Monday, October 19, 2009

[REVIEW] Uncharted 2: Among Thieves



I've been waiting for this for a very long time. Oh my god, have I been waiting for this for a long time. Ever since I beat Uncharted, I knew there would be a sequel. Call is Gamer's Intuition, if you will.

Uncharted blew me away. I never got into Jak & Daxter, nor was I a fan of Crash Bandicoot. But Uncharted was compelling enough for me to pick it. I'm so glad I did. I became stuck at the last level and gave up, but it was when the Trophy patch was unleashed that I picked it back up and beat the game. Huzzah!

Now, two years later, Uncharted 2 has graced us with it's presence, and I for one can say, it's about goddamned time.


I will strain myself from causing spoilers, so read away, readers.

Where do I start with this...this masterpiece? I have not felt so enthralled by a game since Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube. Considering that came out in early 2005, we only have about, oh, four and a half years on the table. However, there was only one game prior to RE4 that blew me away, way back in 1999. That's right, Ocarina of Time; I bought the game in '99, but it came out in '98, I know. Huge Ocarina fan, here.

To begin, Uncharted 2 begins with you in a train cabin at a 90-degree angle, hanging above a chasm in a mountain range. Drake quickly realizes what's going on, and falls to the end of the cabin, hanging on with that gorilla-grip of his to a handrail. You climb your way up the train, making your way all around, and in, to get to the top. Bloody and beaten, Drake finally gets to the top, but not before making his daring jump from the falling train car. He stumbles over, lays down, and remembers back to why the hell he's in this mess.

Yes, Uncharted 2, for the most, is a flashback. At least for the first 13 or so chapters out of 26. It wouldn't be fair to say "half the game," because the game doesn't remind you that the halfway mark has been crossed. The game is filled with the witty dialogue that you've come to love, by the same  characters you fell in love with, and new ones to boot. Take Chloe for example. Drake's ex-girlfriend, she's come back into his life - with the help of another old friend of his, Flynn - to begin the journey to find out why Marco Polo's journey ended with a sliver of the men and ships he started with. Enter Naughty Dog's rendition of Shambhala, or Shangri-La, the Buddhist Holy Land.

The story is in it's own category. Just like Uncharted before it, but they use a real explorer, as opposed to Drake's ancestor, and give a really damn good reason to think what happened to Marco. The gameplay is out of this world amazing. There is more emphasis on climbing (Chloe takes a stab at the mechanic fairly early on, in my opinion) and a better close-quarter-combat engine. Drake can now utilize stealth takedowns, which is you simply hitting the square button behind an enemy, or in cover and an enemy is at the corner, unaware that you are there. Using stealth in cover is hilarious. In one instance, Drake reaches out, grabs the enemy, and slings him around, cramming his noodle into whatever Drake was hiding behind. Watching the enemy's head slam into the wall is even better when you unlock the Slow Motion tweak in the single-player store.

Naughty Dog has updated the small things here and there. Jumping/hanging/climbing animations have all had tweaks, as well as the inventory selection having a greatly appreciated tweak: grenades are no longer tied to the Up button on the D-Pad, but now you can throw grenades by holding L2 for an on-screen arc to toss, or press L2 while aiming with L1 to chuck one in a straight line, getting you further distance. Although I have a major issue with companies relying on gamers to use both shoulder buttons on the same side - Killzone 2, I'm looking at you - completely destroys the fluidity that Uncharted has, it's only in an instance, and I ended up arcing my grenades more often.

They have also bumped up the treasure count up from 60 to 100, and there are some treasures that absolutely befuddle me. There are some you have to shoot down, ala Resident Evil 4 and 5, which I like the idea, but there is one that is hidden so far up that I remember, you might as well never see it.

I played Uncharted 2 for roughly four days in a row, getting about 19 hours of play time logged in, and scoring the Platinum trophy in the midst. My view on multiplayer - which itself hasn't changed too much since the demo/beta - can be read here. Those four days were absolute bliss.

LOVED
Detail to Environment Naughty Dog knows what they are doing with the PS3, and if they say they're using the PS3 to it's full capacity, I believe them.
Dialogue The banter between characters is an absolute treat, even in co-op multiplayer. My absolute favorite line is in chapter 2, with Flynn and Drake. Scaling the side of the museum, Flynn radios to you, saying "There's a guy above you, there's a guy above you!" You yank him down, and he comes back with "There's a guy below you, there's a guy below you!" Love it.
Stealth Combat There's not too much emphasis on stealth, but there are areas where stealth is your best friend. On my second playthrough, I didn't know I could clear a room of 5 guys - one that I did clear in a hail of gunfire and bravado - using stealth until I tried. Holy shit, did it feel good.
Fight Scenes One fight in particular remains in my mind, where you are hanging from a street sign, and with each wave, you need to reposition yourself amongst the many signs to properly protect yourself from your enemies.
New Weapons One word: Pistole.

HATED
Flashback Replay The train from the very first chapter you climb through? They make you do it again, albeit, at a slightly faster pace. When you reach the top, the game takes over, replays the Phurba dagger cutscene, and you resume where Drake was left at the end of Chapter 1. They really should have made this an elongated cutscene. It was awesome to do it the first time, but it gets annoying to do the same thing all over again.
The Guardians I hate them. I simply hate the goddamned Guardians.

I can't really say anything more than this: If you own a PS3, you should own Uncharted 2. And Uncharted. If you are hesitating, sell your PS3.

A+

Uncharted 2 was played through it's entirety twice, initially on the Hard difficulty setting, and then a Crushing playthrough. The game in it's entirety has been played, proof in that I have earned a Platinum trophy in the game. Multiplayer was not reviewed, as nothing has changed in the formula since the "review" I posted.