Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review
posted on 10.12.09 at 12:01 PM EST by (@salromano)

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There are games I play that give me this feeling; it’s indescribable but the most I can say is that it makes me feel at home. Only a few games, like Kingdom Hearts for example, have made me feel this way before. After playing Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, I can add another game to the list.

Nathan Drake shined in his first release back in 2007, but he has never shined as bright as now with the release of the sequel, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The sequel provides a variety of everything: intense action, stealthy maneuvers, acrobatics, and hell, there’s even romantic comedy.

This time, treasure hunter Nathan Drake is onto big things; his latest being the treasure of 13th-century explorer Marco Polo. See, Marco Polo’s voyage began with fourteen fleets and over six-hundred crew members. However, when he arrived home, he had but a single ship and eighteen crew members left. While Marco Polo detailed every aspect of his trip in his journal, he made no mention of what occurred of those fleets and missing men. So Drake and his old friend Harry Flynn team up to rob a museum of a relic that should help them gain more knowledge about Marco Polo. Chloe Frazier, also an old friend of Drake’s, comes into play, as well.

The story takes a shot at history as we know it, which already earns it some points. What you wouldn’t expect from this story is that it takes you to so many diverse locations and areas; Marco Polo really put something good together. What’s more is that there are so many twists and turns within the story itself, you really wouldn’t be able to expect what will happen next.

The one thing that got me about Uncharted 2‘s plot though wasn’t the twists and turns, the locations or any of that. It was the way it was told. First of all you have your gameplay which we’ll talk about in a bit, but then you have these cinematic cutscenes that really do make you feel like you’re watching a movie. Whether it’s Nathan Drake’s witty, sarcastic attitude or Chloe’s “bloody brilliant” character, the game really has a knack for keeping you more enveloped than you’d ever be in a video game. Just the way the characters talk to each other and act out kind of makes you feel as if they’re real people. You’ll actually develop a care for them, or a hatred for them whether they’re good or bad.

While Uncharted 2 takes great to improvements upon the story, where Nathan Drake’s second adventure really improves is gameplay. Almost everything possible has improved from the first game: the shooting mechanics, cover maneuvers, climbing and jumping, etc. In the first game, where you’d see gunfights in areas full of blatantly created cover, in the second, you’d see a normal-looking area with different levels of cover and protection blending in with the environment.

Even the way the game opens is just amazing. We’ve all seen the trailer — Nathan Drake sitting in a train hanging off the edge of an arctic cliff — and how amazing the scene was. Now imagine playing that scene, Nathan climbing up the outside of that edged train, pieces and debris falling as he climbs for his life, the train collapsing as he jumps to each possible structure to grab.

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Of course, just as it’s first demonstrated with escaping the falling train, climbing plays a HUGE part in the game. The climbing has greatly improved from the first game, however, there’s one small unfortunate problem. It’s a lot of fun climbing around and discovering secret passages, but when you climb, there’s only one way to go. There’s no different set of paths to take or other way to get around, there’s just that climbing path. It’s a little linear is basically what I’m trying to say. That ends up being quite alright though, because the climbing’s fun and entertaining and taking the hard way around things is actually a lot more interesting than walking a clean path.

Stealth plays a big role in Uncharted 2. There are a lot of points in the game, so you don’t lure too much attention towards you, were you’ll have to be sneaky, silent, and Solid Snake-like. One of the very first missions in the game involves a museum break in, which must be done with stealth. Normally, you’d have an option to take enemies out stealthily (when possible) or go out guns blazing, but in this mission, it’s mandatory. If it weren’t mandatory, the guards would easily signal you, so it makes sense; plus, it’s a great way to introduce the stealth mechanics since they can be used later in the game. There are even a few trophies that require the use of stealth (so use it whenever possible!).

