A masterpiece in the action/adventure genre
The word masterpiece gets thrown around an awful lot these days, it seems like every major triple A title on the market receives at least a good ten or fifteen absurdly good reviews. But what defines a masterpiece in the gaming world? To me it has to be a game that truly pushes the boundaries of what we thought possible to new heights. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves does just that on so many levels.
When you look at the giant leap between the first and the second Uncharted, in terms of pretty much everything, it’s truly unbelievable that it only took Naughty Dog two years to make such progress.
This time Drake, Sully and Elena are competing against a ruthless war criminal named Zoran Lazarevic, who will stop at absolutely nothing to get what he wants: the Cintimani stone. An artifact of great power, said to grant invincibility and immortality to whomever possesses it. We are also introduced to Chloe Frazer, an Australian treasure hunter, who helps out Drake and co.
Where Drake’s Fortune primarily took place on a single unnamed Island, Among Thieves really expands the scope of things. From Borneo and Nepal to the snowy mountains in the Himalayas Among Thieves embraces the sequel trademark of “bigger and better” and it does so with style.
Not only talking about the visuals here, which obviously look better, but also the way in which the story unfolds, starting with Drake waking up bloody on a train dangling dangerously over the edge of a cliff. The when and why of the situation is kept secret for the player, but slowly unravels in a series of flashbacks leading up to a jaw-dropping train sequence ending with a bang. The game is full of amazing set-pieces like that and it glides seamlessly in and out of gameplay and cutscenes, often placing you in the most insanely awesome situations, including a collapsing hotel, which you are in while the whole building is literally falling apart. Now that would have been great even if it was “just” a cutscene, but it’s more than that. You are in fact in control of Nathan Drake through the whole thing and it’s stuff like that which really makes Uncharted 2: Among Thieves stand out.
The gameplay has been vastly improved on several accounts: the shooting feels much better this time around, you can throw grenades while aiming now and the enemies react more appropriately to getting shot now: meaning that they actually die this time around after a couple of shots, instead of standing up like nothing ever happened, which occasionally was the case in the first game.
The dialogue and story is well written for an action/adventure game and the performances from everybody are top notch. Nolan North is a great leading man and he totally makes these games work on a much higher level than these types of games normally do. The entire cast pretty much delivers on that account. Uncharted 2 is not only fun to play it’s also a joy to watch. You actually care enough about these characters to make you emotionally involved in them. Graham Mctavish delivers a great performance as Zoran Lazarevic and brings a great sense of intimidation whenever he’s on screen.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves lasts about 10 hours, but it’s 10 amazing hours. The pacing couldn’t be better, it delivers set-piece after set-piece and when it slows down it doesn’t feel like an excuse from the developers’ side to drag out the experience. Instead it’s a welcome break from all the action. The puzzle/platforming elements are also vastly improved and the puzzles are just much more ambitious when we are talking about the sheer scope of them.
Uncharted 2 is probably the definitive action/adventure game this console generation and Naughty Dog more or less perfected the formula and it’s very likely that we are still going to see games copy the recipe for a couple of years, the new Tomb Raider seems to be the latest example of that. But you can’t really blame other developers for doing that, because Uncharted 2 is one hell of a game and if you own a PS3 you need to play this game, there is no excuse.