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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is easily the biggest and most talked about PS3 exclusive of the year, some even going so far to call it the best game of this generation and the savior of the PS3. Whether it’s the best game this generation so far, or even if the PS3 needs a “savior” is up for debate, but this is one of the few times in gaming where a game with ridiculous amounts of hype actually meets expectations.  Much like the first game, this follows treasure hunter Nathan Drake through one of his adventures. Nathan Drake as a character is a nice break from the typical, stoic gruff voiced guys, that are the leads in most video games. While many video game leads are more of a Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone, Nathan Drake looks, acts, and almost sounds like actor Nathan Fillion (from Firefly/Serenity). Whose characters usually have a flippant and sarcastic sense of humor about them.

The game not only features a unique protagonist, but also gameplay. It’s mainly a shooter and platformer, but there are elements of puzzle solving and stealth. Switching between these different aspects of gameplay is an area where Uncharted 2 has greatly improved over the original. Instead of feeling the manual switch between the shooting and platforming segments like in the first game, Uncharted 2 logically and smoothly switches up its different gameplay aspects. Shooting is another area that has been improved in this sequel. Instead of guns all feeling the same, but looking different, Uncharted 2’s guns feel varied and offer more depth. This also makes the gameplay somewhat deeper, since you might see a group of bad guys then look at the environment they’re in and decide tactically how you would like to take them out. Those methods could range from staying back with a sniper rifle, charging with a shotgun and using cover, or sneaking among them and breaking their necks.

This game is also getting a lot of comparisons to being a movie, yes it’s true, the game is very cinematic. However, calling it a movie seems to fall in the fad of the video game industry chasing the movie one. The actual story of the game on paper might seem quite generic, but it’s more about how the story is told, rather than what the story is. This game cinematically is on the same scale of Metal Gear Solid 4, but it goes about telling the story in completely different ways. Uncharted 2 only has a handful of cut-scenes, so much of the dialogue is delivered in-game and instead of having some cool 20 minute cut-scene, a set-piece event will start instead. Something like a truck or helicopter chasing you and it’s up to you to escape them, rather than simply watching it happen. The combination of something epic happening, a more dramatic camera angle, and intense music tops a 20 minute cut-scene, no matter how cool it is. Those aspect, toppled with interesting characters and somewhat of a love triangle that isn’t clichéd and has two likable women, makes a good story.

The impressive technology behind the game is what makes it so easy to compare to a movie. “Technology” doesn’t just include the game’s amazing graphics, but also its top-notch animation, voice acting, and camera work. It’s easy to get distracted by the game’s graphics, but it’s the less popular aspects like animation, which brings the characters life. That doesn’t just include Drake, but also the numerous AI partners that are on the adventure with you and the enemies. The game’s AI enemies are pretty smart, they’ll throw grenades at you, if you stay behind cover for long times and they have some flanking maneuvers too. Many of the game’s enemies are heavily padded in thick body armor, this gives a good excuse to why they can take so many bullets, but some of them take annoying amounts. There is a specific instance, which was a mini-boss fight, where the guy took over 60 bullets from a M4 and he only had a bulletproof vest on. Of course, it’s silly to hold video games to exact real world logic, but things should still make sense. The few instances of “gamey” moments, such as that and about two more, trips up the game’s momentum and immersion.

Unlike many recent campaigns, Uncharted 2’s is perfectly paced and can’t be beaten in one sitting. Even though lengthwise it’s more than satisfactory, there’s still a feeling of wanting more, which has more to do with how fun the experience was than length. Luckily, there’s another improvement over Uncharted 1 for when you’ve beaten the game, which is multiplayer. Uncharted 2 features co-op and adversarial multiplayer. The co-op is most comparable to terrorist hunt that has been featured in most Rainbow Six games. Of course, it has the Uncharted flavor to it, but it’s fairly similar to that. Essentially, co-op is just human players killing all of the AI enemies on that level. This is very fun; since it’s pretty much taking the most intense gunfights from the campaign and pumping them up, then you’re doing them with your friends. However, while co-op does keep the best parts of the campaign’s shooting, it mainly ignores platforming, stealth, and puzzle solving, which also helped make the campaign great. 

The adversarial is a bit of a mixed bag. It encourages some of the best things in online gaming like teamwork and being tactical, but it also rewards camping and playing unfairly. The multiplayer isn’t very balanced, certain weapons like the grenade launcher are pretty much unstoppable and it takes no skill to use it. During many rounds someone, sometimes on my team or an enemy would keep hoarding the grenade launcher and get at least 15 kills every time. It’s always nice to get the most kills when playing online, but when there are weapons that powerful it defeats the purpose of competition. Since it only takes one second to die from a grenade launcher and at least five seconds to die from a regular gun. Another multiplayer problem would be close quarters fighting. There isn’t a problem with the melee system in the campaign, but in multiplayer someone might be four feet away from you then you instantly die and you see at the bottom it was a melee kill, even though it was physically impossible for them to reach you. The same thing sometimes happens with a player pulling someone from a ledge, even though that person was too far away. The adversarial multiplayer can be fun, but there are some annoying things about it too. Unlike co-op, it does take involve platforming, which helps set it apart from almost all online shooters. Adversarial definitely isn’t half done or throwaway, like many gamers feared when it was first announced.

Sadly, many of the PS3’s exclusives have been falling way behind the sometimes insurmountable hype built up for them. Luckily, in this case we have a game that meets it and has become the new standard in cinematic single player campaigns. In the same way many gamers hope a game’s multiplayer will be as good as COD4’s and in the same way developers wishes their game could meet it, Uncharted 2 has reached that level of prestige with it’s near perfect campaign. That along will fun and intense co-op and an adversarial multiplayer that’s a good break from standard corridor shooters, Uncharted 2 is one hell of a package.



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