Monday, October 19, 2009

The Game of the Generation has Arrived... The Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review

Please note: The videos in this review may contain spoilers, so watch at your own risk as well as the review itself may have some too.

There are so many words I can describe Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: awesome, amazing, epic, mesmerizing, breathtaking, mind-blowing, suspenseful, and lastly gaming perfection. While the first Uncharted was a great start for the franchise, this sequel is everything it could of been in the first place as it is way better than the original. Everything is improved tenfold from the story, the combat, the graphics, and everything else. This game is filled with so many memorable moments from beginning to end that no other game has even matched that same high quality the developers Naughty Dog have put into this amazing sequel. It is better than any summer blockbuster movie out in recent years (yes, I include Star Trek, Transformers, Dark Knight, etc.) Only a handful of games can define a console generation and Uncharted 2 is not only one of them, it is arguably the best game I have played this decade.

The story for Uncharted 2 is pretty simple. You play as the adventurous Nathan Drake as he attempts to solve the whereabouts of Marco Polo and the entrance to the hidden city of Shambhala to find the legendary Cintamani Stone. Your comrades from the first game return with Sully and Elena, who will be around later in the game. This sequel introduces new characters with Chloe, who used to love Drake in the past and a fellow treasure hunter as well having arguably the best looking ass in a game ever. The bad guy this time around is Zoran Lazarevic, a sadistic war criminal that is willing to get what we wants which the same thing Nate and the gang are going after, but obviously for different and evil intentions. The whole storyline is what you expect out of a high budget summer blockbuster movie, but Naughty Dog did a wonderful job of fleshing out the characters as more humanized having true reactions to everything they experience rather than filling up a generic slot. You do get a sense of attachment for these characters especially everything that Drake deals with his Indiana Jones-like persona in which you are motivated to get the task done. Just like the first game, expect a lot of twists and turns throughout the single player journey. Once the story is over, you feel like you experienced the best game and movie at the same time.

While the first game's combat of cover-based gunplay and melee fights were both great, they were both flawed because the enemies took the punishment not realistically. It is fixed in Uncharted 2 with better results. Shooting at the opposition feels very natural now as a headshot is an instant kill with the tougher armored henchmen being exceptions. Even though you face the same enemies throughout the game, it progressively gets harder as the weapons get better too. The enemy A.I. also has improved significantly as they will provide a fight at any time hoping in and out of cover, throwing grenades to make you move, and they will flank you as well so you gotta keep moving to stay alive. Good thing the melee system has improved too with more moves at your disposal to defeat enemies up close especially the stealth mechanic as well choking enemies from behind as an example. Of course other than the fighting and shooting are the platforming elements in which they work fine as well. The amount of puzzles compared to the first game have dropped, but they dropped in quantity not quality as these are still brillantly designed puzzles as your journal is your guide towards completing them. The treasure collecting also return as well being scattered throughout the game to find as there are 100 of them. Also, the checkpoint system is as generous as it has been like the first game too being lots of them and not too spaced out. The developers definitely amped up the action to eleven perhaps even further even though there is a good amount of platforming and puzzle solving.

What sets Uncharted 2 apart from other similar games is the amount of memorable moments and setpieces from beginning to end. At first you may think a certain scene will be just another cutscene, but you are actually this part and living it rather than watching it. With all the epic setpieces this game offers, all you can say is holy *** that was awesome and no other game I can think of at this point can match the intensity these setpieces deliver. From falling buildings, bridge collapses, train hopping, and a crazy vehicle chase scene, Uncharted 2 delivers the perfect marriage of gameplay and entertainment. Especially for highly anticipated games like this, you totally feel like you just want to keep playing to see what happens and that is indeed the case. The game goes on a beautiful and perfect pace spacing out the the big enemy encounters, platforming sections, and puzzles. Sometimes, after completing some of these memorable moments you ask yourself, did I just do that? On the normal difficulty, the game can be beaten in eight to ten hours, which works fine, as the game does get a little tough in the end and it would take longer to beat on hard and crushing difficulties.

