Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review

By Darryl Kaye on October 16, 2009

A new endeavour for Naughty Dog, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune initially appeared on the PlayStation 3 in 2007 to much acclaim. Its sales matched, and in December of 2008, Naughty Dog confirmed they were working on a sequel, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Boasting an expanded cast and a completely new setting, Uncharted 2 looks to push the PlayStation 3 and take gaming to a new level - lofty goals, but are they realised?

Following the events of Uncharted, Drake has decided to take a break from treasure hunting. However, when his old friend Harry Flynn comes to him with an unusual proposition regarding Marco Polo, his curiosity is piqued and he sets out to retrieve the mystical object. Things don't necessarily go as planned though, and Drake ends up sitting inside a Turkish prison. Fortunately, Sulley and new character, Chloe Fraser, manage to get him out, thus allowing Drake to continue towards his ultimate goal - hunting down the location of Shamballah and the legendary Cintamani stone.

Things rarely go as predicted in the world of Nathan Drake, and his adventure will see him go through various locations including Turkey, Borneo, and Nepal. He will also encounter some friendly faces on his travels, and meet a new formidable foe in Lazarevic. Everything melds together seamlessly, from action to narrative; the pacing is extremely well tuned. Some of the scenery present is truly awe-inspiring and it's rare that anything will ever feel repetitive. The same applies to the story - it's full of plenty of mystery and adventure and while there may be similarities with other mediums, it still feels fresh. Of course there are the various twists and turns that happen throughout, and some may see them coming, but even so, the actual story is still extremely fulfilling and makes for an enjoyable experience. A lot more humour has also been added this time, so expect quips between the characters.

Gameplay in Uncharted 2 is fairly similar to the original title. Drake can perform many of the same moves again, but the majority of them have been finely tuned. Climbing now seems much easier, although there are still some awkward moments, and using ropes is a lot smoother. All of the platforming elements now seem to much more blended into the game, and there are more sections specifically dedicated to this aspect of the game. Players will actually have to look around to find their next path, and although it's often fairly obvious, the environments are much more engaging which makes the adventuring aspects of the game much more fun. There are also more events that happen throughout the game which allow the platforming elements to become truly integrated. Players need to climb objects to literally escape death as opposed to simply getting from A to B and it's these moments that are some of the highlights of the game from the perspective of heightened emotions.Puzzle elements are still featured in the game, but their overall impact has been dampened. Drake still has his trusty notepad, which actually features some funny and interesting information, but it's not needed very often. It's slightly disappointing, especially as the majority of the puzzles that appear are overly simple. They generally involve placing objects into a certain order, and trial and error will actually solve most of them quite easily. If there is another person present with Drake, they will also offer their feedback on whether the player is doing things right or not.

The combat also seems to have been more finely tuned, as the controls are now much more responsive. Using cover feels much more natural than before, but it can also be perilous as it's more destructible and more open. This, combined with improved AI and enemy types makes the game a much more tactical affair. No longer can all the enemies simply be dispatched by single headshots, and they are more than willing to try to flush Drake out with the concise use of grenades or rockets. Sometimes the game can be severely punishing, even on the default difficulty, so expect to die a few times before finding a strategy that works for the current situation. New weapons help to level the playing field slightly, and they do make for some change-up in the gameplay, but many of the weapons are recycled from the original game. It's also nice that Drake often has support of some kind, as he gets paired up with someone to aid in combat situations. They aren't necessarily the most effective at dispatching foes, but their presence does help, and makes the overall experience seem more wholesome.

Quick-Time Events (QTE) do still feature in the game, but they are fairly minimal. Most of the interaction of this nature revolves around tapping buttons to open doors, or to take part in interactions with other characters. Melee combat has also been greatly improved, as it no longer feels like randomly mashing Square and Triangle until the opponent goes down. There's actually a structure now, which involves dodging and countering. It's a much better mechanic and a definite improvement. Stealth attacks have also been expanded, which cater those who want to try and play through the game without massive amounts of gunfire. They are mandatory in some parts of the game though, and while they aren't necessarily as engaging as other sections of the game, they do serve to show another aspect of being a notorious thief.Where the game excels though, is with its sheer sense of grandeur. Elements that would normally be highlights in other games are common fare in Uncharted 2, meaning the actual highlights are arguably some of the greatest achievements witnessed in video games. There have been sequences before where gameplay takes place on a train, but it's never felt as immersive as in this title - it's truly breath-taking. The game just features so many 'wow'-moments, and they don't stop coming until the game comes to an unfortunate end. There are so many sections of the game which are completely different to the general gameplay, and the mistake isn't made of repeating the same mechanic later on. It's enjoyed at the time, remembered for the experience it provided, and placed in the past because a new, equally great experience is fighting for attention.

Graphically, Uncharted 2 is nothing short of stunning. The environments are so detailed, and completely unique. No two parts of the game will feel the same at all, and its definitely a testament to Naughty Dog that they've been able to achieve this. Just when it seems like the game has reached its peak, it throws something else that pushes gaming to its graphical and physical limits. Wading through thick, rushing water, while being soaked by torrential rain is just something that has never been achievement before to this degree of realism. There is also the snow, the effects of debris; the list just goes on and on. As expected, the motion capture during scripted scenes is suitably engaging and animation featured in the game is surprisingly adapative. Characters also have their appearance changed quite a lot to reflect their present state of well-being, which is a nice touch. The voice acting is also top-notch. There is just a real sense of chemistry present that most other games fail to capture and it's something that really sells the story, and the experience as a whole.

To compliment the single player campaign, there is now a full multiplayer arena. Players can take part in 3-player co-operative matches, or 5 vs 5 competitive matches. There's a ton of variety with the match types too, so there should be something to suit everyone's tastes. There's even a Machinima mode, for those who want to try experiment. Players will also be able to unlock items in the shop using money they have acquired through obtaining medals, and their performance in the multiplayer section. Here they can buy perks to improve them in the multiplayer game, or other things, such as behind the scenes documentaries, and tweaks for the main game. There's definitely plenty to keep people busy after they've completed the game, and there's always Crushing difficulty for those who want a challenge.

Final Thoughts

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a game that is simply generation defining. There is very little that can actually be faulted with the game, and even then it's serious nit-picking. Sure, the platforming sections aren't perfect and the puzzles are overly simple, but it has a great and engaging story, great gameplay, jaw-dropping graphics and plenty of replayability. The only aspect that could potentially be criticised is its originality, but since it blows all of its contemporaries out of the water, it makes the point rather void.

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