Giant Bomb Review

203 Comments

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review

5
  • PS3

Nathan Drake's latest outing is one of the most exciting and memorable action games in years, and one you need to play for yourself.


 Some of these predicaments are frankly insane.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is unafraid to be exactly what it is: a big, rollicking summer popcorn flick of an action game, a finely honed piece of thrill-a-minute pop entertainment. There are no pretensions toward dramatic gravitas or new gameplay tricks, just a relentless drive to be as exciting, larger-than-life, and fun at every moment as it can possibly be. And you know what? At meeting that particular goal, this is the single most successful game I've ever played.

Naughty Dog has improved on every single aspect of the first Uncharted, a game that built a great blueprint out of components taken from other properties-- Gears of War's cover-based shooting, gymnastic traversal a la Tomb Raider, the swashbuckling treasure-hunting of Indiana Jones--but then failed to add those parts up to a whole that surpassed its own inspirations. Uncharted 2 fulfills all of that potential and then some, with better drama, better shooting, better graphics, better moments. Better everything. It's not that this game does anything particularly new, it just does what it does with a higher degree of presentation and polish than just about anything on the market.

Uncharted 2 turns on the strength of its story and characters; none of the game's numerous mechanical improvements would mean much if Nathan Drake, equal parts Indy and John McClane, weren't such a relatable and likable guy. Tough-talking but good-hearted, the guy absorbs an inhuman amount of physical punishment in every scene, and does it with a smirk and a one-liner. All the characters fit into some sort of action-movie archetype. Cigar-chomping old Sully and field-reporting love interest (and now heartbreaker) Elena are back from the first game, filling their respective roles as mentor and romantic foil the same as always.

 Not a bad situation to be in.
New this time, there's Drake's sleazy British counterpart Harry, and a psychopathic warlord named Lazarevic who's way more frightening and sinister than any of the first game's villains. Then there's the game's best new character Chloe Frazer, the sultry, husky-voiced thief who has an eye for Drake but whose motivations are never completely clear. She serves as one-third of the most believable love triangle I can remember seeing in games, a medium that isn't exactly known for its realistic depictions of romance.

The story here has the crew hitting locations like Turkey, Borneo, and Nepal as they retrace the steps of Marco Polo in a search for the mythical kingdom of Shambhala and a priceless Buddhist artifact thought to be hidden there. The premise is pretty boilerplate treasure-hunting stuff, and best serves as a vehicle for the wonderful interactions you get between the characters, which must have been facilitated by the recording of the voiceover and motion data simultaneously between the actors while they were in the same room together. The result is, these characters also feel like they're in the same place together, riffing off of each other, responding to body language or a raised eyebrow, genuinely interacting. It all feels about as real as I've seen in video game cinematics, and though the lines aren't the work of Shakespeare (and don't need to be), they achieve exactly the sort of tone and emotional response you need to appreciate this sort of lighthearted action story.

You do need some interesting ways to occupy yourself in between expository cutscenes, of course, and this is where Uncharted 2 feels both the most improved over its predecessor and the most impressive in its own right. I have to mention the gigantic setpiece action moments right upfront, because those are the scenes that will stick with you long after you've finished the story. You're engaged in a pitched gunbattle on top of a speeding train. You're frantically fleeing down a tight alleyway from a pursuing jeep. You're playing cat-and-mouse with a tank that's methodically obliterating every piece of cover around you. You are continuing to trade fire with enemies inside a building that, under a hail of missiles and gunfire, is quite literally collapsing around you.

 Get ready to trot the globe!
You're in control of all these moments. The sorts of action scenes that other games might relegate to prerendered video are the bread and butter of Uncharted 2's most exciting playable sequences, and they come at you frequently. Sure, plenty of games before this one have dropped you into similar impossible scenarios, but they've rarely done so with the sort of cinematic flair that colors nearly every minute of Uncharted 2. You get the sense that some designer at Naughty Dog studied every minute of this game intently throughout production, constantly asking "How can we make this part more awesome?" It feels like there's no end of inventive camera moves and angles, unexpected special effects, and smart, directed visual design all drawing your attention to exactly how incredible the action is. These sorts of thrills are hard to describe in words; you need to see them yourself to get the effect. But to show them to you would be to rob you of the joy of playing them firsthand. So all I can say to you is: Play this game. You won't be disappointed.

