So my long wait came to an end this week, as Sony’s bonafide blockbuster Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was released on tuesday. Being that I’m an idiot, and I ordered online through amazon.ca however, I received my copy on thursday (which admittedly isn’t much to grumble about since it was free shipping and they were quite prompt about it.) and have now just finished the single player campaign. And boy do I have a review for you.
It’s important for me to preface here that the expectations I had for this game’s release were immense. I mean to put it in perspective, I had been anticipating the sequel since seeing the initial teaser two years ago. After playing the original I had come to expect a lot since it was easily my favourite action/adventure title of the current generation. Now, as if that weren’t enough, Uncharted 2 stole best in show at E3 for several notable game journalists, and a week before it was release it had a 98% rating on metacritic with heavyweights like eurogamer, gamespy, IGN, and G4TV giving it 90 or higher…yeah, I expected a lot.
So the question is did it deliver on the hype? was all that anticipation worth it in the end? is Uncharted 2 the game to get as a PS3 owner?
The short answer on all of these questions is…well, yes. However it wouldn’t be very fair of me to leave it at that, so let me tell you why this game kicks unparalleled levels of ass.
Let’s begin with the story. The essentials of this one are that your character Nathan Drake is convinced into getting involved in retrieving some artifacts for an unknown buyer. What appears to be fairly inconsequential relic recovered from the ship of Marco Polo turns out to be the key to unlocking the secret of Shangri-La. Discovering this our intrepid hero sets out on a quest to find Shangri-La and recover the mythical Cintamani stone (pronounced chin-tah-mah-nee) which sends him to various parts of the globe including Turkey, Borneo, Tibet, and Nepal. Returning from Nate’s previous adventure Sully, and Elena join Nate at various points, as well as the additional help of Harry Flynn, a fellow fortune seeker and his partner Chloe, as well as the tibetan villager Tenzin who also assists Nate. It’s a plot straight out of a summer blockbuster film, conjuring up obvious comparisons to Indiana Jones and providing all the banter and snappy comebacks to fit the bill. While not necissarily deep or cerebral, the story keeps you interested and does an excellent job of developing it’s characters.
Presentation was clearly a cornerstone of this project’s development when you play. from the very opening sequence you are introduced via a sort of cinematic immersion which serves as your tutorial. As you progress, the story is uncovered mostly through cutscenes however ther is a wealth of backstory to be gained from listening to in game dialogue and via drake’s notebook, which has been beefed up substantially from the first game and allows you to flip through it’s pages, which is both revealing and entertaining as it provides you with a better idea of just who Nathan Drake is. Aside from the story itself, the game delivers on a grand scale to deliver cinematic action and suspense in game. Train sequences featuring a fully articulated train moving through an environment are breathtaking, and camera angles often shift dynamically to provide dramatization to key sequences. The environments as a result have a feeling of realism and life to them as the very ground you are on is moving in sequences where the floor falls from under you or the very building your in collapses. the game also limits the use of quick-time sequences (press X now as you’re watching a video of something exciting happening) and actually puts the reticle in your control as you frantically have to react in real time to over the top action sequences. Polish isn’t quite the right word here, they did something truly special in this game. While very linear, the game feels incredibly engaging, as if you were thrown into the very thick of this larger than life adventure.
Graphically the game is breathtaking. Easily the very best visuals I have seen in a game to date. The environments are articulate and feature stunning picturesque backdrops. character models are interactive and detailed, getting wet accurately when going into the water (as in the first) and piling on snow as they trudge through frigid mountains. The snow I actually have to stay on for a moment, it’s amazing, watching as characters left realistic tracks I was mesmerized as the snow powdered around the characters legs and left it’s traces on your pants. it’s downright magical, and I am actually curious to know what other games have used snow techniques even close to this (references to this will not be acknowledged) because to my mind snow hasn’t really been a big thing on this generations titles. Really, I could go on for a while about this, but I think I’ll just sum up the graphics with this:
I guess most important to discuss is gameplay, which is probably the only real point of contention people will have with this game. Often in the past, Uncharted has been compared to other over the shoulder shooters with cover mechanics (cough, Gears of War) and how little it had innovated in it’s gameplay mechanics. Well the sequel is no different from a strictly gameplay perspective and as such has been open (albeit not nearly as strongly) to the game criticisms. The game does indeed borrow it’s core gameplay mechanics from other successful titles, having a platforming mechanic much like Prince of Persia, a cover and shooting mechanic similar to Gears of War, and a multiplayer format very obviously inspired by Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. However, I can’t stress enough that you cannot find all of these elements in any other game on the market. So really does that not give it originality in itself? Anyhow, to tackle the issue of gameplay more concretely, the game feels very good, offering a stealth element which was absent from the first game, the game features all of the gameplay of the first. You traverse difficult terrain (usually climbing), you solve big elaborate environmental puzzles, you run for cover and shoot baddies when they come at you by the dozens, and you run for dear life as things go terribly awry. The formula works very well, and though occassionally the game will feature sluggish controls when you don’t execute properly, it all handles very smoothly. The multiplayer is also very good, and if you have a PS3 you can find that out on your very own. There is a variety of gameplay modes both competively(deathmatch, capture the flag, territories, etc) and co-operatively (both an objective and a horde-like mode) and the now standard leveling system along with unlockables and perks slots.
Sound is superb throughout, featuring orchestral scores which were actually recorded with skywalker sound (Lucasart, muthafuckas) and voice acting from some true talents the quality is clearly there. As previously stated the game fatures frequent in game dialogue sequences which sound great and are well acted. from the technical side, all the effects are also top notch, gunfire sounds punchy while explosions can shake your floorboards if your sub-woofer is up too loud. I’m not sure how much else I can really say other than it sounds really really good and I was never thinking to myself that the sound isn’t really up to par.
In conclusion I hate to say this will continue what has become an unfortunately lengthy positive streak for me in reviews, just to lay any fears to rest, I do in fact hate a great many things and I promise to spend more time in the future letting all of you know how much I hate these things. However I felt it poignant to post this review today as I have just finished the game and this is the soonest I could put out an open and honest review for your reading pleasure.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: 10/10
Thank you for reading and I also just wanted to note that if you did want me to review…well pretty much anything, feel free to send me an email at: email@example.com