The first Uncharted game Drake’s Fortune was one of the flagship games around the Playstation 3′s release; it was one of the first console exclusive games and served not only as a product with an engrossing narrative and tried and true gameplay mechanics, but it was a graphical benchmark with visuals that even by today’s standards are still stunning to look at.
When Naughty Dog announced they were to release Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, they claimed they were going to improve every aspect of the game, including graphics, and after playing it all the way through, I can happily say that they have indeed stood by their words.
It could be said that Uncharted 2 is a rip-off of a big budget Hollywood blockbuster; cheesy foreign villain, sassy sidekick and wise-cracking protagonist included. To be honest, you wouldn’t be far off the mark; but whilst I usually take a distaste toward such movies, interacting with one is a completely different matter. Apart from the aforementioned trademark characters, you also get your standard set pieces; explosions, helicopter chases, double crossing allies, explosions, gunfights on a train, the last ditch attempt, explosions, an aging partner who’s ‘getting too old for this shit’ and more explosions. But even if you’re a movie snob like me, you won’t care because Uncharted 2 is just unbridled and at times, brainless fun.
The game takes place a couple of years after the first game where the main protagonist Nathan Drake meets up with his old suspiciously British and treasure hunting friend Harry Flynn, who’s teamed up with Drake’s partially suspiciously British and glassy-eyed ex-beau, Chloe Frazer, who tell him of a client who’s asked them to steal a Mongolian Oil lamp which may hold the secret to Marco Polo’s lost fleet, and the treasures which were lost with them. With this, Drake and friends embark on an adventure of epic proportions and takes them to exotic locales and discover dangerous truths along the way. Pretty standard, right?
As I said before, the gameplay is pretty much your usual action adventure formula; Drake has to navigate through treacherous and often dazzling landscapes, and clues to your progression often aren’t too obvious, making the player put themselves in Drake’s shoes and consider how they would progress. There are no fancy gameplay gimmicks at work here; no bullet time or speed boosts, Drake is very human (apart from his uncanny ability to heal almost instantaneously from bullet wounds).
When it comes to combat, it’s largely gun-based with a dash of fisticuffs thrown in for good measure, and I’ll say this now – you will get into a LOT of gunfights, far more than the first game. Following the standard of modern games with gunplay, your health is regenerative, which to be honest if you’re looking for something truly challenging it can be a helping hand you didn’t ask for, but staying in good health can be a task in itself when you’re flanked by dozens of henchmen and all you have for cover is a wooden box that’s being torn to pieces. Hand to hand combat can be very cool, and now players can use proper stealth attacks which reward them with double ammo. There isn’t a giant arsenal of weapons available in Uncharted 2, but there are significant differences between the ones found to suit all situations, including old favourites like AK-47′s and Desert Eagles, along with heavy hitters like RPG’s and grenade launchers.
Whilst Uncharted 2 is at times driven by its cut-scenes, what really makes it stand out is that a lot of the action throughout the game doesn’t deny the player of participation; the world can be falling apart around you, and it’s up to you to get Drake out safely. It puts you straight in the deep end with a bullet-wounded Drake (which is apparently the only bullet which has ever harmed him) stuck an old train precariously hanging off the edge of a cliff in the middle of the Himalayas. From the get-go you have to navigate your way out of the cabin, as it falls apart and rocks from the cliffs fall down upon you. It’s moments like these that have you truly gripped and leave your heart racing, and because of your role in them they feel much more than simple set-pieces, and it’s not like this is the only one, these happen all the way throughout the game, each one as exciting as the next (the fight on the moving train is particularly spectacular).
The main standout new feature of Uncharted 2 is its multiplayer mode. With a lot of actions games the multiplayer feels very tacked on and become weak counterparts of the single player campaign, especially with modes like deathmatch, but Uncharted 2 offers a wide range of modes from classics like base capture, team deathmatch, and Uncharted’s take on capture the flag called ‘Plunder’, where you have to bring a treasure back to your home base, but you can only use your sidearm in the process. Along with these competitive modes you have co-op missions, in which you can team up with 2-4 others online, and either make your way through maps and fight waves of enemies to find a treasure, or in ‘Gold Rush’ much like ‘Plunder’, you have to drag the treasure back while your teammates defend you. All modes are a lot of fun and very addictive; much like a lot of multiplayer FPS games there’s also a ranking system which rewards you as you play. It would’ve been nice to play single-player levels in co-op, which wouldn’t have been too hard seeing as a lot of the time you’re accompanied with someone else, but the maps available while few in number are still a lot of fun to play.
Overall Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a tremendous achievement, it’s by far the best looking game available on any console right now, the voice acting is top notch with (the now almost famous) Nolan North regaling his role as Nathan Drake, the musical score perfectly accompanies the action, and it’s one of the most engrossing experiences I’ve ever had in an action game. The multiplayer is a welcome addition which will bring players back long after finishing the 13 hour+ campaign but could stand to have a few tweaks like speeding up matchmaking times and more (FREE!) maps.
It’s an experience no Playstation 3 should go without, now if you don’t mind I’m off for a lie-down; I’m gettin’ too old for this shit…