If you are late to the party when it comes to owning a Playstation 3, please run out to your nearest electronics retailer of choice, buy a PS3, and pickup Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. In an earlier post I had said that Batman: Arkham Asylum would likely be overlooked by a number of AAA titles to be released in Q4 of this year. Uncharted 2 is one of those games. Uncharted, for those of you who might be unfamiliar with it, tells the tale of Nathan Drake, an explorer, thief, and otherwise smartass as he travels the globe in search of rare antiquities. If Indiana Jones-style adventure is something you enjoy then you will likely find the story of Uncharted right up your alley. In this game our hero finds himself searching for Marco Polo’s lost fleet and eventually on the trail of the lost city of Shangri-La. The story serves up all of the intrigue, action, suspense, and twists that you would expect from a summer blockbuster film, and in many ways that is what this game is in every sense of the word. There are set pieces in this game that don’t even seem like they should be possible outside of a non-interactive cinematic, but you get to play them out yourself. One such standout is a battle that takes place on a speeding train where you are constantly being pressed by a helicopter gunship that is destroying the train as you run across it. There were several other moments over the course of the game where my jaw literally was hanging open out of sheer amazement and I will not spoil those for you here as some of them need to be experienced firsthand.
One of the first things you will notice as you play Uncharted 2’s first few hours are the quality of the graphics on display. Developer Naughty Dog have improved on the first Uncharted, which was already a stunner when it first hit consoles and have refined that engine to a perfect shine. Light and shadows are in many instances incredible to behold, an early section in which Drake lights a blue-light emitting resin in a dark room is absolutely incredible. The character models themselves animate beautifully thanks both to deft programming and from the exhaustive lengths that Naughty Dog went to during its motion capture process. All of the characters have top notch voice acting done by voices that many astute video game fans may recall from other games that they have played. Drake, Chloe, and Elena come to life on the screen and come as close to seeming like real people as you will find in a game on the market today. No aspect of the performances come across as “wooden” or fake.
As cover-based shooters go, the first Uncharted did little to break new ground in the genre, but delivered a very refined experience. Uncharted 2 has improved over its predecessor in several key ways. One criticism oft levied against the first game was that enemies were “bullet sponges” and simply took far too many shots to bring down than seemed realistic or fair even when shooting the enemy in the head. Headshots now function as you would expect rendering instant kills for properly placed shots. The game does compensate for this by giving many of your foes thick body armor, helmets, or even bulletproof riot shields, but all these lead for ever more challenging and interesting tactical situations. The weapons that Drake is given access to are more the up for the task of taking on the hordes of enemy soldiers that you will have to fight your way through. Simple pistols, assault rifles, and even RPG’s and mini-guns are present. Another aspect of Drake’s arsenal that was criticized in the first installment was hand-to-hand combat and that how in many cases it was either underpowered or unreasonable to use. The addition of stealth takedowns largely addresses this issue. If Drake can approach an enemy from behind unnoticed then he can execute a quick and quiet dispatch of whatever guard is in his way. There are some situations where it is possible to silently take out every enemy in an area without a shot fired and in some cases this is a necessity.
Entirely new in Uncharted 2 is the addition of a robust multiplayer mode that only serves to add value. Many thought that the addition of multiplayer to Uncharted would simply feel tacked on and without substance, but after having already played a handful of matches I can report that this is anything but the case. If you ever played Gears of War then this will all feel very familiar, but with the addition of the acrobatic climbing that your characters are capable of adds an extra element of excitement and more tactical opportunities. There are numerous competitive modes where players are split into teams of Heroes and Villains and set against each other in Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Territories, and Capture the Flag modes. There are also cooperative modes similar to Gears of War’s Horde Mode and this also feels fresh rather than derivative.
Uncharted 2’s single-player story took me around 10 hours to complete. The story moves along at a breakneck pace and I actually played the entire game in one sitting. As a slight disclaimer I should say that I have this week off of work and have more than enough time to do such a thing, but I also had no desire to put my controller down as I always wanted to see what was going to happen next. Uncharted 2 is easily one of the 2009’s best games and should be considered a must own title for any self respecting PS3 owner. Go buy this game and you will not be disappointed unless you are the kind of person who doesn’t like to have fun, in which case I urge you to go back into your cave and do whatever it is you do.
Entertain Your Score – 10/10