Posted by Tim on November 2, 2009

Uncharted 2: It’s Awesome. Just Buy it.

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Developer: Naughty Dog

u2cover

Some games you just know are going to be good. It doesn’t matter what anyone else will say about the game; whether it’s a reviewer or your best buddy, for some games you can just feel it that it will be a thrill ride from start to finish. Uncharted 2 is that game. Sure, it was one of the most hyped games for PS3 in 2009. Yah, its predecessor, already being one of the best games for PS3, basically laid down the ground work for 2’s success. But beyond all that, from the moment I unwrapped the plastic covering from the game case I knew that I was about to play something special.

And boy was I right. Uncharted 2 delivers one of the most exhilarating game experiences on any platform to date. It has solid game mechanics, an interesting story, characters with a pulse, and graphics that induce salivation. While not perfect, U2 will prove to be one of the best games of the year, and a must have for all PS3 owners. Not much more can be said to praise this game, but to put it simply: IT IS AWESOME!

For those who played the first game, most of the characters will be familiar. The iconic character, Nathan Drake, is once again the star of the show, and once again he finds himself tumbling head-first into a treasure hunt that proves to be much bigger than he first anticipated (why is this guy always biting off more than he can chew?). The story follows him and his quest for riches, with a few twists and turns along the way. This game has everything a treasure hunter expects: betrayal, greed, good guys, bad guys, puzzles, secrets, smoking hot vixens, guns and of course, hidden treasure.

u2partners

There’s not much different about this game in terms of the basic story line than the last game, which as veterans to the Uncharted series know, is definitely a good thing. And if U2 is your first ride on this train, then trust me when I say you are in for a treat. It would have been nice for Naughty Dog to mix things up a little bit more than they did (those who played the first can almost guess exactly what happens next), but ultimately I’m not complaining. As the old adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Besides, the story is MUCH better than almost every other game out there, even if it has multiple similarities to the first.

The story is similar, which may or may not be a bad thing, but the game mechanics being similar is definitely a good thing. The first game showed us how much fun a 3rd person shooter with an emphasis on cover and a mix up of hand-to-hand combat can be. U2 took that idea and tweaked it every so slightly to amp up the intensity. The feel of moving around in the game is the same, but this time around Naughty Dog put even more of an emphasis on the cover technique. There are more things to hide behind in levels, and more enemies that can be covertly taken down by taking cover.

Speaking of sneaking around, that is another element that Naughty Dog chose to emphasize more this time around. In the first game, players could basically get away with a run-and-gun approach, mowing down any bad guy who dares to step in their path. This time, the stealth approach is a must in order to pass some levels; there are even trophies that require you to sneak up on enemies to take them down. But don’t worry about this requirement taking away from the game. It is actually MORE fun to sneak up behind a guy and take him down than it is to blast away with a gun. Drake pulls of some crazy ninja moves if you chose the covert way, which adds to the presentation of the stealth technique.

Other similarities this game shares with the first game is hidden treasures that can be found throughout almost all levels in the game. It’s a nice touch that many games fail to take the time to add. It really doesn’t add anything substantial to the game other than making you play through each level to make sure you collect all 100. The nice thing is that you can pick any chapter to play after you beat the game and it tells you how many treasures you have left to collect. But beware, Naughty Dog took a little extra effort this time around to hide these little eggs. Don’t expect this task to be an easy one.

u2snow

Some of the things I would have liked to see changed or seen additions/tweaks to is weapons and level structure. Pretty much all the weapons in the second game can be found in the first one with a few exceptions. It would have been nice to change things up a bit here, but a minor complaint at best.

My other gripe relates more to games that incorporate puzzle elements into the levels. While putting puzzles into games in order to get through a specific area is usually a great addition a developer can make (we can thank Zelda for perfecting this element). However, there hasn’t really been anything done to progress this feature. Almost all the puzzles in U2 I have seen before: either in the first game, or seem rampant in other games. The fact that the puzzles are similar takes away from their effectiveness to contribute to the level.

Simply put, the puzzles in this game are not hard to figure out at all. They seem to be more of an annoying obstacle than anything that really adds to the game. Expect the same old, move this here, get these symbols in order, push that there, in this game. Again, this isn’t a major complaint, I’d just like someone to try and change this up for once.

Something new the game offers that the first didn’t is a multiplayer experience. To be honest, I had my most doubts about this feature in the game, and I was worried that it wouldn’t be done well, and wouldn’t be that much fun. For the most part I was wrong about that assessment, but there’s no doubt the campaign is more entertaining than the multiplayer for this game.

Uncharted 2 offers two forms of multiplayer fun. There are the typical online team games, and there is the more rare to this generation co-op mode. Both are extremely fun.