Now, the butter to Uncharted 2‘s bread: puzzles. What is an Uncharted game without puzzles, anyway? Nothing, that’s what. Fortunately for us though, Nathan Drake has a few, very involved puzzles to solve in his second adventure. What makes the sequel’s brain-testers a lot better than the first is that they’re not a bundle of small puzzles, but rather fewer big puzzles that usually have Nate running throughout the entire room to solve, turning things, flipping switches and what not. Also adding to the fun is Nate’s personal journal he carries around. A lot of puzzles you’ll come across will spark Nate’s senses as something he’s seen before. Referring to his journal will usually help you solve the puzzle, but the answers aren’t directly given so it does involve a bit of thinking. As you start “filling in the pieces” of the puzzle, you’ll have to keep checking his journal every now and then. You’ll really start to feel as if you yourself are a treasure hunter. Or at least more knowledgeable to some extent. On top of that, there are some funny cracks about Sullivan in that journal that’ll really make you laugh out loud. Who knew Nate could be such a funny guy?

Let’s talk combat. Uncharted 2 is a third-person shooter, so you’re going to have guns, grenades, the whole nine yards. Nate can carry two guns at a time, a small gun and a big gun and occasionally three when your wielding a beast like the GAU-19 machine gun that you’ll have to end up dropping anyway. The controls are great, to get that out there. Everything feels so perfectly in place; the cover controls, grenade tosses, shooting, jumping. It may be just me on this, but I feel that the game offers the perfect control scheme for a third-person shooter. My only complaint is that they could have maybe gave Nate the ability to run a bit faster if you hold down X, but that’s not too big a deal.

AI feels just about the same this time around. They’re smart guys, fun to fight and they know how to sneak up on you when you’re in a bad state or too concentrated on a different enemy to notice them behind you. They know how to run up and take cover in areas where you probably won’t be able to reach them. Naughty Dog has done good with the AI and you’ll really have a blast fighting them.

For the most part of the game, Nathan will have a partner following him around, aiding him in his adventure. Whether it be Chloe or anyone else (we wouldn’t want to spoil anything), it really makes you feel like they’re with you. Whether you’re just walking the chapter or in a raging gunfight, Nate and his partner are usually exchanging words, talking to each other just like normal people would. It really makes them feel real. Their artificial intelligence is a whole other story, though considering it’s executed so well. They can’t die which takes a load off of your shoulders if you’re not so much into a co-op game where you’ll continuously have to heal your partner every time they get KO’ed (ala Resident Evil 5).

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Your partner is one smart egg, though. If you’re going to be quiet and take out all the enemies in a subtle manner, then they will remain quiet and let you take them out. However, if you decide to go out there guns in hand, then they’ll go right out there with you.

In total, Uncharted 2‘s single-player mode took me about thirteen hours, but Naughty Dog has said the game to be twelve to fifteen. It depends on how you play the game. Rather than take my time searching for all the treasures and bonuses, I just picked up those I came across. I figured that I would pick them up on my second playthrough, considering after you beat the game on ‘Hard’ mode you unlock ‘Crushing’, which sounds like it’ll break a bone or two.

One thing that Uncharted as a franchise is well-known for is its groundbreaking visuals. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune looked good, but Uncharted 2 looks phenomenal. I’m one who usually pays high attention to detail when playing a game, so I really looked around Uncharted 2 a lot. Some of the smallest things can come upon me as visually stunning. The fire burning in the arctic, the way the snow was shaped and how the light bounced off of it. Then the cutscenes, which are amazing as it is, are one in the same with gameplay. There’s no change, no CG, nothing like that. It’s really a sight to see; probably one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen in a third-person shooter.

Nowadays, games are changing. Everybody wants multiplayer, to be able to go online with a couple of friends and play a competitive game or two. Naughty Dog has that covered this time around with the game’s online multiplayer component, which is actually pretty robust for a single player-based game. Featuring modes like Deathmath, Elimination (one life only), Plunder (capture the flag), Turf War, King of the Hill, Chain Reaction and Cooperative missions, it’s easy to say a lot of work was put into multiplayer. There’s perks, too. Playing more games and doing better and better online will level you up, get you more cash and give you the ability to buy certain perks, or boosters as they’re called. This component really keeps players coming back to the game, not just to play with friends, but just to level up as much as they can and be the greatest.

