It's impossible not to love Uncharted 2
A lot of good games come out every year. Then, among those good games, great games can be distinguished. And then there are those who stand tall above this highest tier of games and deliver a truly special experience that will be talked about for years to come and will be a considered an absolute benchmark for its respective genre. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one such piece of entertainment.
Just like in the first Uncharted, you take control of Nathan Drake, the adventurous and suave treasure hunter who sought a golden statue in the first game and has since moved on to looking for entire golden cities. He starts out the game in a very precarious position, and has a flashback of sorts after escaping said position that shows how Drake managed to get himself into such trouble yet again. At the start of the adventure, he is approached by equally smooth Larry Flynn and his hot female partner, Chloe Frazer. They tell him about a job that ought to pay good money, and Drake, given the business he's in, accepts despite some doubts. As is the series' wont, the events go awry extremely quickly, and Nathan has to go on another wild goose chase that's one big escape sequence at the same time. Sully and “last year's model”, Elena Fisher also make appearances. All these pawns combine to form a fantastic tale that's well worth seeing through to the end.
However, the plot by itself isn't the highlight of Uncharted 2. What gives this game its special shine is the insane situations the characters stumble through, and the attitude with which they stumble through them. Ravaged apartments that are literally going to fall down on their sides while the protagonists are in them are but a few of the many ludicrous obstacles they will have to conquer, and you have not seen the concept executed in such an exhilarating fashion. Among Thieves makes excellent use of the fact that it's a game: these moments are so much more exciting because you're living through them. The fantastic production values and expertly designed levels really managed to invoke the sheer stress such perils would offer in real life in the player. Even though the game never gets overly difficult in these cases, there's a good amount of satisfaction to be gained from steering Drake through this never-ending stream of lucky escapes. The huge sense of scope and ambition makes this second in what is now one of Sony's flagship franchises deserving of all the acclaim it has received.
On a technical level, the platforming is good. In my opinion, last generation's Prince of Persia games featured more imaginative takes on jumping from beam to beam and wall-running while holding ropes, and the controls feel a bit floaty at times. However, climbing stuff feels smooth and just fast enough to keep the pace of the game up, so the controls, which come just short of perfect are easily overlooked. You'll probably be too busy staring into the abyss and wondering why in God's name you came up here before you notice that jumping from slab to slab of ancient Aztec masonry isn't quite as tight as one might hope.
The shooting has been polished up considerably after the first Uncharted. In that game, enemies would simply take way more bullets before they died than was fun for the player, and the aiming always felt a bit off. This time around, aiming bullets at dudes has been improved upon. The opposing forces actually die with a couple of bullets to the chest—if they're not wearing bullet-proof vests, that is—and the arsenal of weapons has been expanded. Aiming a gun also feels more in line with the gunplay of a quality third-person shooter. The platforming, shooting and fantastic predicaments combine to offer some of the most enticing gameplay I've experienced in recent years, and it raises the bar on how cinematic adventure games ought to play out.
The game looks stupendous as well. There are a lot of great-looking games out there, but Uncharted 2: Among Thieves stands at the top of the food chain, along with other lookers such as God of War III and Gears of War 2. Every single vista is worth stopping for, and I took great pleasure in seeing every detail Naughty Dog put into their environments. Similarly, the cutscenes and facial expressions are of an equally high quality. Each face carries real emotion, and is combined with outstanding writing. There is some true comedic value to be found here as well.
The animations are, once again, top-notch. There is just something about the way Nathan Drake grabs onto stuff that really shows off how he's getting by each encounter, just barely hanging on and just barely retaining his sanity. The motion capture has done exactly what it needed to do, in that no animation seems canned. The insane acrobatics everybody in this reality seems to be capable of pulling off are executed with such flair and confidence that it's impossible not be awed by them. If ever there was a game that could be used to show off what modern consoles can bring to the table, Uncharted 2 would be that game, and it is a testament to the power of the PS3 and Naughty Dog's proficiency with the platform.
A multiplayer component has also been put in to complement the singleplayer. Though one might expect multiplayer to be unneeded in a game like Uncharted 2, it actually turned out quite well. The movement and combat mechanics in the game are now of such quality that they are, surprisingly, not unfit for competitive play. You can freely jump about the levels trying to shoot others before you yourself become the victim, and this works well, both while playing the excellent co-op and while trying to shoot other humans. While the online modes in Uncharted 2 aren't exactly the main selling point of the game, it is nice to know that this awesome game doesn't have to end after you finish the storyline, and it is also comforting to find that developers do sometimes figure out how to make their singleplayer-focused game work in the context of multiplayer.
Honestly, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a game that you must absolutely play. You simply owe it to yourself. The many awards it has received were not unjustified: it is one of the best games in recent years, and will probably go down in my mind as one of the best games of the last decade. Just about every aspect of it marks an improvement over its predecessor, and the sum of this second Uncharted's parts forms a game that I cannot offer enough superlatives to. If you have a PS3, throw in Uncharted 2 and enjoy the game like you probably have enjoyed few games before it.