Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was a big critical hit for its superb gameplay and movie-quality story. Now almost two years later we have Uncharted 2: Among Thieves to satisfy our tomb raiding cravings. Just like the first game, Uncharted 2 is a third person action/adventure game detailing the exploits of Nathan Drake, a tomb raider with a charming smile and sharp sense of humor.
The game starts off with Nate waking up inside a train with a hole through his left side. As Nate assesses the situation he promptly forgets about his gunshot wound as he discovers that the train is actually dangling of a cliff. As the cut scene ends and Nate is holding on for his life on the outside railing of the cart and you are tasked with climbing up to safety. This is easier said than done however given that the train is slowly slipping more and more off the mountainside, while rocks and debris continue to not-so-conveniently fall towards the deprived, beaten and exhausted treasure hunter.
The game uses this intro sequence to teach you the ins and outs of the games climbing system. You’ll be taught to swing on poles and miraculously leap towards conveniently placed handholds, all the while Nate brings his sharp and ironic humor to your attention. As you progress through the first half of the game you’ll go back in time to explain just exactly how Nathan Drake ended up in that peculiar situation. The game slowly doles out the story–undoubtedly the biggest and best part of the game–bit by bit as you make your way through the snow.
Nate’s old friend Flynn wants his help on a job; to acquire a seemingly “worthless” old artifact for a client. Only problem is that it’s currently being kept in a Turkish national museum, one that only two people have ever managed to breach. Nathan Drake being one of them. In relation to this you are also introduced to the second new character of the game; Chloe, a sexy young brunette who serves as the games main love interest. Fear not though, as old characters from the first game make more than one appearance.
The story of Uncharted 2 is one of adventure, friendship, romance and betrayal. In other words it’s typical Hollywood. But though the story can be called cliché, there is a level of depth that Naughty Dog seems experts at crafting. Partly emanating from the humor, which while not particularly innovative, works perfectly with the characters. The other part comes from the choices the characters make. While their choices may not always be popular with the other lead characters, they do not demonize that character for the rest of the game.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is far longer than the original, clocking in at around 10 hours on the normal difficulty setting. While 10 hours might not seem that long, it is a significant upgrade to the first game’s skimpy six hours. Uncharted 2‘s 10 hours are 10 hours of relentless fun, with little to no filler. Of course, all good games are measured by their gameplay. And Uncharted 2 is worth its weight in gold. The gameplay is mainly split into three parts; platforming, combat and puzzles.
The platforming breaks up the combat fairly evenly. Most of it is centered on getting from point A to B with point A being at your feet and point B somewhere way above you. Start climbing. There is very little leveled or downward platforming, though both occur on one or two occasions. Nate will often have to climb up walls, swing on ropes and leap from handhold to handhold, all in the same sequence. If you fall, you’ll have to start all over again, however this isn’t as bad as it sounds as most of the climbing challenges are clearly laid out. As flowing and entertaining the system is, I can’t help but compare it to two other games with a superb climbing system; Assassin’s Creed and inFAMOUS. Uncharted 2’s climbing feels a bit dated to me when compared to these two games. In Uncharted 2 you can only grab ledges that are clearly defined and conveniently placed, making climbing very linear. Bricks will stick out of a wall for no apparent reason other than for you to grab them, while in Assassin’s Creed and inFAMOUS you simply used the natural environment to find handholds, making building ornaments man’s best friend. Uncharted 2 is a very linear game which makes a free-climbing system less than ideal for guiding the player to the right location. Nevertheless, it’s a feature I missed.
The combat is the main attraction, and with it comes a small and very mobile army of bad guys. In the first game many complained that there were simply too many enemies to be explained by a group of pirates. So in Uncharted 2 the main villian is a Russian war criminal leading his own private army. To dispatch of these foes the game gives you a variety of weapons and tricks. Nate can at all times carry a pistol or light machine gun, and a secondary larger weapon like rifles, rocket launchers and shotguns. Drake can also carry up to 4 grenades at a time. There are several different types of guns, shotguns, rifles and heavy weapons. All with a nice feeling of weight to them, not to mention realistic sound effects. Nate can also duck behind anything that could possibly be used as cover, or fire while hanging from ledges. While in cover mode, you can blind fire or use your normal aiming, including zooming. The aiming works just like in the original Uncharted, with the sensitivity adjusted just right, so that you can quickly switch from target to target, and at the same time be able to pull of sweet headshots and precision aiming.
