Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

November 5, 2009

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is one of the finest PlayStation 3 games available on the system. The writing is great, the characters are likeable and well-developed (well, the heroes are likeable anyhow), the shooting feels great, and the set piece battles felt like scenes ripped straight from a movie. Uncharted 2 managed to take all of those positives, polish them just a little bit more, and add in two excellent multiplayer modes. The single-player experience is wonderful and worth replaying on higher difficulties, and the multiplayer – particularly Uncharted’s take on Gears of War 2’s Horde Mode and Halo 3: ODST’s Firefight – is great.

Uncharted 2 has a bit more focus on platforming than its predecessor did, and it all manages to feel organic. You’ll explore a museum in Istanbul, ancient ruins in Borneo, run-down and crumbling buildings in Nepal, and ice caves in the Himalayas. Naughty Dog has clearly been watching and paying attention to their Indiana Jones movies as the locales are larger than life and areas are clearly designed with blockbuster moments in mind.

As you globetrot from place to place you’ll undoubtedly need to shoot some of the big bad’s hired mercenary’s as you try to catch up with him. All of the weapons from Uncharted 1 make a return for the sequel, and there are even a couple new ones to play around with. Nate can still only hold one pistol and one rifle (or shotgun), but the way grenades are handled has been changed. You won’t need to select them anymore. Simply aim your gun and press L2 to lob a grenade at your crosshairs. Or hold down L2 for the familiar throw arc and release the throw. The change is a small one, but it really made me consider using grenades much more often. And there are plenty of baddies to use them on – I recommend using them on those that carry riot shields personally, but they work well on everyone if you can aim your throw properly.

The story, which I won’t spoil for you, features a lot of boss encounters. The jet ski sections have been replaced with epic fights that are more fun than frustrating, and while you will almost assuredly die on your first time through it will always feel like it was your fault and not the game’s. Naughty Dog has retained the challenge of the original Uncharted while removing the frustration that comes with clearing a room only to have more baddies spawn behind you for no reason. This time around when you clear a room it stays cleared, but it’s more difficult to take care of everybody in the first place. To help with that Drake has easier access to more powerful weapons. I was picking up Desert Eagles and Moss-12 shotguns shortly after the tutorial was over. And when you run out of ammo for those it feels perfectly natural to fall back on the AK-47 and pray and spray until a better gun comes along.

The medal system is back as well, and earning medals in single player and multiplayer earns you money to spend in the store. This is where you’ll buy things like character skins, weapon upgrades for multiplayer and infinite ammo weapons for single player. Even more than tying many of them to PSN trophies, having and in-game reward scheme really makes it fun to unlock the game’s various medals.

Multiplayer is a new addition from Drake’s Fortune, and whether you prefer competitive or cooperative multiplayer, Uncharted 2 has you covered. Cooperative multiplayer has you beating back wave after wave of villains while using your platforming skills from the single player to collect treasures and complete other objectives. Competitive multiplayer takes the core single player gameplay elements – the excellent shooting and platforming – and turns you loose in team deathmatch, plunder, elimination, and chain reaction. Team deathmatch is exactly what it sounds like – one team is heroes and the other villains; the first team to 50 points wins. Plunder is the Uncharted 2 version of capture the flag where each team tries to grab the treasure in the middle of the map and return it to their base. Elimination is team deathmatch with no respawns; the first team dead loses. Your team wins the match if you manage to take the other team completely out three out of five times. Chain Reaction is interesting because each team has a different objective, or at least a different objective order. There are five flags on the field. One team works from flag 1 to flag 5 while the other team works from flag 5 to flag 1. It’s still in your best interest to take the other team out, but a high kill count is not required to win the match. Split-screen is not available in any mode, but you really want to be watching Uncharted 2 in full-screen. It’s too gorgeous to share.

Uncharted 2 is everything that I want in a game: great gunplay, fun characters and dialog, and a wide variety of multiplayer options. The single player is fair – even on its highest difficulty, the set piece battles make me feel great when I get past them, and it feels like an action movie. Too often video game sequences feel like they were designed only with the player in mind – Uncharted 2 feels like it was designed to be fun for me playing it and to be entertaining for my wife to be watching it. If you own a PS3 and can only pick up one game this holiday season it really ought to be Uncharted 2.

Pros: great medal system, wide variety of multiplayer options, access to good weapons early in story
Cons: no split-screen multiplayer
Plays Like: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Tomb Raider: Legend, Gears of War 2
ESRB: T for blood, language, suggestive themes, and violence

Score: 5/5

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