|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Naughty Dog||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 13, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-10||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Perhaps no other franchise on the PS3 so readily defines the console as does the Uncharted series. The original game was, without a doubt, one of the prettiest and most engaging action-adventure games ever produced. Flash-forward nearly two years, and Naughty Dog has put together an astounding title that sets a new standard for adventure gaming. In fact, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is so polished, action-packed, multi-faceted, and enjoyable that it has, in my mind, spawned a new genre: interactive cinema. If you own a PS3, it's is imperative that you go out and get this game. If you don't own a PS3, there's never been a better excuse.
First and foremost, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a single-player adventure. Once again, players take on the role of Nathan Drake, a mercenary treasure seeker, this time in search of Marco Polos treasure-laden, lost fleet. After pulling off a heist to recover an ancient map, then cooling his heels in Turkey, Nate globetrots his way around the world in search of fabulous wealth. Somewhere along the line he discovers a plot that runs far deeper than the accumulation of riches, and Nathan Drake becomes embroiled in a struggle with a madman and his mercenary army. Naturally, Drake emerges from his chrysalis, leaving behind his petty, thieving persona and embraces his true, heroic nature. The way in which the narrative is presented in Uncharted 2 is without peer in the gaming world. The smart, twisting, intrigue-filled story is so engaging, youll often get lost in the cutscenes and the action its as if youre watching a summer blockbuster. This cinematic adventure is truly game-changing.
Gameplay in Uncharted 2's story is quite varied. Players will partake in adventure platforming, gunplay, and puzzle-solving. These three components are perfectly blended so that gamers never feel bogged down in any one activity. The platforming segments, while linear, are as enjoyable as any other platform-intensive adventure (i.e. Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider, etc.). Level design is particularly good, as a clear path presents itself naturally to the player. While some may long for a more open-ended, less railroaded approach to platforming, I think such an scheme would have been tedious.
What's more, the shootouts in Uncharted 2 completely make up for any objections some may raise concerning the linear approach during platforming. While pitched battles will still be presented, this time around players can use the environment in its entirety to fashion a combat strategy. In other words, hanging from sign posts and ledges, taking refuge behind a car or sandbag wall, sneaking from cover to cover to perform stealth kills, and going balls-out while hucking grenades and slinging RPGs are all possibilities - you essentially get to choose and shape the arena-like battlegrounds to your strategic whim. Firefights in Uncharted 2 are a whole lot more fun than that of the original due to their far more complex and malleable nature. Additionally, there are four initial difficulty settings (with an unlockable fifth echelon), so adventure gamers of any skill level can get the perfect intensity of challenge without feeling bogged down or untested.
The puzzle-solving segments, while fewer in number than its predecessor, take up fully one-third of gameplay. Puzzles are often cleverly set up and are satisfying to resolve, without ever fully testing your little grey cells. This keeps the pacing up. Puzzles also feel natural within the context of the plot. Rather than just hitting switches and lever-pulling (though there is some of that), more context/location-sensitive mechanisms are used that keep you entrenched in the setting. That being said, intellectual gamers used to ripping through point and click adventures on the PC will likely find the puzzle-solving portions to be trite and pedestrian. However, the vast majority of gamers will enjoy never getting stuck but still having to work things through cognitively. My overall feelings concerning puzzle portions of the game is that they break up the rest of gameplay nicely, reinforce the cinematic approach, and are well-paced - I just wish there were a few more to work through scattered throughout.
Outside of this well-implemented and clever gameplay triad, the presentation in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is beyond compare. This game is so good looking it often seems as if you're watching a Pixar animated film. This is certainly true during the glut of gorgeous cutscenes, but it also holds up tremendously well during actual gameplay. Explosions, textures, animations are nearly real - animations, especially, are indescribably natural. The environments look lived in, time-worn, and beautiful - several times I stopped and panned the camera around just to scan the vistas and analyze the foreground; Uncharted 2 is visually breathtaking in every way, and it runs silky smooth at 720p. The only extremely minor complaint I have concerning the graphics in Uncharted 2 is the way cutscenes are loaded. Though only for an instant, transitions between gameplay segments and cinematics make the entire screen go black. While overall this is but a trivial quibble, when compared to the rest of the lavishly polished presentation, it does serve as a relatively harsh reminder that you are playing a game rather than participating in interactive cinema.