With the amount of games there are to play these days and how busy I am, I cannot recall a game in recent years that drew me into finishing it in one sitting. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves reminded me of my passion of gaming; that sometimes it’s a good thing to set aside my life’s obligations; to set aside several hours of time to enjoy and appreciate what has always been my lifelong hobby. I spent the full sixty dollars for Uncharted 2, finished it in one sitting, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Nathan Drake finds himself in a troublesome predicament in the beginning, as he wakes up to find himself sitting on a broken train car about to fall off of a cliff, and to make matters worse, he has a gruesome bullet wound. Drake slowly climbs up the car and barely makes his way out as the car falls from the cliff, hanging on for dear life as he desperately pulls himself back onto safe ground. This near-death, thrilling experience sets the stage for Uncharted 2.
Drake meets up with his long-time associate, Harry Flynn, along with Flynn’s co-worker Chloe Frazer. Flynn tells Drake about the mystery of the early 1300’s explorer, Marco Polo, and his lost fleet. Drake discovers that Polo had hidden something inside an oil lamp, and after breaking into a museum to recover the lamp, the map reveals that Polo had found Shambhala and attempted to transport a priceless stone. Through a series of twists and turns, the game follows Drake as he closes in on Polo’s discoveries, while a sadist Russian war criminal, Lasarevic, tries to beat him to it.
Uncharted 2 feels like you’re watching a great movie that keeps you glued to the screen. Other reviewers compare Uncharted 2 to the timeless classic, Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, and while I do agree, I also feel that it has plenty of Die Hard elements, with the impossible odds and obstacles Drake endures throughout the game. The characters have great chemistry, and it is amusing to watch their interactions as well.
While the story continues to hold player interest until the end, the initial spark and excitement begins to die down, and some of the final parts of the game feel somewhat “campy” and uninspired. I began to care less about the secrets of Marco Polo as time went on, and became more interested in seeing what the gameplay still had to offer. Perhaps there were one or two chapters too many. However, the ending was satisfying enough to make up for what felt like a drag through some story moments.
Uncharted 2 brings the same mechanics the first Uncharted had, improved them beyond expectations, and added so much more. A major complaint with the first Uncharted is that enemies took too many bullets to kill while Drake could only take a few. Now, all weapons are effective, there are plenty of weapons to choose from and use, enemies will die with an amount of shots that feels perfectly fair, and Drake can take a number of bullets before dying. The headshot hit-box is more accurate and easier to pull off as well. The controls aren’t a problem, as the game will introduce you to them throughout the game, and each mechanic is quickly learned and mastered.
While you’ll spend most of your time cowering behind a wall and picking enemies off with your gun, there are numerous ways to take them out. You can blind-fire while under cover, you can “Rambo” your way by running and gunning in the middle of crossfire, you can shoot enemies while hanging on a wall, you can grab onto an enemy turret and use their artillery against them, throw a gas tank and fire it while it is in mid-air, and more. There is also a brand-new sneaking system in Uncharted 2. This sneaking system will allow you to dispatch enemies with a single button if you approach them from behind while staying hidden. Sometimes this system works, and you can take out an entire area if you’re careful enough, but sometimes enemies from a great length away will notice you, and you will be forced back to using guns.
Hand-to-hand combat is more effective and realistic this time around. Enemies will attack back, but their attacks can be evaded, and finished off with a final strike. There is, unfortunately, one major flaw with this combat system. By attacking the enemy, you’re somewhat locked into combat with them. While you’re fighting, other enemies from afar will continue shooting you, and you’ll likely die immediately. If you try to move away, the enemy you’re fighting may strike back and you won’t be able to escape in time. Therefore, hand-to-hand combat is only effective under specific circumstances, and using it at a bad time will spell a quick death.
The cast of enemies fought throughout the game is rather limited, but still plentiful enough. The grunts range from weak pistol shooters to heavily-armored Gatling-gunners. While there are only a number of different enemy types, it’s still enough diversity to continue bringing some incredible gunfights, with plenty of maneuvering, jumping, covering, and decisive planning to eliminate each foe. There are also a couple of surprise opponents along the way to switch the usual combat to make for some memorable moments.
Uncharted 2 never has a shortage of battles and platforming during each of its twenty-six chapters. The game never stops the suspense, continuing to draw you in, and there is never a point where you want to put the controller down. This time around, however, there is a long period of time in between the battles and platforming. Some of the platforming can take ten minutes up to a half-hour while you solve simple puzzles, or try figuring out what direction you’ll need to go. Sometimes it is not obvious where to go next, but if you wait long enough, the game will offer a hint and point you in the right direction. This down-time is not a problem; in fact, it’s quite a contribution to the experience. Drake usually climbs at daredevil heights and has to jump around from cliff to cliff freely, and the camera will bend in ways to make sure you know how far Drake is from ground zero, or how much he teases death. Even though this is a game, you may suspend your disbelief and feel for yourself just how frightening it is to be in Drake’s shoes at any time.
Uncharted 2 is one of the most beautiful games ever released. This game set the bar so high that every current-generation of consoles or even the next-generation of consoles will have a difficult time coming close to the art direction and visual details that Naughty Dog has presented. There were times I stopped in my tracks to try and admire every little speck of detail and every bit of work that went into the visuals. The character models look incredibly life-like, and move naturally as well, due to a new technology that maps real human movement to the game. The voice actors are very natural and sound like they fit their parts perfectly. The soundtrack features plenty of suitable songs for the events that transpire in-game, and it borrowed the terrific title song from the first game. Even as future games push the limit further with new technology and next-gen hardware, Naughty Dog’s hard work and dedication for the overall presentation of Uncharted 2 should not be forgotten.
Uncharted 2 is easily one of the greatest PS3 exclusives – one of the greatest games of this generation, in fact, and a game no PS3 owner should be without. It’s a game of such high caliber and inspiration to its genre that I recommend it without the slightest hesitation. If you want a game to remind you of the joys of gaming, Uncharted 2 will do just that.