An old review of Uncharted 2 made years ago
gameplay 95 / story 98 / graphics 95 / sound 99
Nathan Drake can never seem to catch a break in his life as a treasure hunter. No matter what the job, something always goes amiss. This time, Drake has to deal with more than he bargained for, and it may very well cost him his life this time around. This is the basis surrounding Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the much hyped sequel to the already impressive Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. A sequel should always strive to be better than its older brother, and Uncharted 2 not only delivers, but also surpasses several other games and becomes a landmark in storytelling, gameplay, and visuals within the gaming medium the likes of which none have ever experienced. Did I mention there’s also multiplayer?
The story starts in media res as Nathan Drake is sitting in a broken train on the side of a snowy mountainside, bleeding heavily and struggling to move. This is a big turn from the seemingly invincible Drake we saw in his previous outing, showing that he’s a little more vulnerable than he lets on. This characterization is one of many moments where we discover the more human side of Nathan Drake, along with the rest of the cast. As he narrowly escapes the train, we get flashbacks of the events that led up to this shocking intro. Drake had set out on a job with former associates Harry Flynn and Chloe Frazer, the latter of which was one of his love interests in the past. The job is to steal an ancient Mongolian treasure from a Turkish museum that once belonged to Marco Polo. He succeeds in finding the treasure, but is then betrayed by Flynn. You later find out that the person funding the heist was a war criminal named Zoran Lazarevic, who seeks to find the fabled city of Shambala, or Shangri La as it’s more commonly called, for his own selfish reasons. Drake must stop Lazarevic from finding the lost city’s secrets with the help of his mentor Victor Sullivan, his former partner in crime Elena Fischer, and also brings along Chloe Frazer, who’s only interest is looking out for number one, or so it seems.
The characters, both good and villainous, are characterized rather well. Drake, voiced by industry veteran Nolan North once again, displays even more uncertainty about the task laid out before him. He figures out that more is at stake than just a simple cash-in, and is therefore more determined to bring down the ruthless Lazarevic. Elena and Chloe are also fleshed out well, as their interactions with one another shows their strained relationship dynamic with the charismatic treasure hunter. Victor Sullivan is also along for the ride, but is just as hesitant as Drake when it comes to moments that defy all logic and common sense.
The cinematic quality seen in the previous game has been improved upon tenfold in Uncharted 2. There are still action set pieces to be played through, but their intensity has made a remarkable increase. You’ll climb through a collapsing hotel as you battle helicopters, escape from hostile enemies along a moving train, and even battle your way through the streets of a war-torn Tibet. Each moment gets your heart pounding and tests your reflexes like never before, with moments you think would be reserved for cutscenes being fully playable action sequences that force you to fight, run, and of course climb your way out of.
The detail of the graphics have also seen improvements. The environments are now more varied and realistic, as Drake and his friends travel through the thick jungles of Borneo, the war-ruined city of Nepal, and the snowy mountains of the Himalayas. The same great water physics make their return, along with the addition of some of the best snow physics ever put into a video game. With very few signs of texture pop-in and absolutely no screen-tearing or framerate drops, you can take the time to appreciate even the minute details they put into each level with care. The same level of care was put into the facial and character animations. Characters no longer look like china dolls, but rather something closer to human, with skin textures and eye movements looking more and more realistic. Same goes for movement, which animates limbs more and creates many moments where how each character moves says a lot about what their thinking, much more than what they say, which is saying something given the trite, but well-rounded script.
The gunfights in the game are still intense, though not at the frustrating levels seen in the first game. You still use the same cover and fire mechanic to take down your foes. But whereas the enemies in the first game took annoying amounts of bullets to take down, in here they sought to increase their intelligence instead. Enemies shoot at you the minute they see your head, they actively seek you out while you’re in cover, and use grenades as much as possible to force you out of a hiding spot. The difference is that they’re not as difficult to take down, even on higher difficulties, requiring actual skill for these sequences rather than simple endurance as seen in most other shooters. There’s even a bit of a stealth element with each encounter, but it rarely gets used as enemies are much more difficult to sneak up on apart from specific stealth focused encounters.
The music and sound are some of the best in any game. The score gets you excited every time for whatever’s going to happen next and even fills in the emotional side of things. The sound, from guns firing, explosions, and even simple footsteps are handled excellently. Nothing sounds out of place, which is impressive considering how much can happen at once within the story.
As impressive as the single player campaign is, the development team felt that this was not enough, and added a multiplayer mode. While I had my doubts as to whether or not this would work, I was thoroughly surprised by it. There are your standard multiplayer match modes, like deathmatch, capture the flag, and elimination, which all use the basic cover and shoot mechanics as in the single player mode. You earn points in the form of cash, which you can use to unlock new weapons, characters, and fighting bonuses similar to the Call of Duty killstreak system. The true shining moment of the multiplayer, however, is in its co-op mode, where you and up to three friends can take on wave after wave of enemies in order to with more points and seeing how long you can survive. Each firefight is just as intense as in the story, only it varies depending on how many players are in a single match.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is an epic video game unlike any other. Building upon the formula of the first game in many ways, the game instantly becomes something much better. A lengthier story with better characters, incredible visuals, solid and intense cinematic moments and gameplay, and a terrific multiplayer all make this game something remarkable and captivating. The intensity of the firefights can become frustrating, especially in later chapters, but the overall package is simply stunning. I urge you to pick it up if you have a PS3. It’ll become an instant classic; I guarantee it.
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