While the combat is action-packed and thrilling, and the platforming is nerve wrecking and spectacular; the puzzles are slow paced and methodical. Compared to the original, however, they are quite few and far between. But when you do stumble upon one, it is far more meaningful and has a much bigger impact on the story. Rather than several small puzzles like the last game, Uncharted 2 features larger puzzles all leading up to a significant revelation in the story. The puzzle-types are varied with few of the mechanics returning from puzzle to puzzle, with the exception of one; Nate’s journal. Nate has scribbled down every significant thing he’s seen in his journal ranging humorous anecdotes from his partners-in-crime to drawings of symbols. He uses his journal to piece together all the clues of the puzzles.
In addition to the singleplayer campaign, Naughty Dog has included a full-featured multiplayer option with six different competitive modes. You’ve got Deathmatch, Elimination, Plunder, Turf War, King of the Hill and Chain Reaction. In Plunder your team has to get a small statue from one place on the map to their base, a single player can pick the statue up, but doing so means he can only use his pistol and will decrease his running speed. Turf War and Chain Reaction are base capturing games with the added twist that in Chain Reaction you have to capture all the bases in a specific order. In King of the Hill you hold your base for the longest amount of time you can muster. These modes are all surprisingly fun to play and well balanced.
I say surprisingly because usually when a game has this good singleplayer the multiplayer suffers, or the other way around. This is not the case with Uncharted 2.
The modes have a player limit of 10, which means teams are five vs. five. But while most would see this as a bad thing, I honestly don’t see it working any other way. Uncharted 2 encourages you to get up close and personal with your enemies. If there were more than 10 players on the field, I worry that it would just become one big cluster of chaos.
While the competitive modes are fun, where I thought the real treasure lied in Uncharted 2’s multiplayer was the three man co-op. You can chose between a large amount of levels. In each a different scenario is set up through a very short cut scene. In one you have to plant explosives in the enemy base. In another your goal is to steal a valuable artifact… and so on. They are co-op stages in the truest sense of the word. You will never make it through these alone. Team play and coordination is a must. And if you make it through, you’re rewarded with huge spectacles reminiscent of the singleplayer campaign, like a giant collapsing tower after a helicopter fight.
As motivation, Uncharted 2 features a level system. Every kill or capture you complete is rewarded with a specific amount of points. You get bonuses for specific events, like taking down a heavy in co-op, or your team winning the match in competitive play. After each game your points are added to your leveling meter, and with each new level you unlock perks to buy and assign to one of two perk slots.
The first Uncharted‘s production values were hailed highly in the industry. Two years have passed and no other game had successfully taken the torch, until now. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the best-looking and sounding game available on consoles.
The graphics are simply superb. The lighting is breathtaking and bitter all at the same time. As the sun shines through the trees of a jungle or skyscrapers of a city, it gives everything more color and beauty. The deep ice caves of Tibet shine with artificial and reflected sunlight, creating a claustrophobic and sterile atmosphere. The quality of the textures is second to none, with walls, bricks, doors, and jungle beds looking photorealistic with little to no pop-in.
The sound design is equally superb, with realistic sound effects for every event and spot-on ambient sounds. But the major players in the sound department are the voice acting and music score. Nolan North has successfully breathed live in the Nathan Drake for a second time. Since the success of the first Uncharted, North has become one of the most popular videogame voice actors in the industry, voicing lead roles in games like Prince of Persia and Shadow Complex. North’s talent for the trade is displayed superbly in Uncharted 2. Nathan Drake couldn’t possibly have another voice. All the supporting actors performed their roles equally flawlessly, with every grunt and comment perfectly fitting the moment they’re uttered in.
Most games would be stale without some music. In this department the game is perhaps not as equally impressive, but impressive nonetheless. With a movie-quality orchestral score building up the combat and cutscenes, every poignant moment is made legendary. In addition to the orchestral score highlighting the high points, the low points feature more mellow sounds at a slower tempo, notably the throat singing that can be heard while climbing a forgotten mountain temple…in Tibet.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a fantastic game. The multiplayer portion of the title rival’s multiplayer-only games. The presentation is one of a kind. The gameplay, while derivative, expertly improves on every single “stolen” feature that has been used before it. The story exceeds Hollywood’s standards. It’s like Indiana Jones—only better. There are so many moments and sequences I could bring to the table all to further explain why Uncharted 2 is such a triumph, but that would be unfair to those of you who have yet to play it. BUY THIS GAME!