In 2007 Naughty Dog introduced us to their new IP Uncharted and it was well received. It blended Tomb Raider platforming/puzzles with Gears of War style shooting sequences all wrapped up with an Indiana Jones inspired story. One of the things that made Uncharted stand out was it’s character interactions during cut scenes were great, but it was the dialog during the gameplay itself that gave life and personality to each character. Now it’s been 2 years and Naught Dog has graced us with the sequel which exceeds all expectations with a faced paced singleplayer and a newly added competitive and cooperative multiplayer.
Keeping spoilers as minimal as possible I’ll start by saying that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves takes place a year after the first game with Drake searching for the lost fleet of Marco Polo. Drake is joined by the terrible gambler Sully, the feisty reporter Elena, and newcomer fellow thief Chloe. There are many more locations you will travel to in the game which help keep the pacing frantic and exciting. The story is well written and makes a little more sense than the first game. Any story will fall flat on it’s face without character development, and it’s safe to say that Uncharted 2 oozes character development. Each character always has something to say and it speaks volumes for who they are. The interactions within the scenes all feel real and nothing feels out of place. Drake’s dialog during gameplay segments also helps provide more insight into his character as well as the other characters you’ll fight with.
The gameplay in Uncharted 2 consists of gunfights, platforming, and puzzles. A lot of the problems with the first game are fixed here with the controls feeling much tighter and all the animations blend perfectly together. The shooting feels better than the first game and the gunfights can get pretty intense. You can take cover, blind-fire, slide into cover, roll around and it’s much more fluid this time around. During these shootouts you will be at the mercy of the AI. In the first game the AI was actually pretty smart, but at times you could tell they weren’t the brightest crayon in the box. This time around the AI will try to flank you, take cover, toss grenades with frightening accuracy, and at times try to rush you. The AI for your allies is just as intelligent as well. They’re never a nuisance to have around and will take cover in smart spots, climb walls without problems, and even help taking some enemies out. Although I will say at one moment at the end of the game I was patiently waiting for these enemies to kill each other off but Chloe decided that she’d rather fight them with her pistol and force to to join in with half a clip left in my M4, one grenade, and no rounds for my pistol. We didn’t make it.
A new addition to the game is a stealth move that you can perform by sneaking behind an enemy. Now you may be remembering that this was in the previous game, the way that it differs this time is that there are moments in the game where you can take out an entire area of enemies by using stealth which is a welcome addition. Of course you don’t have to use stealth and can pull out your gun and just pop caps in everyone’s ass if you play that way. This is accompanied by a variety of moves like pulling enemies off walls or pulling an enemy over their cover and kill them. There are a few different animations for each move so they never truly get old. One of the problems from the first game was it’s melee combat, but you can rest assured that Naughty Dog has taken the time to fine-tune and make it fun this time. While the first game was a very linear experience with only one way to reach your objective and waist high walls scattered around the level, Uncharted 2 fixes all of this. While it’s still a fairly linear game Uncharted 2 gives you much more variety with how you tackle your objectives. You can duke it out with your enemies on the ground, try to flank them by moving from cover-to-cover, or you can climb up various objects and use the height to your advantage.
The final addition to Uncharted 2’s gameplay are the puzzles. I noticed that there are a bit less then the previous game, but this balances in the fact that the puzzles are much more difficult this time around. Drake’s journal is back but this time you can freely open it and flip to whichever page you need, some puzzles even require you to check other pages for clues. Naughty Dog really went to town crafting Drake’s journal and it shows. Scattered among it’s pages are notes from the previous game, drawings Drake made that will cause quite a chuckle, and it updates with new pages every so often in the game.
This time around Naughty Dog have included cooperative and competitive multiplayer with Uncharted 2. This is quite possibly one of the best multiplayer experiences out right now. Cooperative multiplayer includes 2 different modes. The first tasks you and 2 friends to face wave after wave of enemies akin to Gears of War 2’s Horde mode except the catch this time is that the round is over once you transfer the golden idol on one end of the map to the other. The other mode is your traditional cooperative mission except instead of playing through the game with 2 other friends Naughty Dog has taken segments out of certain chapters of the singleplayer and each one has a specific overall goal at the end be it finding the treasure or blowing up a tower. One difference is that the enemies aren’t in the same locations from the singpleplayer game, and instead come in hordes from each direction. Communication is key and no level is more evident of this than the last coop mission where there are snipers perched all over the rooftops, grunts spilling into the fight, and shotgun wielding brutes with body armor.
Competitive play has your traditional team deathmatch, king of the hill, deathmatch, and turf war where you and another team battle for control over various zones of the map. Naughty Dog has put their spin on capture the flag by turning the flag into a big golden idol. You must carry this to your base to get the point but at the cost of moving slower and only able to use your pistol. Another addition is the fact that you can toss the idol to either an ally or just to allow you a moment to run. This also means that the idol can be in a hole or up high on a ledge which brings me to the fact that climbing makes a perfect transition to multiplayer. You’ll find yourself scaling buildings or jumping from ledge to ledge while frantically fighting the other team. Tossing enemies over ledges, kicking enemies hanging on ledges, and pulling enemies over their cover to snap their neck all come to the party in multiplayer as well. Let me tell you that nothing feels more satisfying than grabbing an enemy from a ledge and tossing them over to their death. While playing you’ll earn cash for completing matches and bonuses for getting any medals, these in turn count as both the experience you’ll use to go up the 60 ranks and the money you’ll use to buy items in the store. You can buy different villain or hero skins in the store, perks that boost skills, upgrades for the weapons while playing coop, and taunts. Let me correct myself; nothing is more satisfying then hiding behind a wall during turf war and tossing a grenade into a group of enemies who were capturing a zone then running up to their dead remains and performing the ‘kiss’ taunt. Extra points if the other player has a mic since you’ll either get a player to laugh at it or throw a temper.
Uncharted 2 is gorgeous. That’s all I have to say and if you need further explanation I suggest you play the game.
The Final Word
If you haven’t gotten the hint by now you need to go buy Uncharted 2. Naughty Dog has created an amazingly polished and gorgeous game that still blows me away while playing. I forgot to mention that whoever designed the camera angles is an absolute genius. The campaign will last you a good 10 hours which will be much more if you decide to try the higher difficulties and attempt to acquire all 101 treasures plus the medals to unlock. Uncharted 2 is one of, if not the, best game you will play all year and I quote Adam Sessler by saying that “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the best singleplayer experience I have ever played.”
-MonsterVine Rating: Excellent