not many games have managed to reach the quality of Uncharted and certainly no one expected the sequel to go above and beyond the call of duty in that respect, well, just one play-through of the game proved that not only does it leave Uncharted in the dust, it buries the needle in terms of the third person action, puzzle and adventure genre.
So how did Naughty Dog refine the original in every way possible, borrow some of the most classic moments from various films and wrap it all up with an addictive multiplayer experience that is much better than Gears of War 2. Well, read on.
Nathan Drake is back and he's wrapped up in a plot that is worthy of the best Indiana Jones action movie. I'm not going to spoil it and tell you anything at all, except that it's best to just play the game and find out yourself how really well told and cinematic the story of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves really is.
Uncharted was without a doubt, really good, it borrowed a lot from several games including the Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones action games...however it fell short in places due to the tricky use of the six-axis controller and the sometimes ridiculous level of difficulty in the gun-fights. The hand to hand was pretty tricky (although I didn't really have a problem with it). So, flash forwards to now and Uncharted 2. Naughty Dog listened to consumer complaints, suggestions and reviews from the press. They listened hard and the result is a game that is smoother and far more rewarding than Drake's first outing. With exploration that is just as rewarding as the gun play. Drake can shoot from ledges and whilst hanging on things like ropes and so on. Uncharted 2 also has a nicely crafted checkpoint system that removes frustration and allows save anywhere so you do not have to put in a marathon session to get to the next checkpoint.
To those new to Uncharted 2, what, go right now and buy Uncharted, complete it and then come back to play the sequel. Uncharted 2 has been given a control makeover; the six-axis has been turned off by default and now throwing grenades is a lot easier than having to perform a controller-based voodoo dance every time you want to lob one. For the first time player the game has been made easier, a lot easier. Naughty Dog have added a few assists and certainly toned down the toughness of their enemies from the beginning, now things slowly ramp up as you play through the game's 26 or so chapters. Drake's unarmed combat is based on tapping the square button to deliver bone-crunching context-sensitive combos and he can even sneak and attack the enemy whilst they are unawares, pulling them over logs and boxes to punch their ticket for good. The triangle button is used to counter if an opponent grabs you, it's simple but thanks to the animation, very rewarding.
Enemies have been classified into different types now, so you have grunt-like baddies that will fall like confetti to your awesome gun-fu and heavily armoured guys with bullet proof vests and full body armour, these take one heck of a pounding and require some serious firepower to deal with on the harder difficulty levels. There are tweaks to the way that Nathan is controlled, cover is a lot easier to use in the game and since it relies on a context sensitive cover system you can move from cover to cover quickly and efficiently. Enemies don't spam grenades either, unlike Uncharted where it seemed as if they had a factory in their backpacks.
There are new weapons and some new items, like the bulletproof riot shield. You also have an AI partner who joins you sometimes. They can help you solve certain puzzles; they don't get in the way and can fight/navigate in the environment just as well as you do. They never become a liability. Yes, that's right, you heard correctly an AI partner that doesn't suck to play alongside.
The game features some incredible set pieces and a very cool start, to tell you anything about these would be like removing the frosting off a delicious cake and then replacing it with concrete, a vast and inedible tooth-breaking spoiler. So I will just say that I enjoyed every twist and turn of these game play elements that change-up Uncharted 2's play every so often and make a refreshing addition to the series.
Every time you get a trophy, Uncharted 2 rewards you with a big cash bonus that you can use in the bonus shop, either in sp or mp to unlock rewards and perks. There are some nice bonuses and very useful tweaks that add to the replay factor of the game, offering a good incentive to play through the single player a couple of times to tag some cash and find those missing artefacts and treasures. I should also note that there are puzzles in the game but I'm not going to say a single thing about them, except they are well integrated into the overall flow.
Uncharted 2 is without a shadow of a doubt a game that showcases the graphical power of the PS3. I love my Xbox 360, I really do, but I am extremely impressed with the graphical quality of Uncharted 2. There are so many details, so many great touches both in terms of the environments and locations that Drake visits through his epic adventure. The texturing, the design, the lighting and the composition are top quality throughout, there's nothing that looks out of place in any of the levels or hastily thrown in. It's a visual feast for the eyes and even more epic in scope than the first game, delivering some realistic and truly stunning vistas that stretch on for ages.
The character models are likewise and equally detailed, sporting numerous facial features and emotions in the lavish and well directed cut-scenes that make up the game's story. From every cut and bruise on Drake's skin to the snow that collects on his clothing in certain environments, the attention to detail is exquisite. If Drake is immersed in water, his clothing gets wet and slowly dries when he's out of it, nothing new really, but extremely well done in Uncharted 2.
