Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review
By Max Roberts
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is bold. Uncharted 2 not only proves that Drake is here to stay, but that video games can be ambitious. Featuring world traveling set pieces and an intense, beautiful cinematic story, Uncharted 2 raises the bar, not only for future Uncharted games, but for the industry as a whole. Improving the game’s core third person shooting and platforming mechanics, Naughty Dog pushes Uncharted to the edge. It’s a stunning achievement and nearly five years later, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves still shines.
Since the events of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, it seems our hero Nathan Drake, has been taking life easy. Taking the saying “it’s five o’clock somewhere” to heart, we find Nathan enjoying a drink on a breezy, tropical island. It’s not long until some old friends pop in and spark Drake’s interest in finding Marco Polo’s lost fleet of ships. It is this spark that starts the fire of Drake’s globe trotting adventure. While Sully is not a key character at all in this sequel, his absence is made up for by some new faces. The story is much deeper than the first game, pulling you further into the experience. You genuinely care about each character, in one way or another. Drake also learns some lessons and evolves as a person. He’ll face loss and danger like never before and have to decide if treasure is worth risking everything he cares about.
Hunting after a treasure this big is bound to attract some other treasure hunters. Especially crazy ones with hundreds of henchmen. It’s these henchmen you’ll be taking out for most of the game. The combat in Uncharted 2 is vastly improved. The melee and stealth mechanics are much better, providing a variety of moves and ways to approach the enemy.
When your stealth cover is blown and open combat ensues, be prepared for a tough fight. The enemy AI is smart. Attempting to flank you and overpower you with sheer force, these henchmen can become annoying, especially on higher difficulties. You’ll never find yourself out of ammo though, since weapons are plentiful. If your current weapon does run out, you can easily pick up a downed foe’s weapon and continue your firefight. One glaring issue with the combat is the lack of the ability to throw enemy grenades back. This wouldn’t be too bad an issue if the enemy AI wasn’t so dead accurate in their throwing, often causing you to bail from cover, which, depending on your health, often leads to death. On the plus side, there are never impossible, seemingly endless waves of foes like in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. The enemies also don’t take four head shots before going down, those are only the guards with helmets now.
Combat relies heavily on the use of crouching behind cover to stay safe. Prolonged exposure will lead to certain death. When stationary behind one wall of cover, your control is tight and smooth. You easily flow from left to right with quick pop up to aim at enemies. Where this great cover system starts to lose traction is when you try to move from one spot to another. If the two pieces of cover are parallel, it is a piece of cake. Simply tap left or right and the circle button, then Drake will smoothly change positions. The issue arises when cover is slightly out of line, causing Drake to stand straight up and get torn to shreds. In intense combat situations, Drake may also hug the wrong side of a pillar or wall, leaving him in enemy sights. Overall the combat is a great step forward for the franchise, it just needs a couple more baby steps to go all the way.
Naughty Dog is known for 3D platforming. It should not be a surprise that Uncharted 2 boasts impressive platforming mechanics. Transitioning from brick to brick or climbing up ledges and monuments is all smooth and natural. Certain elements, such as wood, may be old and rotten and will break under Drake’s weight, causing you to think fast and move quickly. Even certain paths will have a piece fall or move, blocking it off. You’ll have to go back and try a different path. All of these design choices have made the climbing experience less of a chore and more of an immersive experience.
The puzzles in Uncharted 2 range from giant set pieces to small environmental clues. None are ever too difficult, since most of the clues you will need are in Drake’s notebook, which the game prompts you to use when most large puzzle sections start. Puzzles are often straight forward, it is the task of getting to each puzzle that may be difficult. Often a unique path is laid before you featuring tricky platforming just to get to a simple switch. If anything, the puzzles may seem time consuming. Although this may sound like an issue that pulls you out of the experience, it actually helps engross you in the story. You always want to see what happens next with the characters and the pursuit of Marco Polo’s lost fleet. It is a crafty way to keep players glued to their seats and will never be the cause of someone quitting the game in anger. Puzzles present a nice change of pace from all the combat and challenge your mind more than your trigger finger.
Uncharted 2 is a testament to both the PlayStation’s power and Naughty Dog as a developer. The cutscenes in the game are top notch. Sometimes the game feels more like an interactive movie than a video game, which is great for the type of experience Naughty Dog is trying to achieve. The voice cast is all back, giving excellent performances. Drake’s infamous one liners are back in top form. For the rest of the dialog, expect an engrossing tale with passionate performances. It is some of the best voice acting on the market.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a gorgeous, environmentally rich world traveling adventure. Featuring multiple, diverse locations is improvement upon the game’s predecessor. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune kept players in one (huge) location, a dense, mysterious jungle. Uncharted 2 spices things up by taking Drake all across the eastern hemisphere. Each location is vibrant and alive. The attention to detail is astounding as well. When you are in water or snow, Drake trudges appropriately. When climbing along surfaces, nothing stands out definitively, making the experience natural and immersive. Uncharted 2 is undoubtedly gorgeous, and not just on a grand scale, but in the tiny things.
Not only is the single player a fantastic experience, but the brand new multiplayer mode can be hopelessly addicting. Even with the game’s five year anniversary coming up, the servers are still going strong with plenty of people playing. Multiplayer features your typical versus modes: team death match, elimination, and capture the flag. One unique mode is titled “The Lab.” Throwing in crazy gameplay mechanics, The Lab changes frequently and will keep you coming back to try new features.
Another special mode in the multiplayer is the cooperative mode. You and two others will team up to take on mini stories, ranging from finding a treasure to saving trapped villagers. The co-op utilizes the maps from single player, so you will be treading familiar terrain with new foes. Essentially you and your teammates survive waves of enemies in different areas. Co-op is definitely a nice change of pace from competitive and gives players a great sense of accomplishment when it’s over.
Unfortunately, the only customization allowed in multiplayer is your load out. Characters are preselected and categorized as hero or villain. You’ll see the familiar faces of Drake and Sully under heroes, while every henchmen from single player is under villains. The only issue some may have with the multiplayer today is its age. Nearly five years old and with a newer iteration within Uncharted 3, the multiplayer in Uncharted 2 can feel a bit dated. With that said, plenty of folks are still playing and Naughty Dog has stayed committed to keeping the servers up and running. Data from Sony says that Uncharted 2 hosts over 10,000 daily players. After you beat the single player don’t neglect the multiplayer, you just might be surprised.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has proven that when a game, and the studio behind it, are ambitious, they can achieve great things. This powerful sequel is a must play for PlayStation owners. You won’t find very many games that look and play as great as Uncharted 2, even at the tail end of the generation. Improving on their solid formula, Naughty Dog has once again created an icon for Sony and throughout the gaming industry. No one will be forgetting this game and the impact it has created. Go ahead, find Marco Polo’s fleet. You won’t regret it.