Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review

23 11 2009

Intro

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a Playstation 3 exclusive developed by Naughty Dog that was released on October 13th 2009. Naughty Dog was previously behind the Jak & Daxter series for the Playstation 2 and of course Uncharted: Drakes Fortune. Like its predecessor Uncharted 2 is a third person action adventure puzzle solving game. It takes place after the events of Uncharted and again follows the adventures of Drake as he journeys off to explore remote lands like the lush forests of Borneo and the snow-covered mountains of Tibet in search of the lost treasures of the Marco Polo voyage.

After the universal praise Uncharted has received can Uncharted 2: Among Thieves live up to the hype and be that blockbuster title for the Playstation 3? Continue reading to find out.

Single Player

First off let’s get this out of the way since I am sure you know by now that Uncharted 2 is an amazing game and an enjoyable experience down to the very end. Naughty Dog took a model proven to be successful and improved on almost every aspect of the game.

All of the traditional gameplay mechanics like the gun play, puzzle solving and controls are back but have been revised to perfection. The gun play has been focused and no longer feels sporadic, the puzzles are better integrated into the story and the controls for grenade and melee kills have been refined. The combat is now a highlight with the new revisions and the inclusion of an effective stealth mechanic. But not to worry this isn’t simply Uncharted 1a.If you had a complaint with the first Uncharted its safe to say Naughty Dog has addressed and fixed that issue.

All of this is highlighted by the remarkable visuals which left me at times awe-struck by the beautiful vistas and finite detail. The variations of these environments were a breathe of fresh air, each meticulously filled with the right amount of light and color. The attention to detail doesn’t stop there as the audio including the voice acting and soundtrack was also top-notch. I don’t think I have ever played a game that was so fluid and natural from the plot progression right down to the character development. The attention to detail put forth in every aspect of the game truly makes this title stand out.

This detail kept me focused and in tuned with the game but more importantly the story. While the treasure hunting story may be generic it does have a few major plot twists but it’s not so convoluted or far-fetched that you lose interest, quite the opposite. While it wouldn’t hurt to play the original if at least for some character development the story for Uncharted 2 does stand alone.

One of the best parts of the game in my eyes is the distinct characters and their interactions with each other as well as their reactions to events. The dialogue is organic and was chosen to develop the characters and their relationship first then the story. The unique actions expressed by the characters felt real and were natural not to mention genuinely funny. The voice acting was done extremely well allowing the character to come alive on the screen making the game even more enjoyable and believable. The characters and their actions were so realistic that it gave motivation and purpose to continue on with the story.

The story evolves using various set pieces making you feel compelled to carry on to your next adventure. However playing the actual game is fun, the enemies are no longer bullet sponges and the gun play along with the cover system is integrated well allowing you to take down enemies with precision. The inclusion of new weapons was also a nice variation. The character movement while exploring is seamless even while traversing tough terrain or evading enemies. The overall pace of the game flowed well never having abrupt or awkward pauses between cut scenes or even between chapters. Again focusing the single player and further immersing you into the game.

Despite what seems like universal praise for the game there were some parts I personally did not like or think could have used some revision. While for the most part the controls have improved I still had issues during some of the platforming areas or while going in and out of cover when I did not want to. Another issue I had was with the early stealth mission, every aspect of that sequence felt out of touch and clunky. While I do appreciate the varied gameplay I do feel it could have been done in a different way. Lastly this could have been just me but early on I had trouble finding where I was suppose to go or what exactly I was to do, these issues seemed to go away as the story progressed and I got familiar with the game. None of these issues spoiled the game in my eyes but only highlighted the positives as they completely outshined the proposed negatives.

Multiplayer

The single player is an 11-13 hour thrill ride filled with distinct characters, varied puzzles, betrayal, fluid combat, organic dialogue and stunning visuals and sound all evenly paced and presented in a way like nothing. Not to mention plenty of reason to replay with different difficulty levels, skins, treasures to obtain and trophies to unlock. But as if that wasn’t enough Naughty Dog chose to also give us a robust multiplayer option as well.

