The original Uncharted was one of the first games that really showcased the power of the PS3. Combining Tomb Raider style adventure elements, a Gears of War inspired cover and shoot system, and a colorful cast of likable characters, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune managed to capture the hearts of millions. Unfortunately, like any new franchise, it was hindered by a list of nagging problems.
Well it has been two years since the first game, and Naughty Dog has finally released the much hyped sequel: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Not only have they attempted to solve all the problems from the original Uncharted, but they added an entirely new multiplayer mode as well. With such a tall order, you have to wonder if the developers were really able to pull it all off without losing any of the magic that made the first title so great.
The answer to that question, and much more awaits you after the jump.
Uncharted 2 is not a game that sets out from the start to reinvent the wheel or revolutionize the console experience. Instead it strives to combine a multitude of different gameplay elements and mechanics, all of which are polished to a level of quality that’s rarely seen these days. The result is a game that needs to be experienced by every single person who has ever held a controller in their hands.
It all begins with the single player campaign, which is extremely captivating. The experience can be best compared to reading a great book that you can’t put down. You’ll get to the end of a chapter and have to keep playing just to see what happens next. This is largely due to what Naughty Dog calls the “active cinematic experience”, which evokes the feeling of actually playing a summer blockbuster movie.
The game manages to consistently segway back and forth between gameplay and cinematics without any loss of continuity. For example, let’s say a huge action scene is coming up. Instead of simply watching the sequence in a cutscene, or stopping to load the level, the game seamlessly transitions directly into the game so you can immediately begin playing. It’s an effect that’s put to good use, as it makes the player constantly feel like they’re part of the action.
The character driven story is very interesting with its Marco Polo inspired adventure that takes players to exotic locations all over the world. What really brings it all to life are the engaging characters, whose performances are made extremely believable thanks to a great script, and some of the best voice acting ever heard. Don’t be surprised if you fall completely in love with Drake, Elena, Sully, and Chloe by the end of the game.
But no great story would be complete without good gameplay, and Uncharted 2 has tons of it. Naughty Dog has managed to capture all of the great elements from the first game, while fixing all the problems that plagued it. Enemies can no longer dodge bullets like they’re in the Matrix, and it doesn’t take a ton of ammo to kill them either.
Instead, there are multiple difficulty levels of enemies who all do a much better job of using cover and working together to flank you. This allows for a challenging game without having to resort to cheap tricks. Add in a selection of new weapons and you have a cover and shoot gameplay experience that’s a blast to play.
All of the puzzle solving/adventure style elements, from the first Uncharted, are still intact without being aggravating or frustrating. The camera is never at a bad angle and you’re never punished for being slightly off in your timing or accuracy during important jumps or actions. The game also does a good job striking a proper balance between problem solving and cover and shoot gameplay, never making you feel like you’ve been doing either for too long.
When you aren’t scouring the globe as Nathan Drake, you can experience the extremely addictive multiplayer. The game gives you lots of options to choose from with a number of 5vs5 team deathmatch and objective modes including: elimination, plunder, turf war, king of the hill, and chain reaction. A leveling system ensures that you are always teamed up with people at or near your experience level.
As you level up, you also earn a large assortment of Modern Warfare style perks called boosters, two of which can be equipped at a time. These include bonuses for better weapon accuracy, faster reload times, more bullets per clip, and silent movement.
What really separates the multiplayer from other games is the inclusion of 3-player co-op modes. These include a Gold Rush steal the treasure mode, a Gears of War 2 Horde style Survival Mode, and an objective mode based off levels from the single player game. What’s surprising is that all three provide plenty of original and unique ways to work together as a team.
One thing you’ll notice about the multiplayer is that it doesn’t feel tacked on. Every mode is unique, all the levels are very well designed and teams typically feel very balanced. What’s really amazing is that all the character movements and animations from the single player are ported perfectly into the multiplayer without any hiccups.
Out of the box, there are absolutely no problems with lag or finding online games to enter quickly and easily. Considering how many other AAA titles launch with lots of multiplayer problems, it’s amazing that Naughty Dog was able to pull this off. If I didn’t know better, I would think they had been making online games for years.
Not only are the qualities of the single player and multiplayer modes extremely high, the replayability of both are through the roof. Playing through either earns money, which can be used to purchase unlockables: i.e. character skins, weapons, render modes, bonus movies, art galleries, and game tweaks. With the addition of multiple difficulty levels for the single and co-op modes, and the limitless multiplayer, you’ll easily get 40-50 hours out of this game before you think about putting it down.
While you are spending all this time playing Uncharted 2, you’ll be delighted to know that your eyes and ears will be extremely happy. That’s because it’s quite honestly the best looking game of this generation so far. I understand that this is a bold statement to make, but I stand behind it 100%. I can’t tell you how many times I simply stopped to look around and take in the jaw dropping scenery. Not only is it gorgeous, but every single environment is filled with extremely detailed objects that give it a very “lived in” feel.
As I mentioned, your ears will also enjoy being along for the ride. Thanks to a stirring soundtrack and a booming array of sound effects, the audio brings all the visuals to life. Created by composer Greg Edmonson, best known for his work on the cult TV show Firefly, the music uses a mix of traditional and more unusual ethnic instruments to enhance the atmosphere of the scene. When you can listen to the menu music and actually be inspired by it, you know you have something unique and special.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves represents the pinnacle of game development for this current console generation. It takes everything great about its predecessor and builds on it by fixing all the old problems, introducing a deep and addictive multiplayer mode, and giving the entire package a coat of polish, which will make the game shine for years to come. People should stand up and applaud Naughty Dog for their efforts, because memorable games like this don’t come along too often. This is a title that should be in every single Playstation 3 owners’ library.
This is the closest a game has ever come to bridging the gap between summer blockbuster movies and video games. Built upon a graphics engine that has to be seen to believed, it is arguably the best looking console game of this generation.
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All of the spectacular cover and shoot gameplay mechanics from the first game remain intact, while all the nagging problems have been fixed. Mix that with a healthy dose of tomb raiding puzzle elements and you have a gameplay experience that's a blast to behold.
Greg Edmonson has created a full orchestral soundtrack that rivals most big budget movies. Add to that an incredible array of Dolby Digital 7.1 sound effects and you have a feast for the ears.
With a 10 hour single player campaign, multiple 5v5 team multiplayer modes, a collection of unique 3-player co-op levels, and close to 100 unlockables, you'll still be playing this game when Uncharted 3 comes out.
Naughty Dog has created one of the true masterpieces of our time by combining engaging gameplay, an adrenaline pumping character driven story, and a solid addictive mutliplayer mode, which holds hundreds of hours of potential.