Uncharted 2 – Among Thieves: review

Well here it is, the Playstation 3’s biggest exclusive game of the year, and the return of its most charismatic character in Nathan Drake. The original was well received, but was a flawed experience. Have Naughty Dog found the golden idol, or is it a leap too far?

Having been lucky enough to gain access to the Beta of Uncharted 2’s multiplayer, we knew how good this game looked; but as you move through the single player story, you realise this is by far the best looking game on consoles thus far. They have talked about the power of the PS3 and that it’s not reached its potential yet, well this is a grand showcase of what it can do in the right hands. The detail is incredible, with terrific snow effects and depth of field really adding to the experience. Some of the set pieces are simply breathtaking, with the scenery disintegrating or collapsing as you aim to survive and reach the other side. We would need to fill Drakes’ journal to be able to describe all the various situations that Drake gets himself into. From taking on a helicopter on the roofs of a Tibetan village, to traversing a moving train, and a thrilling jeep chase, this game has countless exhilarating experiences and surprises dotted throughout its running time. Which is a good 12-14 hours in length compared to the other big game of the year Modern Warfare 2, with its paltry 4-6 hour running time.

The riot shield is a welcome addition.

The riot shield is a welcome addition.

Gameplay is quite similar to the first game with some stealth play added, which does work well. The gameplay varies between clearing areas that fill with the bad guys of the tale, to finding a hidden route by climbing towards an unseen exit, or in one area blowing up barrels to move objects along a river to use as a makeshift bridge. There are a few puzzles dotted throughout which involve you, for example, moving parts of a statue, which when correctly manipulated opens a doorway. If you get stuck, there are clues hidden in Drakes’ journal, which has some amusing doodles as well as clues; and if you are still struggling you can use the hints system which is implemented to good effect in the game. The puzzles aren’t very taxing but are a welcome diversion from the action none the less. Gunplay is handled well, and the cover system works well most of the time, although Drake sometimes gets a bit confused and ducks behind the wrong wall, which can place you in a perilous situation. There are a lot more guns available this time as well, from Gatling guns to crossbows, which adds some nice variety to proceedings. Another good addition is riot shields, which can be used to move towards fortified gun emplacements or areas that are overrun with bad guys. You can use the shields to protect yourself, while dishing out punishment with a pistol as you move towards your target.

The characters are again all superbly voiced, from the charismatic Nathan Drake (who has some really witty one-liners) to the tension between Drake and his two lady friends Chloe Frazer and Elena Fisher (his love interest from the first game). All the characters are likeable and believable and this pulls you into the story as a result. The script is well written with some double-crossing and close shaves for our heroes on the way to solving the mystery of Marco Polo’s lost fleet, the relic of the Cintamani Stone and the mythical Asian kingdom of Shambhala.

Mmmm. That statues arms look like they need pulled.

Mmmm. That statue's arms look like they need pulled.

The first game was criticised for only having the one locale, the jungle. This however is a true globe-trotting adventure that starts in the most precarious of situations, as Nate is left dangling in a train suspended over a cliff face. The story then uses flashbacks that lead up to the train crash. This begins with the infiltration of a museum in Istanbul, which is pretty much stealth based. We were a bit apprehensive about this level, but in the end it works nearly as well as the adventures of Solid Snake minus the 2 hour cut scenes. The jet-setting continues to Borneo, and some familiar jungle settings, before we head off to Nepal, and some war torn streets and finally, after a riveting train journey, we finish the adventure in the snowy Himalayas. The locales are all staggeringly beautiful, and you do spend any respite you get from the relentless action taking in the expansive vistas that make up the background of the game.

Multiplayer is a new addition to the series, and we must admit we were a bit sceptical when Naughty Dog announced that the game would have an online multiplayer, and were concerned that it would just be a tacked on novelty, and another bullet point to add to the back of the box. We’re pleased to say that we were wrong, and that the online modes work superbly well. There are a few different game modes, from the usual Death Match, Plunder (Capture the Flag), and Turf War to King of the Hill and Gold Rush, which is plenty to keep you occupied long after the single player is finished. The levels are superbly designed, with various settings taken from the main game. The co-op modes in particular, were really engrossing and fun as you traverse levels in true Uncharted way, by helping one another up to ledges, and watching each others’ backs as waves of enemies come at you. There are perks to unlock, which help boost your character with extra weapon upgrades or character skins, much like the Call of Duty series. It’s sad to see a lot of people have moved away from Uncharted 2 to the addiction that is Modern Warfare 2.

Drake is as charismatic as ever.

Drake is as charismatic as ever.

Naughty Dog have to be applauded for creating a thrilling rollercoaster of a game that moves quickly from set piece to glorious set piece. We can forgive Naughty Dog for the underwhelming boss battle near the end of the game, as the rest of the game is the most fun you’ll have on PS3. George Lucas should take a leaf from Drakes’ journal to create the next Indiana Jones movie, as this had far more action than Indy’s last adventure, and it makes Tomb Raider look like some of the ancient relics that Nate covets. As Drake himself would say: “sweet!”.

9/10

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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