Recently at E3, Sony showcased new gameplay for Uncharted 3 and this, coupled with my lack of reviews recently, drove me to go back and finish Uncharted 2, a game I had put off in favour of more recent releases. Uncharted 2 received a lot of attention upon its release, including 50 game of the year awards as well as many other accolades and has been hailed as one of the best games ever made. This puts me in an interesting spot as I don’t follow other reviewers like sheep. Plus I work for free so can’t be bribed by the game companies, the way IGN is. This ensures a fair review of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
The plot follows our favourite wise-cracking, bad guy Nathan Drake as he goes off in search of the lost city of Shambhala and the magical Cintamani Stone; a giant sapphire with mystical properties. Joining him on his journey is the love interest and sensible girl from the last game, Elena Fisher who seems to have done some growing up since Drake’s Fortune and has become an independent and cynical young lady. New to the mix is this years model of love interest for Drake, Chloe Frazer the new love interest who helps provide a nice contrast to Elena. Where would we be without our bad guy, I mean besides Drake, and Uncharted 2 has thrown in another race for Drake to exterminate, Eastern Europeans, with their typical stereotype Easter European boss.
The game feels like one of those feel good Summer Blockbuster films we see every year with massive budgets and over-the-top, special effect driven action scenes. This is by no means a bad thing as I go to see an Action film to be entertained and not have to think a great deal, just enjoy the ride, and that is precisely what Uncharted does. Everything is done to a cinematic standard with some impressive action scenes, whether it be jumping across carriages on a moving train whilst being chased by a hind helicopter and shot at by half the Serbian military or running full pelt across a collapsing bridge over a several hundred foot drop. It isn’t the smartest game in the world but again it makes no allusions to being smart. It is just there to entertain and on that part, it does its job well.
The Game is played third person, sellotape-your-spine-to-cover shooter style but it has been pretty much perfected since the previous game and with additions like being able to just lean the gun around cover or lob a sneaky grenade without risk is certainly a point in the game’s favour. The hand-to-hand combat has had some changes whereby close fights last longer and you need to be on your feet to dodge enemy swings which is quite inconvenient when you are exchanging punches in the middle of a heated fire-fight but then again, why the hell are you choosing to exchange punches in the middle of a heated fire-fight? Stealth Kills have been improved however, with the ability to grab enemies while attached to cover and silently take them out and some areas are so full of patrolling enemies, being an assassin is almost essential to give yourself a fighting chance when shit does go down as indeed it will.
Now for the game’s aesthetics. As with its predecessor, Uncharted 2 looks beautiful and the whole world feels really believable. The variation of environment from jungles, to war-torn villages, to Tibetan mountains keeps everything fresh as you progress and the music fits nicely to the environment although considering how often it has to change to the combat soundtrack, you don’t really get to enjoy it very often. Overall the game is pleasing to look at and to listen to with a very varied range of voice acting from Drake’s wise-cracking to Chloe’s British sarcasm all done to an excellent standard by the actors.
Uncharted 2 still retains one feature that I liked in the previous game but don’t see very often in games; where you play as a villain but still feel like the hero. Let’s face it, Drake is not a good guy. He steals, he kills, he defiles tombs but he is never in control of the situation when things go wrong and it shows a flaw in the character that makes him a lot more believable than the Iron Maiden that is Lara Croft who happily strolls into gunfights without so much as a shrug. I mean in Tomb Raider 2 a guy turned himself into a freaking dragon and she was not even slightly phased by that? Drake would have probably shit is jeans before making some corny joke and spent most of the fight, getting the shit kicked out of him before scoring a lucky break. It shows a fundamental difference in character which I genuinely like. It shows that not every player character has to be this paragon of virtue and that they can have some flaws.
Better wrap this review up before I go on ranting about all the characters and their personalities. Maybe I can make a future topic of it as they are, in my opinion genuinely well designed characters, even if they are stereotypically Action film beautiful but I think I can forgive Naughty Dog for that.
Uncharted 2 is one of those games you sit down and play just for raw fun. No great deal of mental stimulation is required but that’s by no means a bad thing. It is designed to entertain and it does just that. Some people may accuse me of calling them game stupid but I’m not. Call of Duty is an example of a stupid game in terms of delivery of narrative. Uncharted has a fairly simple plot with some nice twists but it is delivered in manner that is engaging for the audience without dragging and allows for development of character as opposed to going from gunfight to gunfight.
So does Uncharted 2 deserve all the awards it has received? In reflection to what else came out in 2009, certainly nothing I played from 2009 comes close to beating it but then again I haven’t played Arkham Asylum yet so we shall see. Important question is, is it good? And the answer is a definite yes. Its entertaining, action packed and delivers everything you would expect to see in a big-budget action film. I think this game might actually make my very limited 5 star list as I genuinely cannot think of one bad thing to say about it, besides the fact it has multiplayer.