Uncharted 2 – Among Thieves Review (PS3)

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Takes Gaming Beyond the Next Generation

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune introduced us to a fortune hunter by the name of Nathan Drake. He had a knack for getting into, and shooting out of, tight spots. The storytelling within the game created an overall cinematic experience that really made you feel as much a movie goer as it did a gamer. The graphics were great and the game play was even better.The characters were well developed and the story itself was top notch.

Fast forward just over two years from the release of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and we now have the much anticipated sequel to the previous ‘PS3 Game of the Year‘ recipient.

Gameplay

The story begins with Nate waking up on a train, visibly disoriented, and unsure of his surroundings. He is wounded and bloody.  The view out the window is breathtaking, but he only has a few seconds to admire it, as something goes flying past his head. As the camera angle changes, you realize it wasn’t flying, but falling. Within seconds you realize that the train he is on is hanging off of a cliff with a t least a thousand foot drop, and your seat can no longer stay attached to the train. Everything starts dropping, and your wild ride has begun. You slowly climb your way up to safety as things continue to fall apart around you. Just as you reach the next car that is on solid ground, it too starts falling over the edge and you have to make a mad dash to safety, barely escaping a fall to your death, and blacking out. The first cut scene starts to play and takes you back 6 months to a much warmer climate.

Cut scenes are key to understanding the full story line, and are well developed and acted. The script is worthy of a movie title, and the animations were created using full motion-capturing by the actual voice actors to give an increased sense of realism.

As you progress through the game, you’ll not only have to fight off a large number of bad guys, but puzzles will challenge your brain, and spelunking isn’t out of the question. Veterans of the first game will meet familiar faces like Elena Fisher and Victor (Sully) Sullivan, but knowing the story behind them isn’t important and not required. There is a monetary bonus if you have a game save with the first game completed ($20K for just having a game save present and another $80K if you have it completed on any difficulty). You can use that cash to upgrade single player weapons or use it to upgrade your multiplayer weapons (more on multiplayer later).

You are hardly ever alone on your quest for the lost city of Shambhala and the powerful Cintamani stone. You have new partners to help you in your quest. Nate’s new girlfriend is Chloe Frazer. A sassy Australian with a nice figure and fast wit.

Chloe Frazer

Chloe Frazer

There is also Harry Flynn. He’s a nice buddy to have along on a B & E job but how far can you trust him?

Harry Flynn

Harry Flynn

You soon find out that you aren’t the only one looking for the Cintamini stone. Enter Zoran Lazarević. We never really learn where he came from, but his accent is definitely Eastern-European. He aspires to be as great as Genghis Khan, and he needs that stone to accomplish that. Nothing, or no one, will stand in his way, and he has no qualms about destroying an entire city to find Shambhala.

Zoran Lazarević

Zoran Lazarević

Stealth game play has been added since Drake’s Fortune, and the cover system works better as well.

Stealth Action

Stealth Action

Naughty Dog has created a game with immersive game play and character interaction, with seamless transitions and loading times that are non-existent. From Borneo to Tibet, your journey covers 26 chapters of evenly balanced platforming, gun fighting, and puzzle solving.

The Graphics

The graphics are where this game goes above and beyond any other game to date. The bonus features that come on the disk have several behind the scenes videos discussing different aspects of the development process. Pat England, Lead Programmer at Naughty Dog had this to say in ‘Behind the Scenes: Mastering the Cell’:

Our characters they typically have eighty thousand polygons in you know, one character, like the main character. In total- what we try to push through to the graphics chip at one point two million triangles that we try to draw every frame. We do a lot using the cell processor.

This translates into unsurpassed graphics with facial expressions that no longer make the characters look like plastic, but living and breathing people. Character animations are also lifelike.

Tibet

Tibet

The environments have just as much time invested into them as the characters. From rivers and creeks that will leave your clothes visibly wet, to snowy paths and cliffs that will leave your clothes covered in fresh powder, the developers went all out to make this the best looking game possible. You will feel the need for a rain coat in Borneo, and want to pick up your snow board or skis for the fresh powder of Tibet. The environments have plenty of destroyable objects, so always make sure your covered position will continue to provide you safety in a fire fight.

Inside the Ice Cave

Inside the Ice Cave

Sound

This is more than just a soundtrack. You have to call it a ‘Score’, in the movie sense. The entire soundtrack is already available on iTunes, and is a pleasure to listen to. The audio supports Dolby Pro Logic II and the surround sound comes in handy when trying to locate a bad guy in a blinding snow storm. The music was written by Greg Edmunson  and performed and recorded by a full orchestra and is worthy of a Steven Spielberg movie.

The voice acting is superbly done and was recorded while doing the motion capture so as to get the sounds in action and not from a stationary microphone.

The weapons sound like their real life counterparts, and you can hear bullets whizzing past your head in gun fights. Ricochets can also be heard. Stealth kills can result in some nauseating neck breaking sounds.

Multiplayer

When I first heard that multiplayer was being added to this sequel, I was afraid the overall game would suffer. If the developer spent too much time on the story, and not enough on the multiplayer, you would end up with a lackluster multiplayer experience, and vice-versa if too much time was spent on multiplayer. My fear was unfounded as the developers created not only a thrilling single player story, but also an online multiplayer experience that was top notch as well.

Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch
  • Pretty straightforward and standard to most multiplayer games.
King of the Hill
  • Stand in your circle (the hill) and let no gamer make you move.
Chain Reaction
  • Zones with a twist. You have to capture all 5 zones in order
Turf War
  • Similar to Chain Reaction but you only need to control 3 zones and in no particular order.
Survival
  • Co-op game mode where you and 2 other players have to survive 10 rounds of bad guys who get harder and harder to defeat.
Plunder
  • Capture the Flag but with a golden idol instead. You won’t be running with the idol, so you better learn to throw it as far as you can.
Gold Rush
  • This is Plunder but for a 3 man co-op team going up against rounds of increasingly difficult bad guys. The treasure moves after each round and can be surrounded by some pretty tough characters. Ever see the business end of a GAU-19? That would be a mini-gun folks.
Co-Op Objectives
  • You and 2 others have certain objectives depending on which of the 3 maps you choose from.

The Final Word

After playing through Uncharted 2 twice, and earning my Platinum trophy, I am in awe of what the developers have been able to accomplish. From the over all cinematic experience, to the immersive game play and well developed characters, Naughty Dog has truly set the bar very high for all other game developers. If this is the future of gaming, you can count on me being around games for a long time.

P.S. If you own a PS3, get this game!

P.P.S. If you don’t own a PS3, get one and get this game!

The Scorecard

100%

+ Graphics are unsurpassed

+ Story line is intriguing

+ Animations are realistic

+ Audio is movie quality with fantastic voice acting

– ?????