Review: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)October 13th, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: PlayStation 3, Reviews
In a fall of dwindling competitors, Sony’s Uncharted 2 is standing tall as the first big game of October. With multiplayer as the big addition for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Naughty Dog has added all of the fundamental elements that should convince even the harshest critics to give Nathan Drake’s latest adventure a shot if they balked at his first game.
It’s nice to see Nathan Drake is back in the saddle again for Uncharted 2, as the game starts with him waking up in a train car hanging off of the edge of a cliff. The reason he’s in this position is because of the mystery surrounding the 13 ships that went missing during Marco Polo’s voyage back from China, which has also gained the interest of a vicious Serbian war criminal named Zorin Lezarevic and his substantial army of goons. The presentation of the story here as been enhanced quite a bit to make the transitions more seamless along with actually allowing you to control Nathan at points within a cutscene, usually with limited shooting and movement abilities that do a great job of putting you into the story more than they did in Drake’s Fortune.
Uncharted 2 continues with the same mix of Tomb Raider’s platforming and Gears of War’s cover system and gunplay that were in the first game, though Naughty Dog has done a good job of fleshing them out and tightening them up where it’s been needed. The platforming here is a bit more complex in the environmental puzzles you have to get through, which also includes some more open areas where you choose to tackle groups of enemies from above, below, or with some stealth to thin out the herd before you need to go on the offensive. The stealth isn’t what you may expect, as this game hasn’t changed into Metal Gear Solid, but it provides a great option for those us that are more cautious while allowing the Rambos out there to rush in with guns blazing. There is maybe just one area where stealth is mandatory and it’s pretty much the tutorial portion of the game, which can be a bit more trial and error than we’d like since we really don’t know the limitations of Uncharted 2’s stealth mechanic.
The gunplay in Uncharted 2 has great tuned a bit more and the biggest changes are really in the enemies themselves. While bullet sponges weren’t much of an issue in Drake’s Fortune, the enemies have been designed to be well-protected to explain those occurrences, so you need to aim for headshots or pack some serious heat when you see large dudes carrying either shotguns or turret-like GAU-19’s. This new style of enemy design lets you better tackle large groups of enemies by look alone, but those types of battles are a lot of fun since ammo is very plentiful in single-player now. That doesn’t mean that you’ll never run out of ammo, but when you do run out of AK-47 ammo, you’ll usually find an FAL or some other weapon to make use of.
The single-player campaign itself is a great ride that shows that Naughty Dog took any and all criticism to heart during Uncharted 2’s development. Level design starts off being very linear and opens up near the end where you can attack enemy camps however you please, which is where the story starts to pick up as the near the climax of the story. The puzzles have been improved a bit so that you aren’t just opening up Nathan’s journal to the page that explains clearly what the solution is since you can flip through several pages in his journal that can help solve puzzles and show off his personality alongside what the story itself shows. The vehicle segments are nicely done, especially since you’re not tasked with controlling and shooting at the same time, so you can focus on taking out enemies while the AI takes them out. The bonus content has been changed up a bit here, as instead of things unlocking as you earned the in-game achievements, you get money when you earn those medals that can be spent on any available bonus videos, galleries, skins, filters, and other bonuses that feels like a more natural unlock system.
Multiplayer in Uncharted 2 has been getting a lot of attention lately with betas and events that should please those who refused to get the first game without it. Naughty Dog has done a great job of building up the features in this mode with a party system, a perks system, a matchmaking system that’s similar to Call of Duty 4’s voting system, and the cinema mode that records matches for you to export to the XMB or online along with giving machinima makers lots of tools to create their own videos for everyone to see. Matchmaking can require a minute or two for you to get into a game as it finds players, then loses them, then finds some more players, loses those players, and finds some other players that hopefully stick around so this match can finally get started.
The modes that Uncharted 2 offers are fairly standard modes, from deathmatch to king of the hill to a variant of capture the flag, but the Uncharted style of gameplay works well in making them a bit more interesting than you may expect since you can more easily get around to find the high ground to get an advantage. Co-op offers a few of the same set pieces you saw in the single-player that you can play with two other players in the standard mode that feels a bit like Left 4 Dead’s style of co-op along with a survival mode and another variant where you’re concerned with capturing treasure from the enemies. There aren’t many maps here, but all of them except maybe one of them are good, well-designed maps that should provide a lot of replayability until more arrive as DLC.
Uncharted 2 is easily one of the best-looking games out there with an overall level of polish that most games out there lack. Character animation has been improved quite a bit so that Nathan looks great in motion along with his cohorts, which are even better when combined with the great voice acting both in action and cinematics. There are a lot of great set pieces that span all different types of locations that really captures the action movie vibe that makes the entire game work well. The music here is fantastic, as some of the same themes from the first return with new music that fits the vibe of the locations you’ll visit quite well. The voice acting is quite good, but the amount of lines that Nathan, Elena, and others will say in the most random spots does add a lot of personality to these characters.
When all is said and done, Naughty Dog has done an amazing job of fixing any issues that the original game had for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves while adding more to make this a package that anybody with an ounce of interest should not miss. The single-player is easily one of the best of this generation with a mish-mash of ideas that becomes unique to this game with the great execution of every part of the gameplay, which should be the first thing you do when you get your copy. For their first real attempt at multiplayer, Naughty Dog’s done a good job of utilizing a lot of solid features, a good selection of modes and maps, and letting players use all of the abilities they have to their limits against each other.