Uncharted 2 review
The first game was a good foothold for the series to launch themselves into developing IP’s for the PS3 but it wasn’t without its problems. There were a few issues that I had with the cover system and thought that the game was a bit of a hurried combination of the Platforming and Third-person shooting Genre. Disappointingly, with the first game there was no multiplayer something that Gears of War seem to do quite well in. Now this has all been rectified in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
Uncharted 2 sees you; once again, take control of Nathan Drake searching for the mysterious artefact called the Cintamani Stone in the lost kingdom of Shambhala. There are two very welcome returns to the cast – Sully and Elena – plus a few newcomers, possibly a previous love interest for Nathan? There isn’t a dull moment with these three following you over the globe trying to seek out the mystery of Marco Polo’s voyage where 13 ships were lost and 600 people lost their lives. This eventually leads them to Shambhala, a pure Buddhist Kingdome, in which there is rumoured to be the Cintamani Stone, A huge sapphire worth billions.
You would be mistaken for thinking that this title is rather family friendly with all the one-liners thorough the game. This is quite the opposite, near the end of the game; it twists and turns its way through a darkening plot filled with strange mutant beings. The game benefits from the one-liners and upbeat moods from the characters by helping you empathise more with, and build up the characters. I found that the, sometimes, jokey atmosphere also stopped the story clogging down in the darker moments. They are just enough to relieve the tension for a while to enjoy the scenery before the game piles it all back on.
Gameplay is essentially the same as the first game, with Nathan quite happy to execute jumps over high up obstacles that some gymnasts would need a stiff drink before attempting. You won’t have to sink your teeth in far to realise Naughty Dog have been hard at work trying to change the mechanics for the better. They have cured the headaches of the cover system and made the guns much easier to use. They have remapped the grenade button, which always bugged me on the first game, to a more suitable place that fits better with online gaming and general ease of gaming. I found that the game is now handling a lot better with these subtle changes but in no way is it as smooth as in Gears of War; this just gives us something to look forward to in the next instalment.
The riot shield is a new addition to the game and I’m sure that some will like it and some will loath it. It is set up so you can only use a handgun behind the shield but you will move at a snail’s pace, this is okay for some who don’t mind taking it slow and timing their shots well but for Mr speedy Gonzales I can see this being rather neglected. It’s only an optional tool in the game, which opens up a little more varied gameplay for people who want to sneak around. Don’t worry if you’re one of those who like to run and gun, there is that option for you there as well but the run and gun controls are a little twitchy. The game does force you to use this run and gun technique but in an amazingly cinematic section. This could have so easily been another bad QTE and fortunately, the sequence takes your mind of the sensitive reticule.
Unfortunately, the melee combat, I feel doesn’t work quite as well. The punches are too sluggish but this is redeemed by a bar brawl style of fighting that is used when your close to an object, like a wall, using it to incapacitate your opponent. Another thing is the simplicity of the system, which works really well, as depending on where you are you may punch them normally, break their neck from behind or even pull them off a ledge. There is also a counter system, it’s quite easy to spot when to counter, for everyone apart from the most novice novices. You don’t have to like the melee combat as there is always some gun to make use of.
In the first game there were sections that where so irritating when playing through, places filled with snipers and RPG’s and not forgetting the Spanish zombie people. This has been addressed in this game, but not as well as some people would have hoped for. The checkpoints aren’t frequent; this can be quite annoying in the longer firefights. It’s also quite annoying as it’s filled with snipers and RPG people. It would have been better if Naughty Dog relied on clever AI rather than throwing as many people at you as it could.
Fighting is not the only thing that this game offers; there is a good half of the game that is exploration and puzzle based, the puzzles however aren’t the most tricky the gaming world has ever seen, they usually only take a little common sense combined with Nathans journal. Platforming isn’t the worlds hardest compared to the likes of Tomb Raider, but it’s not that easy that it feels like a chore. It’s actually quite good fun as Nathan traverses and climbs the ledges almost seamlessly; in fact, I would go as far to say that the Platforming can be more fun than Tomb Raider. In the unlikely case you can’t find where you are meant to be heading in the Platforming sections, then there is the always handy hint button, press that and it rotates the camera to point you in the right direction.
What makes a game truly stunning are the moments where you just have to step back and say wow. There are plenty of games that only get the basics right, this isn’t one of them. There are plenty of standout moments in this game, for example, the train sequence is truly amazing. This game doesn’t need a cut scene to amaze you either, just stood in the Monastery area towards the end of the game was enough to do it for me. To put the graphics in perspective; the first game raised the bar for graphics on the PS3 and then Killzone 2 rose it further. Uncharted two blew the bar away with, possibly, the best-looking game that’s on the PS3 to date.
It’s not just incredible visuals that this game has to boast about, there is top-notch voice acting, the original cast return from the first to resume their roles. They have kept the standard for the first game with their careful choices of voice actors that fit in perfectly; everyone conveys their lines in a natural way rather than forcing them out like quite a few games do. The script helps with this as well, it all flows and is quite plausible. In sections the script and voice acting made me feel like I was a virtual fly on a virtual wall listening in to a live conversation.
The whole campaign lasts a decent 8-10 hours, that’s if you’re a person that just wants to rush through. For those that take their time with the game there are plenty more hours to get from the game. There certainly isn’t a lack of things to do, even if you play through on the hardest difficulty first time, there is another difficulty level that unlocks on completion. Even if you don’t want to conquer the game on the hardest difficulty then there are treasures to find and there is a whole shop in the single player, that for a small sum of in-game money you can but a ‘tweak’ for the game that mirrors the whole campaign, effectively doubling the single player campaign.
Aside from the single player there is a great little gem of a multiplayer, its complete with Co-Op and several verses mode including: ‘Deathmatch’ a team deathmatch mode; ‘plunder’ a capture the flag mode; ‘Elimination’ a no re-spawning deathmatch and more. To help you in these game modes, a CoD like perk system that give you certain advantages. They have to be bought using the currency you get from the campaign and the money you get from each round you play. The Co-Op is brilliant fun with friends just fighting wave upon wave of enemies. The AI is the reason this works, they will try to circle round behind you and throw grenades to flush you out, it’s almost like you’re playing the game against wave after wave of real people, it’s a pleasure to play and even better if you and two mates have headsets.
Pros and Cons
Uncharted two is so much better than its predecessor, however it still has a few niggles of its own but this game has so many positives that they completely overcome the bad points and make it such an enjoyable game to play. This game will have long appeal and deserves to be played as much on the release of the third instalment as it does today, it should truly be one of the classics of this Generation of gaming.
Written by Chris Thompson @thompson8993