"Uncharted 2: Among Thieves": Game Review for PS3

11/24/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, David Voyles

Developer Naughty Dog proved to the world in 2007 that they could deliver a well refined and polished product. The huge success of "Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune" quickly launched protagonist Nathan Drake as the defining character for the Playstation 3 platform. Its predecessor, "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves," picks up where the first one left off, doing everything the first one did correctly--and blowing the doors down along the way.

With expectations rising and the pressure building, Naughty Dog answered the call and improved every aspect of the original, while including an excellent multiplayer campaign as well. In short – "Uncharted 2" is phenomenal.

The game begins in present time but only briefly, until it operates as a series of flashbacks leading up to the present scene once again. Taking place roughly one year following "Drake’s Fortune," Nathan Drake and friends are at it again, this time in search of the unfound treasures of Marco Polo. Drake’s adventures will take him to an immensely diverse array of locations, including South America villages and forests, frozen tundra, trains, Aztec Villages, and ancient temples. This provides for incredible pacing which does an excellent job of holding the player’s attention, until three-quarters of the way into the game, when it begins to come to a lull for a bit.

One of "Uncharted’s" numerous strong points is the incredible acting and production value. The dialogue between characters, along with their motion-captured actions, are single handedly the best ever seen in any for of digital entertainment. I often found myself wondering if I was watching a Hollywood film or playing a game.

Nolan North returns as the voice of Nathan Drake, and many player’s will recognize him from his plethora of appearances in other games, including "Halo 3 – ODST," and "Dragon Age: Origins." Other characters, including Sully and Elena, reprise their roles as well. The dialogue is believable, Nathan just oozes with charisma, and characters constantly have interesting conversations which display both their unpredictability as well as their justification for being on such a journey. You really begin to feel empathy for the characters as their adventure moves along. Currently, the presentation is unmatched and I believe it will be for years, at least until the third title arrives. Similar to the first title though, the lore and legend of the tale does begin to become a bit obscure toward the end, and puts a bit of a damper on the story’s credibility.

Graphically, "Uncharted 2" is a powerhouse. This is hands down the best looking title on the Playstation 3, and while it is not "Crysis" on the PC, it certainly gives it a run for its money. Naughty Dog used the same engine from the original, but greatly improved it to provide some of the most vivid and breathtaking environments seen in a title. The locations are sprawling with lush details and the view seems to reach for days. The lighting effects often provide a colorful hue to the characters and their environment, and moisture is retained within a character’s clothing for a few moments when exiting water. At no point was there any graphical slowdown, and it had my Playstaion 3 working overtime to keep the GPU cool – the fan was on full blast the entire time, but well worth it. Often times, the lines between a cut scene and playable sequence were blurred to the point where I was unaware I had to do anything at all, only to lead to my impending doom. It’s that good.

The sound is top notch as well. Those of you with a 7.1 (or even 5.1) surround system will be enthralled within "Uncharted’s" environments through the uncompressed sound, engaging dialogue, and whizzing bullets. The soundtrack does wonders for the title as well, and helps to empathy for the characters through their trials and tribulations.

Stealth plays a large role this time around too. Using cover behind environments, some altercations can be avoided altogether. Other times, players are rewarded for taking this approach as additional enemies will not spawn if all enemies are killed without alerting others. The cover system has been ironed out as well. The only problems I ran into here were in situations where the destination was not very clear. At times players will be thrown into an environment, unaware of what to do: Do you need to take out all enemies in a stealthy matter, survive long enough for a predetermined cut scene to occur, or just avoid enemies until they pass by? A number of gaming ending situations occurred because of this.

The camera also helps to provide a cinematic experience along the way. As tomb raiding and rock climbing make their return, the distinct angles the camera takes often reveal the correct path, albeit somewhat linear at times. Because "Uncharted" offers such a variety of locations to do your raiding and gun fighting in, it seldom gets old. As mentioned before, because transitions between cut scenes and gameplay are so smooth, it is often difficult to tell when you are in one or the other.

The final part of gameplay is of course the puzzles. They make their return here as well, if sometimes a bit too difficult. Often Nathan must resort to his handbook to solve a puzzle, whether it is correlating a color to an element of the earth, and then to an animal, or realizing how particular state should stand. While they are nothing you haven’t seen before, they do break up the run and gun intensity nicely.

Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the multiplayer because I have not played it at the moment.

So how good is "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves" really? Well, if it were a film it would be the summer blockbuster that audiences are talking about years later. This is the best-looking Playstation 3 title out there, with a Hollywood talented cast, unmatched writing and exotic locations. Is it perfect? No, but it’s about as close as you are going to get for now, and currently holds my nod for game of the year. If there is one title you pick up this year, make sure it is this one.

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