Uncharted 2: Among Thieves PlayStation 3
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Naughty Dog
With Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Naughty Dog created one of the more enjoyable PlayStation 3 titles. The game was a mix of platform game elements, stealth and third person action sequences. The whole thing was tied together with a promising storyline that started off well but dropped off in terms of quality as the game wore on. Another disappointment were the enemies who seemed able to absorb several bullets before finally keeling over which really added an unwanted feeling of frustration. Now Naughty Dog have given us a sequel and it's easily the best game on the console to date.
In Uncharted 2: Among Thieves you'll once again step into the shoes of Nathan Drake. This time you'll be visiting locations such as Nepal, Turkey and Borneo in search of Marco Polo's missing fleet of ships that were supposedly filled with treasures, amongst which is thought to be the legendary Cintamani Stone, a wish fulfilling jewel of Buddhist mythology. I don't really want to go too much into the storyline because it's one that should be experienced and not told through a review. Suffice to say that, for the most part, it's excellent and many of the first game's key characters return as well as some intriguing new ones who help to spice up the action. The story, which starts very impressively with a gripping train wreck scene, contains several twists and it's entertaining from beginning to end which is certainly an improvement on the storyline in the first game.
The game-play in Uncharted 2 is a mix of Tomb Raider style platforming and Gears of War style cover-based shooting with a sprinkling of puzzle solving thrown in for good measure. In terms of what you have to do in the game, there's not a lot of originality here but that's not a problem because all of the game's elements come together so well and have been polished, almost to perfection. The game manages to remain accessible at all times too. The platform game elements are not at all frustrating. There's no need to make precise jumps and the game is quite forgiving in this respect. The puzzles can be solved by looking through Drake's journal and if you're really stuck you'll be pleased to learn that the game comes with its own hint system (you can disable it if you wish) that will point you in the right direction.
Whilst you can use stealth if you wish (which isn't half as frustrating as it is in most games), there are times when you'll have to resort to combat. There is quite a large range of weapons at your disposal and you'll be pleased to learn that your enemies don't seem able to take quite so many bullets as they did in the first game, before hitting the deck. Most of the time you'll want to make good use of cover and pick your enemies off from a distance. Drake can even fire weapons whilst climbing and hanging which really adds to the experience. There are times when you'll want to sneak up on your enemies and take them out quickly but there are times when fisticuffs are in order and it has to be said that melee combat in Uncharted 2 is very satisfying.
Once you're done with the single-player story, which might take a while as you're probably going to want to play through it multiple times, you can turn your attention to the multiplayer game. Whilst the multiplayer options aren't as impressive as the single-player game, they are nevertheless enjoyable and well worth your attention. There are ten different modes in all: Deathmatch, Elimination, Plunder, Turf War, King of the Hill, Chain Reaction, Survival, Gold Rush, Co-op and Machinima. The co-op modes allow up to three players to team up and accomplish set objectives. The competitive modes support up to ten players. There's even a character progression system to keep you coming back for more. You'll also find a Multiplayer Store where you can spend the money you've earned during the course of the single and multiplayer game. You can purchase hero and villain skins, boosters, taunts and co-op weapon upgrades. If there's a disappointment with the game's multiplayer options it's that there is no support for local multiplayer, meaning that it's online or nothing and not everyone has the luxury of a broadband connection that's good enough for online play.
The presentation of the game is excellent. Graphically this is the finest looking PlayStation 3 game to date. The character models look great but I think the various environments you'll visit (the variety of which is hugely impressive) are the visual highlight of the game whether they be snow covered tundra or tropical jungles. The cut scenes, which are shown using the in-game engine, look great but they are never overused. You won't have to sit through long cut scenes in Uncharted 2 because you get to play through all of the epic moments in the game, and there are a lot of them, and it's all the more immersive because of this. The transition from cut scene to game-play and vice versa is as seamless as it could be. The lack of loading screens (I only remember seeing a loading screen when loading a saved game) is all the more impressive when you realise there's no huge install procedure when you first play the game like there is with a lot of PlayStation 3 titles.
With Uncharted 2 being as good as it is, it's certainly pleasing to find that it's quite deaf gamer friendly too, and that you won't have any real problems with the game. The game is subtitled so you'll be able to follow the game's rather gripping storyline. Tutorial information is shown in text allowing you to fully get to grips with the game. You're shown what you need to do. If you have a specific number of explosives to arm for instance you'll see this shown on the top right of the screen. All of the hints are given are in text too, so if you're ever unsure of what to do you can get help without having to resort to the Internet. Incidentally it should be made clear that the hints are only offered if the game detects that you're stuck and unsure what to do next and the hints don't really remove any of the challenge from the game, only the frustrations you may have from time to time when you may not be sure what to do next.
It's difficult to say at this point what effect Uncharted 2: Among Thieves will have on the sales figures of the PlayStation 3. If there's any justice however it could become the game that finally persuades many out there to purchase Sony's latest console. Whilst the game isn't perfect, it's extremely impressive and manages to satisfy as both a single and multiplayer experience. The action is excellent and the storyline is one of the most gripping and enjoyable that I've experienced for a long time in a game. Right from one of the best beginnings in a game to the finish this is a game that will have you hooked. If there's only one PlayStation 3 game you purchase this Christmas, this has to be it.