A Modern Day Masterpiece & PS3's Undisputed Best
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a special game. Every so often a developer manages to fully produce their vision of a game to their audience in the best possible way. Sometimes the level of ambition of certain projects exceeds the maker’s ability, the technology just isn't there, or they just can't fully realize their own idea into a great game. What Naughty Dog set out to do with Uncharted: Drakes Fortune was incredibly ambitious and whilst the game was many things such as a graphical behemoth and a genuinely fun game at times, it also lacked tight gun-play and an engaging story for it’s characters. Uncharted 2 is the game everyone wanted the first to be and when you play it there will be no doubt in your mind that Naughty Dog have pulled off their biggest and best game to date.
One of the best adventures you will ever have playing a videogameMatt Rowles
The game begins with Nathan Drake seemingly waking up in a train carriage. He notices he is bleeding from his stomach and badly hurt. Before he has time to react the carriage starts to slide backwards and he soon discovers it is hanging off the edge of a huge snow covered mountain. Whilst hanging for his life right at the bottom we are then thrown into saving Drake’s life. There's no HUD, no graphical difference between what we just saw to what we play and no prompt of what to do. Instead your instinct kicks in as you just climb, and climb and hope to somehow survive. Of course this all gets explained later in the game but right now we are given the minimum to deal with and it is incredibly effective. This opening shows off so many of the game’s great qualities before it eventually opens up into one of the best adventures you will ever have playing a videogame. Seriously, the first ten minutes with Uncharted 2 was already better than my entire experience with the first game.
After getting over the first nightmare you had to deal with we then start to discover what on earth is going on. This time Drake is trying to uncover the mystery behind Marco Polo’s doomed voyage from China which resulted in losing over 500 passengers with no explanation. An artifact leads them to believe they were transporting the Cintamani Stone before being shipwrecked ashore and Drake obviously wants to find this stone, but he isn’t the only one after it. The story takes many twists and turns all of which are very satisfying and overall makes a fantastic story.
Whilst previously I found all the characters rather annoying in the first game, they are way more likeable this time round when the story is more interesting. I actually care what happens to them now and find their relationships and personalities are a key part of the experience and not just a backdrop for pretty locations. Also the ‘banter’ between them is actually funny and not irritating like it can so easily be.
Their relationships and personalities are a key part of the experienceMatt Rowles
The main problem I had with the first game was the awful shooting mechanics which made me dread every time I was forced to take down waves of enemies. I was happy that Drake has an aversion to using guns early on as that meant less dealing with the shooting mechanics and with the new added stealth elements it adds more to the gameplay than just shooting and climbing. However when Drake totally forgets this and goes back to killing hundreds and hundreds of people the shooting mechanics have been dramatically improved and are actually fun now.
All the weapons feel different and fun to use with the Crossbow in particular being one of the best with its accuracy and power to take down even the toughest of enemies sometimes with a single shot. The game still likes to lock you in a area and continually fill it with enemies but it isn't as frustrating as the last game were it was a huge problem previously. Also timing a shot to make an enemy drop a grenade is incredibly satisfying as you watch them blow themselves and surrounding enemies up.
The level of set pieces on show in the entire game is unbelievable. Whether it’s being chased through rooftops and buildings by a helicopter or the entire train sequence they are both thrilling and some of the best set pieces I've ever seen. Trying to fight enemies whilst the floor beneath you begins to collapse is stunning and the construction of how perfect the train section works and how it escalates to the finish we are expecting from the opening of the game is truly amazing.
One of the nicest added touches is the dynamic camera angles and how it sweeps around Drake when you are climbing to show the scale of what you are doing and to give you a different perspective to what you usually see. This adds to the already high production values and with the set pieces it really makes you feel like you are playing a blockbuster film.
Being chased through rooftops and buildings by a helicopter and the entire train sequence are both thrillingMatt Rowles
Another change is there is more free running and climbing in cities this time and not just jungles, which makes for a great change of scenery. Climbing road signs and lamp posts is just as fun as trees and shows how diverse this game can be as it takes you through loads of different locations during the globetrotting campaign. The color coding for which areas you can grab/climb is unobtrusive and incredibly intuitive so you are rarely left wondering where to go next and the environments overall are incredibly detailed with backgrounds looking alive and not flat inaccessible areas.
Literally everything about this game has been approved from the first one. Even the graphics and sound that were great previously are better here which is saying something. This is one of the best looking games I’ve ever played and the score is truly epic and fits the stunning world being created. The minimalist hub helps add to the realism and being able to enjoy cut-scenes without annoying QTE's popping up is a nice touch.
One of the things I think could be improved is the puzzles. Most of them are OK but they do slow the pace down dramatically. This can be welcomed occasionally after a crazy sequence but mostly I found them quite unnecessary. The ones which involve having to check your notebook are very boring and pretty uninteresting.
As far as difficulty goes I played it first time through on Hard and it was challenging but fun. I struggled on a few parts but overall it was a good balance compared to playing the previous game on Normal and getting frustrated frequently, which was mainly due to the shooting mechanics which I mentioned previously. There are some difficulty spikes especially towards the end of the game but nowhere near as bad as the last game. It took just under 10 hours to beat first time through and I enjoyed it so much I played it a second time straight away on Crushing as Drake's dead father, who is an unlockable character.
Easily one of the best games of this generationMatt Rowles
Very small issues aside I couldn't recommend this game more if I tried. This is the reason to buy a PlayStation 3 and is easily one of the best games of this generation. What Naughty Dog have achieved is nothing short of remarkable and have positioned themselves as one of the best developers around today. Uncharted 2 should not be missed by anyone and the minute you start playing you will understand why.