Uncharted 2 does not skimp on the animation, it ties the physics in with it as well so if Drake is close to an explosion, he can be knocked off his feet or staggered, he will even try and steady himself when he is close to a surface that he can lean on. Likewise when navigating the environment there are so many subtle additional animations that you'd think Drake was a real person, not a game character. In hand to hand, Drake and his opponents slug it out with some great moves, chosen by context and location. For example, you might be close to a wall; in that case Drake will slam his enemy against it and punch him, just like in a Hollywood Blockbuster. In gun play, opponents get staggered, they all react to physical bullet hits and if a grenade strikes the enemy, they will stumble or sometimes fall.
Uncharted 2 has a solid physics system that is capable of handling everything the game has to throw at you, from breaking environmental objects to large scale explosions that are incredible to watch. As previously mentioned it ties in with the animation system in every way and delivers a visceral and fun experience.
Your partner AI is excellent, it never once gets in the way and it can actually feel as though you're playing sections of the game with a player in coop. It knows how to navigate the environments and is a help rather than a hindrance in gun fights. The enemy AI has numerous advanced tactics and knows how to make good use of cover and hand to hand attacks, it provides a challenging and fun opponent that makes you think tactically.
The whole Uncharted 2 package screams quality and it doesn't skimp on the sound, clever sound design brings the game world to life and adds to the atmosphere. From the beautiful ambient noises in the exotic locales to the biting and chill wind in the frozen wastes, the game delivers an aurally solid experience. Nice touches such as an ally's voice over the radio if they're distant from you add to the feeling of immersion.
A great sweeping adventurous orchestral score accompanies the action and fits perfectly. At times it's deathly quiet, when Drake is exploring and then at a dramatically appropriate time after the action starts, it sweeps in and accompanies the on screen events perfectly.
Voice and Dialogue
Nolan North, Claudia Black and a cast of returning voice actors are there to give the sharp and crisp feel to the dialogue in the game. Their performances are absolutely spot-on with excellent timing. They deliver their other sounds and voice with equal aplomb, such as exertion and running, they even sound out of breath when doing these voice tricks. There are some very nice effects too, radio effects as well as muffled speaking when the character's mouth is covered or otherwise obstructed. All in all, it's brilliant design. The script itself is excellent with some truly epic moments in the story and some nice dialogue.
If the single player game is the cake, then multiplayer in Uncharted 2 is the icing upon the top of it, covered with cherries and packed with a delicious filling. Naughty Dog have taken everything that was great about Call of Duty 4 and Gears of War 2 in multiplayer and thrown in a lavish setting, some truly excellent level design and given it their own unique twist and spin. All the moves from hand to hand, to acrobatic shenanigans are packed into the mp of Uncharted 2 and there are lots of player character models/skins to choose from, providing you've paid to unlock them of course.
Naughty Dog has proven that multiplayer is not just tacked on, these game modes, including a great cooperative suite are excellent and the servers have been rock solid. Naughty Dog can also alter weapon placement and other features on the fly, so you may find a map that you knew well, has changed a few months down the line to improve play or just spice things up a little in terms of weapon placement or so on. What is truly great though is the spread of modes, there are death-matches, team death-matches and a unique take on capture the flag and a gold rush mode where you must steal gold from the enemy AI and work together in a team to get it back to a collection point, using guns and acrobatic skills to win.
Then there's a coop survival mode, like Horde Mode from Gears 2 and a coop objective mode, which challenges you to defeat a few waves of enemies and then work together to get through to the next area, using acrobatics and double-team moves to get the job done. I could do a massive review just on Uncharted 2's multiplayer alone, but really, you should just get in, get your feet wet and play it because it's just that good. There's something for everyone and even the Machinima crowd can use the game to make their own movies, since there's a mode for that too where you can use a green-screen stage or one of the game's levels to film your own action.
Talking of film, Uncharted 2 borrows from Halo 3 and lets you record your mp games, playing them back and watching the action and how you did.
There are leaderboards and as I mentioned earlier, perks, allowing you to buy 2 and slot them into your character. These perks are similar to Call of Duty 4 and provide a little more spice to the mp game.
The bottom line: its tremendous fun and a solidly realised mode.
After spending a lot of quality time with Uncharted 2 in single player and multiplayer I can say one thing, how on earth does Naughty Dog plan to top this game if they plan on making a Drake's 3? One look at meta-critic after we assigned our score based on days of discussion, proves to us that this is a must have game for the PS3 and one of the greatest reasons you should go out and get a PS3 today if you can. It may seem too short, but it's actually longer than Uncharted, you just want to devour it all in one go.
I stand by this review, by Naughty Dog and by the game.
This is one of the best games I've had the pleasure of playing for a long time.