On a more basic mechanical level, I should note it's actually a ton of fun to shoot at and punch people in this game, in contrast to the first game where the shooting sometimes felt laborious and the melee combat was awkward. The shooting has been tightened up considerably in the sequel, with more and better guns, some much-needed changes to the grenade-throwing, and enemies that don't soak up a dozen bullets before they finally go down. The melee combat has been made simultaneously easier to handle and flashier--Drake has a huge number of hand-to-hand ways to take down enemies--and sneaking around to take out enemies stealthily is actually a viable option in a number of scenarios. Rather than an obstacle to unfolding the story, Uncharted 2's combat is a highlight of the game.

 The multiplayer adds a ton of longevity to the game.
It's good enough to support a surprisingly robust multiplayer mode, anyway. With its cover-based setup, Uncharted 2 multiplayer ends up feeling a bit like Gears of War, with a similar priority on fighting up-close, melee attacks, and grenades. But the traversal mechanics from the campaign carry over here to let you climb, crawl, and shimmy your way up and down the maps, giving you more mobility than you'd ever see out of Marcus Fenix and enabling some quick escapes during intense action.

I had the most fun with the game's cooperative modes. These are limited to three players, which I'd like to think was due to a conscious design decision and not technical limitations. The arena is the best, rawest demonstration of the game's combat, as it subjects your team to 10 increasingly harrowing rounds of encroaching enemies in the style of Gears' horde mode. There are also three standalone co-op scenarios adapted from the single-player (each with their own brief cinematics and unique voiceover) that let you fight tons and tons of AI enemies while moving from point A to B, rather than holing up in a single defensible position, as you do in the arena. Both modes are a blast, and can get painfully, ridiculously busy and difficult at the higher levels. But it's a good sort of hurt.

 It's Drake against the world.
There's plenty of great competitive multiplayer in here too, with a number of small-team objective modes based on the sorts of game types you see in most multiplayer games, focusing on delivering an item to a capture location and that sort of thing. The online mode has a full character progression system a la Call of Duty that lets you rank up and access weapon upgrades, new character skins, and "boosters" (perks) that modify all sorts of little variables in your gameplay, like reload speeds and how much experience you gain. The multiplayer progression is really smartly designed, with separate upgrades that go toward the competitive and cooperative modes, so you can specialize in the game types you like playing more. These upgrades are in addition to the typical single-player unlockables you get with a Naughty Dog game, including new character models, visual filters, and some nicely produced behind-the-scenes videos. This is an incredibly complete package, overall.

I'd have to reach to offer any significant criticisms of this game, because none readily present themselves. You might end up ducking behind the wrong cover or grabbing the wrong handhold once in a while, I guess. (There, are you happy?) Naughty Dog set out with a very specific goal in mind, and in focusing intently on that goal, they blew right past it. Uncharted 2 is a sublime example of how to make a great action game, the result of fantastic execution on every aspect of the game's design and development. It's the best, most memorable game I've played in a long, long time. Brad Shoemaker on Google+
203 Comments
Posted by MetalGearSunny

No surprise here.

Posted by ToadRunner

21/20 stellar review!

Posted by Ontheocho

The shirt tuck.  I need more details until I consider it a purchase.
Posted by ververdan0226

Yipee! Not that I needed convincing...

Posted by Brunchies

Another site gives it a 5, people will have to wait and see but it looks awesome. 

Edited by Hitchenson

Even with all these amazing reviews I don't see this game selling as well as Sony are going to want it to.

Posted by PurplieNurplie
@Hitchenson said:
" Even with all these amazing reviews I don't see this game selling as well as Sony are going to want it too. "
It's too bad it won't, since a game of this quality could definitely be a system seller.
Posted by spankingaddict

well, this must be the best game in years then...

Posted by eroticfishcake

I really want to get this now. Once I'm done with the first one anyway. Thanks for the review Brad, I feel confident now.

Posted by handlas

quite painful that I want this game so bad...it comes out this week....but I really have no time to play it.

Edited by Milkman

WHY DOES GIANT BOMB HATE THE PS3?!?!?!
 
By the way, the picture of 5 star Brad is messed up.

Posted by TmlMatus

WHY did Demon's Soul come out so close to Uncharted 2 ... and Ratchet and Clank ... and moder nwarfare 2 ... and brutal legend? .... why!!

Posted by niall077

The Giant Bomb Uncharted 2 review is the best Review I have ever played... I mean read.       
 
(until the next GTA or halo or something)

Posted by Shifty_Mcfly

Geez Brad, this game is worth at least a 7/5. Honestly, I hated the hyperbole behind this game, but I think I might just pick this up along with a PS3.

Posted by gimmysumcowbel

this game is being praised from everyone yet i cant find the motivation to buy it. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Edited by Nomin

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: System Seller

Edited by NoXious

I was expecting 6 stars, horrible review!