The multiplayer is an excellent extension of the fantastic single player and not just a mode that was tacked on to simply add value. The multiplayer includes both a competitive and a cooperative multiplayer option. The competitive multiplayer has your traditional modes like Deathmatch and objective based modes like Capture the Flag or Plunder as well as Last Man Standing and Capture & Hold called Elimination and Turf War respectively. Each mode has a max of ten players or five on five and can be played on a variety of different maps. All of the maps use the environment straight from the single player allowing the player to scale vertically while still having cover play an integral part of the gameplay. The cooperative multiplayer on the other hand has a max of three players offering brief side missions that while separate from the single player story allow the three players to distinctly interact with each other to accomplish specific objectives. This mode also features its own version of survival mode but with a twist, the three players must capture the treasure while surviving hordes of enemies that gradually get harder.

Throughout multiplayer you obtain in game currency which can be used to purchase various boosters, unlock certain skins or making of videos. Like many online shooters of today full statistic tracking is available through their website. There are various medals to unlock and challenges to complete so there is always something to strive for. While both modes were fun and addicting I personally enjoyed the cooperative mode more than the competitive mode. The competitive mode is not a bad mode but to me lacks the ingredients I would want for a competitive experience. I felt the game unfavorably rewarded luck more than skill and also didn’t feel as precise as it needed to be or as I wanted it to be therefore it wasn’t for me. However with that said it still is an excellent casual competitive game but not one I would consistently play like Call of Duty 4. This does not affect my feelings of the game nor the multiplayer, as I think at its core it’s a wonderful mode and can be enjoyed.

Overall

Uncharted 2 has received universal praise from almost every reviewer and there is a reason for that, it’s a fantastic game. The single player is an unmatched experience in story telling while also being a standout graphically. The characters are molded into the story with such precision and detail that the story resembles a blockbuster movie. But most importantly the game is a complete joy to play. Both the competitive and cooperative multiplayer options are fun to play giving you another reason to never put this game down.

While the game obviously has its flaws the positives completely outshine those supposed negatives. The game completely lived up to the hype while simultaneously propelling Naughty Dog as one of the top developers for the Playstation 3. I personally can not wait for their next title. For these reasons and more I recommend to anyone with a Playstation 3 pick up and play this masterpiece created by Naughty Dog, it’s a must have experience and therefore a must have game. What are you waiting for… GO GET IT!

The wife’s take:

This is a newer section I hope to include in all future reviews, by its name I imagine you know what it is however I will explain further. In this section I will include one or two sentences about the game from my wife’s point of view. I find her female non-gamer point of view to be very enlightening and could be beneficial to some readers, plus she is kind enough to let me play these games in the first place. Let me emphasis that when I say non-gamer I mean that down to its core. I also want to make clear that these are her words and her thoughts therefore will not be included in my review “score” as they may completely vary. In the future depending on feedback I may actually make this a separate post so of course any and all feedback is welcomed. So without further a do here are my wifes thoughts on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

The puzzles were intriguing enough that I actually wanted to help solve them. The visuals and the overall play off the game was so well done that I didn’t have a problem watching someone play which made it feel like a cinematic experience. Plus the characters were witty and believable.

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4 responses

25 11 2009
djreplay

good work, nice review

27 11 2009
GregHorrorShow

Good write up mate, liked the wife’s view as mine. Similar to my own wife’s viewpoint.

I personally didn’t have some of the issues you had but could see how some sections may be affected.

Such a great game, I almost envy the people who haven’t had a chance to play it yet!

16 12 2009
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review « Beyond The D-Pad

[…] While some of the revisions did obviously positively affect the game others seemed to highlight some negative consequences. For example the enemy and friendly artificial intelligence, or AI, has been vastly improved but still is not perfect. On a positive note the friendly AI actually seems to help you progress through some sections instead of being completely useless as it was in the past. However when a lot of enemies were on screen the majority of the enemies found it necessary to shoot at your character rather than your team mate who may have been an easier target. Another welcomed revision was the exclusion of endless enemy re-spawns but even with that I still had trouble determining if I was to advance or sit back and fight. The game at times had to artificially tell you what to do instead of you gathering that information through gameplay. In my eyes none of these are fatal flaws just something I noticed, especially after playing such a brilliantly crafted single player experience like Uncharted 2. […]

16 02 2010
Game of The Year: 2009 « Beyond The D-Pad

[…] And my 2009 game of the year is… Uncharted 2: Among Thieves […]

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