Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Platform: Playstation 3

Publisher: SCEA

Devleloper: Naughty Dog

Release Date: October 13, 2009

There are certain aspects of games that place smiles on faces. Whether it be explosions, world-class cinematography, addictive multiplayer, impressive visuals, dynamic gameplay, or unforgettable set pieces, good games are designed with a few of these in mind. Imagine a game with essentially everything that makes gaming such an interesting fallback, throw in a dash of originality, and you’re left with one incredible and unforgettable game.

You’re left with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

It’s rare for a game to be able to leave this fantastic of an imprint on the deepest part of my mind. A game would require to be absolutely relentless in its attempts to impress the hell out me, make my jaw hit the floor repeatedly, and some pretty offensive yet positive words to spew from my lips, and rest assured, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is exactly that kind of game. But why?
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Picking up about a year after the events of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves once again follows the story of Nathan Drake, who has since grown out his beard and hit the gym. This time around, Drake teams up with a band of thieves as they set out for Marco Polo’s lost fleet.

The tale to be told in Uncharted 2 is executed near-flawlessly as the pace remains intense throughout with some extremely well created and imaginative cutscenes filling the gaps. You can bet that not everything will go according to plan, with some rather intriguing conflicts taking place. The script writers have done a pretty nice job developing a much more character heavy experience, and more of the relate-able goodness that comes with the protagonist to boot.

Of course, the story isn’t pitch-perfect, as the ending could’ve been a bit longer, and some situations range from ridiculous to outright far fetched. Even so, the cinematography is absolutely top notch, the script is well written, and the bottom line is that from the moment you start up the game, you will not be able to place your controller down until the credits roll. It’s simply that well done in its ability to suck the player in.

A large difference and improvement over the first game is the setting in which the game takes place. As you may remember, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune took place primarily on an island. Although there was some variety in the contrast of the weather as well as the time of day, much of the game took place either in the dark underground or in the luscious jungle. Among Thieves completely fixes this issue, and then some. Kicking off on the rooftops of Istanbul, then shifting all over the world to locales including the jungles of Borneo, and the ice capped Himalayas of Nepal, Uncharted 2 has a much better, faster, more raging pace that trots the globe like nobody’s business. It brings about a much larger variety to gameplay, as well as visuals.

Speaking of visuals, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is an absolute beast in this regard. The original was and remains a great looking title, but Naughty Dog has really worked their bottoms off in delivering a game that not only looks fantastic, but remains consistent technically throughout. It’s simply world-class game development.
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The character models have received a large polygon increase, resulting in much better facial and full body animations, more detail in complexions, and much better looking clothing. The environments also have received a large upgrade. Textures, lighting, particle effects, and even the artistry are all as good as it gets, really anywhere. There are some really impressive moments such as the sunlight reflecting off of the ice, or the way explosions rip apart buildings, or how the more detailed characters improve cutscenes in a large way. In short, Uncharted 2 is just an amazing looking title that not only shows off what Playstation 3 can do, but what gaming as a whole can accomplish. It really does not get better than this.

A complaint many, including me, had with the first game in regards to how it played was the difficulty of some of the firefights. In many instances, ammo was scarce and the gamer had to be very precise in their actions to accomplish success. The gunplay has been completely revamped to avoid this, and Naughty Dog has delivered a shooting mechanic that feels more natural and is a lot more fun than one could have imagined. Aiming has been drastically smoothed to be more reliable and easy, the cover system has seen some pretty nifty improvements, and overall, the controls are a whole lot more enjoyable. What all that means is that the shooting is more conventional, very comparable to other third person action titles, more notably Gears of War 2.

The other large chunk of gameplay in Uncharted is its platforming, which has been refined pretty nicely this time around. It’s much more imaginative, and in a way, a lot more difficult. The X button still gets the most use, as it’s used for jumping and climbing obstacles, but a few small improvements make the platforming in Uncharted 2 feel a lot more dynamic and natural. For one, the level designers have absolutely gone over the top in a few of their designs. You’re going to honestly have to think to figure out where to go, in contrast to the obvious straight pathed nature of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. The game still has a very straightforward path to it, but the levels are much larger and give you more options in how to approach situations and how to get from point A to point B. Sometimes you’re going to have the opportunity to use alternate routes which can give you an advantage.
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Another way the platforming feels different is how it’s used in puzzles. The puzzles in Among Thieves still revolve around a notebook Drake has, except this time, it’s his own and you need to flip through pages to find what you need for clues. The puzzles are highly creative and over the top this time, and you’re simply going to need to use your noggin’. There are more puzzles, and all of them are tougher and take longer.