Leaving sarcasm behind and on to the real deal; it's definately one of those games you hope sell well if you're not going to buy it yourself. I don't own a PS3, nor do I like console shooters. I'm the type of guy shouting "YOU CAN ONLY PLAY FPS ON THE PC DUDER!" so unfortunately I can only hope that this review makes people get up and go buy it.

Hope you PlayStation 3 owners here on GiantBomb are going to have a fun time playing this!

Posted by JohnRabbit

I really want to read this review but I'm holding off on any potential spoilers until I've played the game myself.

Edited by troyx

best game ever made confirmed.
now video review please !

Posted by Hamz

Really well written review that seems to highlight the many important and interesting parts in the game. Glad I pre-ordered it :)
 
Thanks Brad!

Posted by Jared

Excellent review Brad, now I just need to beat the first game already!!!

Posted by Jeffsekai

Very good review, tho from the podcast and quick look cant say I expected anything less. Yay

Posted by KaosAngel

FUCK YES!  I CAME TO THIS GAME SO MANY TIMES!  I FUCKING LOVE IT!  GREAT REVIEW BRAD! !!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
UNCHARTED 2 = ZELDA OOT!!!!!!

Posted by chacho89

Aw man this game seems so awesome!!!!!!

Posted by InFamous91

can't wait to sink my teeth into this game tomorrow

Posted by Diamond

Man, I am in for an experience tomorrow apparently.
 
It's going to be crazy if most everyone who plays the game agrees with this sentiment, the hyperbole will be blinding.

Posted by Karmann

must-buy!

Posted by FrenchFriedFool
@Hitchenson said:
" Even with all these amazing reviews I don't see this game selling as well as Sony are going to want it to. "
This.
Posted by kitsune_conundrum

im paying more attention to ps3 games since im finally gonna get one this year end.

Posted by Madyew

Great review, confirms what we already knew: this game is awesome. I also love the "most successful game I've ever played". Well played, Brad. Well played, indeed.

Posted by Death_Burnout

Uncharted, Mother Scratchers.

Posted by Andorski

Teh biased!1!!~1!!
 
This game obviously deserved a 6/5 stars.

Online
Posted by Akeldama

wow

Posted by unclejohnny79

sounds good

Posted by Claude

Yeah, you didn't miss anything in this review, unlike Dead Space: Extraction.

Posted by welly

I....want..

Posted by deaux

***** "... the single most successful game I've ever played."
-- Giantbomb.com

Posted by demonbear

Uncharted blew my mind back when i bought my ps3 a couple of years ago.... so yeah. I'm buying this.

Posted by JeffGoldblum
@deaux said:
" ***** "... the single most successful game I've ever played." -- Giantbomb.com "
I hate it when people take quotes out of context like this.
Edited by SJSchmidt93

Damn, that's a long review for GB's standards.  
 
4 hours. 4 hours!

Posted by Killroycantkill

Looks like this game is to be played. I missed the first uncharted because I was very satified with Reistance1 and didn't think I needed another shooter but it looks like I should go get the first one.

Posted by Milkman
@Claude said:
" Yeah, you didn't miss anything in this review, unlike Dead Space: Extraction. "
You're quickly becoming one of the more annoying Nintendo fanboys on the site. Stop it.
 
@KaosAngel said:
" FUCK YES!  I CAME TO THIS GAME SO MANY TIMES!  I FUCKING LOVE IT!  GREAT REVIEW BRAD! !!!!!!!!!!!!!  UNCHARTED 2 = ZELDA OOT!!!!!! "

And you either need a lot more drugs or a lot less.
Posted by MatthewMeadows

All over my face. Can't wait for this.

Posted by Crono

Such praise for this game.  I am not surprised in the least... I am only sad that I have to wait to share in it.

Posted by Hitchenson
@deaux said:
" ***** "... the single most successful game I've ever played." -- Giantbomb.com "
...*sigh*
Posted by Claude
@Milkman: I'm just starting, have fun with me.
Posted by JoelTGM

I can't afford to buy it yet, but I will get it before 2010 that's for sure.  I need to save up enough money for this, Borderlands, and Modern Warfare 2, ugh.

Posted by gunslingerNZ

Can't wait for this! Just finished replaying the original in anticipation.

Posted by Red

Well Bradley, I guess I'll pick this up on Tuesday then.

Posted by SuperJoe
@deaux said:
" ***** "... the single most successful game I've ever played." -- Giantbomb.com "
"Drake has a huge ..." -- Brad Shoemaker - Giantbomb.com