Being the second iteration in an industry proven franchise in which the predecessors had already set the standard so high is never an easy peek to climb. In almost every case across a multitude of IP’s, a sequel never seems to capture what made the original so spectacular. All of those little fan appreciated elements always seem to get lost in translation. Fortunately, for fans of the acclaimed Playstation franchise Uncharted:Drake’s Fortune, this is not the case. Instead, evolving from an already great action/adventure series to an essential staple in the library of next generation consoles as a whole. I can confidently say that come October 13’th, Uncharted 2:Among Thieves is set to climb its way into your Playstation 3 and will not come out for a long time.
Uncharted fronts protagonist Nathan Drake and once again delves the player deep into the comical side of the seedy criminal world sporting shady figures, swindling scheisters, and seemingly impossible odds as he tackles a task anyone else would write off as wishful thinking. One year after the events of the first game, Nate and all of the rest of the lovable ensemble cast have returned yet again in hopes of conquering another historical mystery, in-turn leaving them neck deep in bottomless wealth. This time around, Nate and his companions are after the lost treasure of Marco Polo. However danger chases them at every corner in the form of the insane war criminal, Zoran Lazarevic. From the point of when this not-so-friendly confrontation transpires around a race to the treasure, Lazarevic and his mercenaries are trudging through the same war-torn towns, creepy catacombs, and rigid ice caves that you are. As sides clash and bullets are exchanged, the narrative exploits the race to the treasure as its primary plot point, and shapes to a different mold with every punch thrown and every merc slain. It’s hard to really give away any information about the actual plot itself before spoiling too much, so I’ll leave it up to the player to decide how incredible it is. But you can take my word for it when I say it’s awesome.
This storyline is amazingly executed through cinematic cut scenes that highlight the interaction between believable characters with top-notch storytelling and dialogue. Just the simple bickering between given sets of characters can truly flesh out how unique each person actually is. Everybody seems to be a valuable part of the experience. Simply put, Uncharted 2 puts $100 million dollar summer blockbusters to shame. Sometimes you’ll just stare in amazement at how realistic everything is rendered that you cannot help but wonder “Is this CGI?’ It looks that good.
All of this just so happens to be wrapped in the most visually stunning graphics engine to date. To say that the visuals are great would be an understatement of the highest degree. The first game to this day holds the candle as one of the best looking console games ever. Uncharted 2 is no exception, and absolutely obliterates the proverbial bar of technical polish. Everything from the excellent hand drawn textures, life-like animations (Drake himself has over 10,000 different animations), amazing lighting and particle effects, depth-of-field techniques, 720p native resolution and constantly running at a rock solid frame rate with no dips gives Among Thieves the absolute right to sit atop of the graphical food chain. The difference between the rough surface of a rock and a glistening, mist palm frond can be staggering. Diluted, washed out graphics pumped out by the likes of industry giants such as Halo and Call of Duty were acceptable two years ago, but now that Uncharted 2 has been released, these games look very outdated. Uncharted 2 is the future of where games are heading graphically. Let’s just say that it will be years before corporate cash-in IP’s such as Halo will even come close to touching Uncharted 2. The meticulous attention to detail is very commendable.
The audio is no slouch either, and offers the same superb quality found in Uncharted 2’s graphics. Delivered through amazing 7.1 HD surround sound using lossless audio technology, you will feel like you’re right in the midst of the most frenetically action packed game ever released. The voice work, ambient sound effects, and brilliant musical score put Uncharted 2 over the top by offering a movie theatre experience right in your living room on your HDTV. It’s just a charm to listen to, and will have you embarrassingly humming the theme song in the shower for quite some time. Naughty Dog has gone to great lengths in ensuring the audio compliments the visuals, making the overall presentation drip of quality. This level of technical polish is practically unseen in gaming, and a true testament to the integrity Naughty Dog takes in their games. If there is a more visceral experience to be found in any other game on any other console, I have yet to play it.
Just the environment itself retains a great sense of weight, resulting in a very immersive experience throughout. Playing in water can get you drenched according to how much you submerge yourself, lush vegetation sways in the wind realistically, snow fluffs under your knees making you slower, and trains turning at great speeds force you to compensate for your increasingly hard aiming.
But we all know gameplay is king, and what good would all of this greatness do without accessible, engaging, and purely entertaining gameplay? While the peppering of character development and storytelling between playable segments was already enough to warrant its own motion picture, Uncharted doubles up the order by offering a very satisfying, multilayered experience. Uncharted is just so much fun when you take in all of the different aspects of the game through the entire experience. The game consists primarily of gunplay, platforming, and puzzle solving with the occasional on-rails shooting, stealth, and quick time events implemented here and there. And while all of these elements are simply perfected upon from other titles, the combination of the three seamlessly flow together enough to offer something new and innovative. There is nothing out there that plays like Uncharted. The way all of these different segments are paced is perfect to say the least. The intuitive, on the dime controls don’t hurt either. They’ve refined many of the lacking aspects in Drake’s Fortune, including the Sixaxis grenade mechanic in favor of a more accurate analogue version, added a reticle for blind fire and hip-fire, changing weapons while aiming, And as I mentioned, the incredible storyline and characters was already enough for Naughty Dog to separate themselves from the crowd, but the gameplay additionally helps in this regard. It may not bring much new to the table in the context of singular features, but it does a damn good job perfecting a formula other games wish they had. If only there was to take advantage of all of this after your 15 hour slide through the story was over…
Oh, but there is. One harsh criticism of Drake’s Fortune was the absence of any competitive or cooperative multiplayer, essentially making the otherwise blast of an experience short-lived. Well, you can lay both of those arguments to rest, as Uncharted 2 now features both. I simply cannot put enough emphasis on the bevy of multiplayer options available to the player, as it would do no justice. But I will say this; When a game offers five on five competitive play, 8 maps, 5 adversarial game modes, 3 co-op modes, an in-game upgrade/cosmetic store with an extensive amount of content to choose from, in-depth progression/ranking system, no lag, and a perfect visual transition from campaign to online, how can you go wrong? Little features like cinema mode are just icing on the cake. Fragging your friends and pulling them off cliffs never gets old, and reliving those moments is a huge plus. There are just so many shining superlatives to be said for the multiplayer, that I’m in question whether or not Modern Warfare 2 will be the shining crown jewel it’s alleged to be. The multiplayer in Among Thieves
When all is said and done, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves merits every single accolade it receives. It is a finely crafted milestone in sheer entertainment as a whole. Sporting a remarkable tale to tell, tight, responsive gameplay, and an endlessly intriguing multiplayer component all wrapped in gorgeous graphics, what reason is there to not own Uncharted 2? It offers everything a gamer wants. Forget Game of the Year. Forget the greatest game of all time. This is an unrivaled achievement in interactive entertainment.