Other than the single player, Uncharted 2 does offer a big team-based multiplayer component of a max of ten players that is five on five and it is actually pretty fun being better than most shooters out there today that have multiplayer. Everything that you can do in the single player from the shooting and the neck braking can be done against other players online. The standard modes are there online for players to mess with from deathmatch, elimination, capture the flag (called Plunder), king of the hill, and territory-type games (Turf War and Chain Reaction). The objective-based games definitely have that Uncharted twist especially adding the platforming to all the seven maps currently available. Just like any other big multiplayer game these days, there is a level up system that consists of gaining money by getting kills and medals for certain tasks being done (there is a medal system for the single player as well), a Call of Duty 4-like perk system with boosters giving you special abilities from aiming better with long guns or dropping a grenade after you die Martyrdom style. Also expected for games like this are a party system of letting your friends join along easier and playlist options of what to play from deathmatch-only, objective-only, to ranked games which have their own skill level. If you do not feel like playing against others online or wanting a break from the versus action, there is also co-op with up to three players going through certain areas of the single player game together with somewhat of a different storyline. Co-op is its own thing with different gameplay twists like a multiplier that increases by killing enemies gaining more points and the enemy A.I. also being no slouch like the single player even on the easy difficulty as they can kill you by shooting or by getting choked from behind if you don't get rescued by a teammate. If a player is temporarily down, they can be revived to get back in the action, but if all players die, the team loses a life and starts over at the nearest checkpoint (if the team loses all their lives, the game ends). Other than regular co-op, there is a survival "Horde-like" mode for teammates to mess with trying to survive ten levels of increasingly difficult enemies. The community features are also present from a replay mode that can be uploaded to the official web site, photo mode, and even Twitter support to letting your tweets be related towards your game as a whole. Whether playing co-op or versus multiplayer, you will have a blast online with friends as well as shooting other online players away for weeks and maybe even months.

I had not even mention the graphics yet in Uncharted 2 and how amazing it looks. This is the best looking game I have played in this generation of consoles and it just looks too good. Everything runs perfectly at a smooth framerate even with all the frantic action happening. The environments themselves are breathtaking sights as if they are real and the character models look awesome too showcasing their emotions. Even the draw distance is jaw-dropping when being at a top of a mountain looking at the Borneo jungle below and the top of a building in Nepal looking at the ruined city below that sometimes you just have to stop and look around. The animations also top notch showcasing true human emotion rather than some robotic clumsy moments that climbing ledges, falling off cliffs, and so on. This game is meant to be played on a big screen HD television as playing it in standard definition, you are missing out on the true beauty of this game. It is truly a visual and graphical masterpiece for both the single and multiplayer games.

As for the sound, Uncharted 2 delivers an amazing theatrical quality soundtrack filled with epicness with these big enemy encounters and setpieces happen. It is very orchestral reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie. Not only the music is something special, the voice overs are among the best I heard in a while. They truly nail their characters perfectly like Nolan North reprising his role as Nathan Drake. He makes Drake feel alive like any other normal human being It is filled with so many lines from the in-game cutscenes to even random chatter while walking around and the co-op too. The other sound effects from the shooting and atmospheric sounds are also top of the line too being extremely polished.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is what I call "the game of the generation." It is everything the first game should of been and all the improvements made are perfect. It is definitely a feature-heavy game from the epic single player journey that takes eight to ten hours to beat on the normal difficulty and the endless replay value of multiplayer and co-op with its level up and booster system. I don't think any other game out now looks as good as Uncharted 2 as it is best looking game out in years with the jaw-dropping graphics. In addition, the sound is also the best of the business with awesome voice-overs and an epic theatrical soundtrack. Is it the definitive killer app for the Playstation 3? I think so because it has everything a gamer would want these days, which is a superb shooter that delivers from beginning to end by epic setpieces and intense enemy encounters. Sure, some decisions that Naughty Dog made into the game were not for the better like the stealth section in the beginning of the game and a game freezing bug near the end of the game, but those are really minor complaints. Uncharted 2 is simply gaming perfection and deserves to be played no matter what whether or not you have a PS3... you just to have to play this game to experience the amazing. Lastly, this game is truly one of my favorite games of all-time now.

Score = 10/10

  • Breathtaking single-player campaign (8 to 10 hours long)
  • Epic setpieces to experience that are better than any summer blockbuster movie out this year
  • The best graphics I have seen this decade.
  • Amazing soundtrack and voice-overs
  • Endless replay value with versus multiplayer and co-op
  • Simply "gaming perfection"
  • None - please play this game no matter what whether or not you have a PS3.

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