Video game review: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves


In anticipation for Uncharted 3, I review a classic that builds on a classic

A fast-paced storyline, intense action, varied gameplay and dramatic scenery made Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune an instant classic. Even the love story kicked you in the pants! So how do you live up to it?  Easy, you don’t reinvent the wheel, you reinvent the rubber.

Naughty Dog stripped the Uncharted brand down to its skeleton and through each layer, added more intensity, action and bravado. They jacked up the cut scenes, character dialog, and enemies, while keeping the qualities that made the first release great; character development, storyline, gameplay, and graphics.

The main plot follows Drake in his quest to find the treasure of Marco Polo’s lost fleet. Without spoiling anything, the story is full of twists that keep you guessing, deception around every corner and flashback sequences that add another layer to the story.

It’s exciting. It moves fast. And the action moves even faster.

Our hero(s)

Once again, Nathan Drake is easy to like. He’s a high-flying, smooth-talking, treasure hunter that knows how to handle his weapon (oh yeah, that was a double entendre) and isn’t afraid of anything. He climbs impossible walls, leaps extreme distances and kills tons of bad guys.

Drake is generally the same wise-cracking guy he was in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, except they let his true nature come through a little stronger. He’s caring to a fault and shows compassion despite his shady past.

It will be interesting to see how they develop his character in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Will they continue to add more layers, revealing more of the real Nathan Drake?  Or will there be another twist, similar to the introduction of the love triangle between Nate, Elana and Chloe – the most prevalent new addition to the Uncharted family.

And what a welcome addition she is.  Despite her obvious, uh, “assets”, she’s totally bad-ass and uses those assets to sit on the other end of the ethical spectrum compared to Nate and Elana. She also keeps up with the big boys in terms of attitude and gusto, especially the way she handles a rocket launcher. (Oh my god, I’m on fire.)

The banter between the three of them is entertaining and full of interesting developments. The dichotomy between Elana and Chloe add fuel to the fire while questionable motives leave you guessing.

I love you, but stay out of my way!

So much interaction with non-player characters (NPC) can pose a potential problem for gamers. However, Naughty Dog has mastered the art of maintaining action, momentum and smooth control when including NPCs to such a degree in its storyline.

Not only did Elana, Sully and Chloe stay out of my way the entire time, but they proved useful and intelligent through their actions. They fought beside me when I needed them, took cover when they had to and provided direction when necessary.

Other experiences have left me frustrated while an NPC decides to start shooting up a room full of bad guys during a stealth mission, or I find myself endlessly running into them while trying to move forward. I’m happy to report, there’s none of that in Uncharted 2.

Bad, but in a good way

There was also an improvement with enemy characters and enemy AI. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune certainly didn’t fail in this area, but I noticed enemies were a little smarter and little more tactical. They seemed to adapt to strategies I tried, and changed their M.O. depending on my actions.

The biggest, new badass of them all is antagonist Zoran Lazarevic. He’s a Serbian war criminal and he’s mad as hell. His role in the game is more important than the amount of time he spends on screen. Zoran is an epic villain. Like Hans Gruber in the original Die Hard or Drago in Rocky IV, he’s bad to the bone. Big, burnt, and dangerous, he isn’t afraid to make an example of his own men to get what he wants.

In terms of gameplay, Naughty Dog stuck with the working mechanics from the original Uncharted and made a few small improvements to create a slicker, more immersive experience.

 Creepin’ and crawlin’

One of my favourite enhancements was an emphasis on stealth. You had the ability to perform stealth kills in the first Uncharted, but often the opportunity wasn’t there and there wasn’t much encouragement to do so.

For a short period, you’re actually forced into stealth gameplay at the beginning of the game. Without weapons, you must rely on subtle tactics to maneuver your way through an Istanbul museum, past security, onto the roof and into the tower holding the oil lamp you’re after. This is the only time you must use stealth. The rest of the game, it’s up to you to choose the most appropriate tactic for each situation.

If you have opportunity to quietly remove a few enemy soldiers from the equation, your chances of victory are greatly improved. Once you’re spotted, there’s the usual onslaught of bad guys that immediately start gunning for you.

Naughty Dog also beefed up their weapon arsenal. They kept the favourites, and added some big boys, like the GAU-19 and M32-Hammer. I was also happy to see the same, simple weapon selection mechanics as before.

The combination of an expansive storyline, phenomenal scenery, smarter opponents, new gameplay and better mechanics make for one of the best single-player campaigns in gaming history!

So, what about the multiplayer?

After completing the game, you have the option to join other players in a multiplayer arena that’s fast, exciting and a lot of fun to play. As mentioned in the IGN review, the multiplayer alone is worth full retail price!  You have to play it for yourself. Incredible!

Drum roll please!

This game is in my top 3 video games of all time. From the opening scene to the final credits, I felt engaged. My invested time was rewarded with one of the most satisfying endings in gaming history, and I continue to go back for the multiplayer action. This game is a perfect 10!


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