Cooperative online modes are taken from the game’s single-player mode but changes the story around a bit, usually to Nathan and company going off to find some sort of treasure in that level that actually wasn’t there in the single-player campaign. The levels are long (longer than the co-op preview in the multiplayer beta) and take great emphasis on teamwork, as you’ll have to heal your partner when down or take out a couple of guys that try to strangle them.

In short, the heavy-featured online mode just adds even more greatness to the already amazing single-player campaign.

Naughty Dog have bested themselves with Uncharted 2. It’s one of the best games released this generation and most likely the best third-person shooter this gen. With a twelve to fifteen hour campaign, bonuses and an everlasting multiplayer to keep you busy, there’s no going wrong with this sequel. You probably were already going to buy this anyway but I’m just here to emphasize that statement and tell you just how amazing Uncharted 2 really is. If you own a PlayStation 3, there’s no doubt in my mind when I say you’re crazy if you do not to own this game. Go buy it. Day one.

9.5/10

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was reviewed on a PlayStation 3. The game was played to completion. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves launches for PlayStation 3 in North America on October 13, 2010 and in Europe on October 16, 2010 for an MSRP of $59.99.

  • http://www.youtube.com/tezchi TezChi

    Sounds utterly fantastic. Excellent review! I ca’t wait for the game to come out this Friday in the UK!

  • FinalFantasy_fangirl

    Excellent review…. I’ll get my copy tomorrow via ups from amazon. I look forward to this because evidently they’ve improved on everything.

  • http://gematsu.com Sal

    You’ll both enjoy the crap out of it. I’m a bit sad I’ve completed the game because the story is fantastic, but I’m working my way through Crushing difficulty now on Chapter 2 already.

    This will be my first game where I’m actually dedicated on getting every single trophy.

  • http://www.youtube.com/tezchi TezChi

    How is the difficulty curve actually? I mean I beat Uncharted 1 on Crushing and was thinking of jumping straight into Hard on this as a challenge…

    • http://gematsu.com Sal

      It’s not so bad, actually. I mean Hard is difficult, but it’s not intense. Definitely start on hard though if you’re going to end up playing Crushing after anyway. It’s not too bad.

  • incredibilistic

    Nice review. Hard to believe that I’m less than 24 hours away from owing this gem. I was sold after the first game so if all they did was move Drake from an island to a city I would’ve bought that too. But knowing that ND went the extra mile and squeezed every ounce of power out of the PS3, added multiplayer and co-op just proves how committed they are to this franchise.

    But of all the reviews I’ve read, and I’ve read a few, no one has mentioned anything about that really cool looking cinema mode (I’ve also heard it referred to as “machinima mode”) where you can take the characters and sculpt areas for them to frolic around in and even talk using the characters with full lip-syncing.

    I’m also interested in the cinema mode that allows you to set up different camera angles and special effects while editing video from multiplayer sessions. I remember seeing something about being able to watch videos posted by others for fun as well as checking out different strategies players use.

    Hopefully the cinema mode along with the multiplayer will keep the game alive for a few months. Although I suspect everyone will drop everything once Modern Warfare 2 hits. But I have my fingers crossed for Uncharted 2 to get GOTY.

    By the way, if I’m not on Scrawl for a few days you know where to find me ;)

    • http://gematsu.com Sal

      Glued to a TV playing Uncharted 2?

      • incredibilistic

        You know me so well.

  • comedian

    I have to wait three more days, till it’s released here(UK) :<

  • Jim Canapa

    About to finish this tonight, and I agree with most of what you say. This is easily the best looking game I have ever played on a console.

    On the other hand, there was a wicked left turn in the first Uncharted that changed the gameplay significantly for the worst. Uncharted 2 has the same thing, unfortunately.

    This is not on the level of Far Cry or Indigo Prophecy, but this would be a better game without the monsters.