Sequels are a tricky subject to nail in this industry. Finding that line between adding new stuff and classic mechanics isn’t the easiest to balance, so when a sequel is released, expectations are usually pretty high. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves not only decimates these expectations, but it is destined to become one of the greatest sequels (and games) of all time. This is not to be taken lightly given how enjoyable the first Uncharted was.
Uncharted 2 crafts an engrossing tale from start to finish, filled to the brim with thievery, adventuring, and good old fashioned treasure hunting. The content of the story is entertaining and action-packed, without any dull moments, but the real star is the way it is told. Storytelling is one of this game’s many strengths as the believable and likeable characters convey the story in a way in which makes you care. All the characters, from good to evil, will get a reaction from you, whether it be vengeful hate or great respect. A facet of why these characters are so likeable is because they are animated with such precision and voiced so well. They all seem like real people with actual flaws and senses of humor. Speech in cutscenes and more importantly, while you’re playing, helps humanize them and shape their personality. These two areas just aren’t seen in many other games as most games have protagonists who are serious 99% of the time, making them seem more like blocks of wood with automatic rifles than people in a real world. Nathan Drake is still a loveable, sarcastic, halfway asshole, Sully remains to be your cool, semi-perverted grandpa, and other new characters hold up the high standard of great people in this universe. You’ll care all the way past the credits as the ending plays with your emotions towards and wraps up in an extremely satisfying way.
I was getting tired of game after game having a tank blow up in front of me with the intent of me thinking, “WOW, that’s so amazing and new!” Explosions are cool but developers needed to find new ways to make them impactful. Cue up Uncharted 2. I cannot stress how much action is actually in this game. Stuff blows up, but here it feels meaningful. Drake stumbles and reacts by shouting to just about everything that happens, giving it a visceral feel and the “Oh shit, I have to go… now,” feeling. This action happens everywhere from cutscenes (with excellent camera work) to gameplay, which the most significant. Gone is the feeling where you have to watch the cool stuff, because now, you’re playing it. Just about every of the action set pieces could pass as a cutscene but the fact you get to play it raises the bar. No quick time events or button prompts weave an illusion of the action being presented. All the game’s mechanics translate well so you are jumping and shooting to make everything happen around you. Uncharted 2‘s non-stop action houses the many memorable moments in every level that I dare not spoil for you.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune set a solid foundation for the cover based shooting here and was a great first shot at the genre. Naughty Dog took the criticisms some had to heart and improved the gunplay beyond just tightening it up. The anorexic pirates that take a clip to down are gone, but replaced with normal people that take an appropriate amount of bullets to kill. Not everyone is so easily incapacitated though as some foes have extra helmets and armor to change it up and add new threats. These changes are welcome and make combat flow more quickly. A surprising addition, stealth, was added as a secondary combat option. This isn’t Metal Gear Drake, but it is a viable option to silently kill your opponents. Simple and fun, it is a welcome addition to mix combat up.
Aiming is also faster and cover is much more effective, as sliding and rolling into walls always does what you want. Having a cover transition feature gets your ass out of trouble is you accidentally fall onto the wrong side of a wall, something I’ve always longed for. Motion controls no longer hamper grenade tossing, as your explosive pineapples are simply used by a tap of the L2 button. While you’ll still juggle between ammo and weapons on the ground, as the triangle button controls both, controlling Nathan Drake is a smooth experience that stands up with the best in a crowded genre.
This game was released over a year and a half ago and I would still give it the trophy of having some of the best graphics out there. Like God of War III, you can’t resist the urge to admire all of the vistas and other graphical marvels. The technical magnificence extends to having no visible loading or framerate issues. You’re never pulled out of the experience. Everything is smooth and looks amazing, which is no small feat. Texture work deserves a specific shoutout as there isn’t a blurry rock or wall in this entire game. The attention to detail is staggering and I was literally looking for possible mistakes or goof ups. My searches found no such flaws. A lot of games can look good but few can look this good everywhere, even the tiniest details.
You should pick up Uncharted 2 for single player alone but adding addicting multiplayer only sweetens the deal. I feared that the online modes would fall victim to just being a “back of the box” feature, but I my fears were put to rest. Strong shooting translates well to competitive multiplayer, as shootouts are intense. Perks and leveling up (which is the same money pool from single player) hold the carrot on a stick to have you return for more online shootouts. I’ll be the first to say I wasn’t pleased when I first heard online was being added to the series, but I’ll also be the first to stick up for Uncharted 2‘s multiplayer as some of the best out there.
Competitive multiplayer is fun but what about co-op? Similar to the competitive part, I was impressed with co-op. There are a few different modes, all addicting, fair, and challenging. Supporting two to three players in each mode, these modes encourage team work and communication and are a blast to experience. There is wave based survival, wave based survival but with the objective of capturing gold, and pseudo story moments. The latter recreates scenes from story mode but with different scenarios like blowing up a tank or stealing treasure. These are my personal favorite as they are difficult and fairly lengthy.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves doesn’t brag about completely revolutionary gameplay features, because frankly it doesn’t really have much amazingly new. The fact that Uncharted 2 does everything exponentially better than any other game out there and has so much attention to detail is more than enough to consider it an instant classic. It has single handedly set the bar for action games to come by having such addicting gameplay, continuous explosive set pieces, and a memorable cast of characters. Topping this won’t be easy, as Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is set to come out November 1, 2011, but I sure as hell can’t wait to see them try.
+Characters, story, and story telling are all amazing
+Funny, well-written and delivered dialogue
+Fun, smooth shooting
+Many, many set pieces that blow anything else out of the water
+Impressive, addicting multiplayer
Final Score: 10/10