While Uncharted 2 may feature shooting like Gears of War 2 and it still relies on a fairly Tomb Raider-esque approach to platforming, its gameplay is highly original in the way it merges all these separate elements into one great mixed bag of awesome. I’ll set the scene for you: you come across a street with several enemies, and a blatantly placed AK-47 with lots of ammunition. In Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, you would have no choice but to fight your way through. However, you notice a pipe which leads up to the 2nd floor of a broken building with a sniper rifle. You could also use that to take out enemies. Lastly, there is a plank of wood connecting your roof with another, and you can simply use stealth and climbing to avoid enemies for now.

That’s the beauty of Uncharted 2, and when you reach a sequence such as that, you’re going to truly be amazing at how dynamic that the gameplay can feel.

Again, speaking of “sequences which will impress you”, there are thousands of these in Uncharted 2. Most notably, levels which take place on a moving train as you fight enemies both inside the cars and above them, dodging signs and other obstacles. Levels which take place in a blizzard which make it difficult to see ahead, and chase sequences involving grenade launchers also make the list of memorable moments which make Uncharted 2 great.

Yes, Uncharted 2 has very good elements which fuse together into something quite nice, it’s got a great story and visuals, but what will really make the game stick are its incredible, Hollywood demolishing sequences that will ring inside your head til kingdom come. I kid you not, Uncharted 2 is simply filled to the brim with awesome. It’s what makes the game fantastic.
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With a campaign that ranges from 9 – 12 hours, and several unlocks and difficulties, it’s a fairly decent buy at sixty dollars, considering just how damn great it all is. However, Naughty Dog took the time to add some multiplayer features. These aren’t tacked on multiplayer features, but fully fledged multiplayer game modes which will give you a time dilemma.

There’s the standard fare of Team Deathmatch type games, and game modes which will have you completing objective like capturing zones or objects. The maps are designed pretty thoughtfully with the series’ gameplay in mind. The maps have a lot of opportunities to take cover, lots of weapons to pick up, and lots of vertical points to get to. It seems like just another multiplayer shooter, but when you add in the vertical gameplay with snipers on rooftops, and several means of chase and escape, you’ll really see how and why the gameplay is so original. It really does work in multiplayer, and it’s honestly a bit of a surprise.

In addition to the versus multiplayer, there are a couple of very generous cooperative modes. The first of which is a separate cooperative campaign which branches off of situations in the single player, which puts 3 of the protagonists on an objective in a thought out level, with its own cutscenes and purposes, and this is a pretty addictive mode, even though the levels are very limited. It’s definitely worth playing through because it’s more of the same awesome, shared with a couple of friends.
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The second cooperative mode is a ton of fun as well. Again it features 3 protagonists on a map and they have to survive against ten waves of enemies which get increasingly difficult. While it may be a ton of fun, there’s no denying it borrows much from Gears of War 2’s “Horde”, or Call of Duty: World at War’s “Nazi Zombies”. That’s completely acceptable, if a little unoriginal. To remedy this, another arena coop mode adds in a statue to steal en lieu of a flag, for bonus points and to end the round.

Uncharted 2 runs down the laundry list of good game design. However, Naughty Dog simply one ups the games it borrows from, resulting in one hell of a ride from start to finish. You’re going to want to play through the game several times over, the multiplayer should keep you occupied for quite some time, and the cooperative is surprisingly generous. If you can get past some slight originality quirks and can see that the game transcends these problems with world class cinematography, visuals, and features some of the most unforgettable set pieces in the history of gaming, you’ll come across a game that will leave you senseless, and a game that will scream its name at you for years to come. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is an impressive game to say the least.

9.6 out of 10

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~ by smithbubbajones on November 17, 2009.

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