The online play has a couple of different games to keep things mixed up. There’s typical team deathmatch, an elimination game, and an objective game where you work with your team to accomplish a task (for example, carry a very heavy piece of treasure back to your base). Not anything ground breaking in that regard, but what makes the online game especially fun is how Naughty Dog kept with the theme of stealth when designing these games. There are plenty of things to hide behind in every level, putting the emphasis on sneaking around to kill your foes rather than just run at them with your hand permanently pressed on the trigger button.

u2multi

Sneaking around adds a lot more strategy and skill to the game. Hand-to-hand combat is also incorporated into the online modes and sneaking up and silencing your opponent with a behind-the-back KO is by far the most rewarding kill in the game. The levels are designed around this theme as well. Other than putting oodles of crumbled walls and crates to hide behind, you can use Drake’s skill of climbing to scale buildings in order to get a height advantage. Once up high, you can jump between buildings to keep your enemies guessing your position. This really is nice, because skilled players can use stealth to their advantage and really rack up their kill streaks.

Unfortunately, the online game play is held back by some fundamental flaws that keep it from entering the ranks of this generation’s best online shooters. The match process is very annoying, as they took a passive approach to joining a game. If you want to just hop in and play, all you can do is click “Find a game,” and the system searches for the best match for you. I personally hate this, as it takes all control out of my hands and makes me sit their waiting while the screen says “finding.” I would much rather be given the option to chose from a list of games than be forced to sit waiting to be matched.

Additionally, you have no option for game size, and the search process waits for your party to be filled in order for the game to start. While not an issue when lots of people are playing online, it could be really annoying if only it takes too long to fill a full game. Not being able to choose different game sizes was a mistake as well.

However, even with these negatives, the multiplayer experience is overall a lot of fun and a great addition to the second game of the series. Some other positives associated with online play is a ranking system that increases as you get kills, certain kinds of kills, headshots, objectives, etc. The ranking system is based on earning money, which thankfully, the money you earn during the campaign mode shares the same wallet as the online mode. Rack up the cash in order to unlock new perks, skins, and guns. New skins and perks become able for purchase as you rank up in class in the online mode. This element really adds to the online experience, and keeps you hooked for hours. However, the online experience isn’t good enough to keep you hooked for hours and hours, yet good enough to warrant a good chunk of your time.

The difficulty of this game is another one of its strengths. It might be kind of weird to say, but the fact that this game is one of the hardest games to complete on its most difficult level is simply awesome. I am a gamer that loves a good challenge; its just not that much fun to whiz through games. While U2 can be VERY frustrating when playing on it’s infamous “Crushing” mode, it makes the game much more exciting to play. It also forces you to use more strategy to clear levels, putting an emphasis on patience and cover. Trophy hunters beware, platinuming this game requires beating it on Crushing mode, which is far from an easy task.

So I’ve talked about all this stuff, almost all of it good, yet I’ve left the best part of the game for last. For those of you who played the first game, you know that Naughty Dog doesn’t skimp on delivering some quality graphics (quite an understatement right?). Following in that vein, Uncharted 2 offers some of the best graphics I’ve seen on any console period. There are a few issues here and there (I think only a handful of times I saw some blurry edges on the characters), but from top to bottom Uncharted 2 sets the bar for next generation graphics. There are levels where you fight through collapsing buildings and bridges, with an insane amount of objects falling all around you. The physics in this game is also top notch, and is shown off in levels where buildings crumble into hundreds of pieces that all move individually.

And Naughty Dog played to their strengths in this game, as you span the environmental spectrum in the levels. You’ll fight through thick jungles, trudge through deep snow, and swim through raging rivers. All of this looks spectacular to the eyes.

u2jungle

Also the lighting is unbelievable; there was a level where you are searching through a cave and when the flashlights span over the camera angle it looks just like a real flashlight does when shining across your eyes (just to clarify, I’m talking real as in REAL LIFE). Water effects were great in the first game, and are great again in this game.

On top of that, the motions of the characters, from hand and leg movements to syncing the dialog with mouths, look better than just about anything I’ve seen. The cut scenes feel like you are watching a movie, not playing through a game.

And the movie feel you get from this game is another one of its strengths. The cinematic production of this game is phenomenal. Not only do the graphics make this game look and feel real, the sound effects rank in as one of the best this generation as well. I’ve already mentioned the voice-overs, but explosions, ambience, and other effects are just absolutely top notch. And the score is so good it puts almost all other games to shame. There truly was enough effort in this game to rank up against some of Hollywood’s best.

What more can be said about this game that already hasn’t? Uncharted 2 offers one of the most exhilarating rides for the PS3. It sports some of the best graphics seen from this generation. It has the cinematic feel of a major Hollywood movie. The addition of multiplayer modes are well received. If you haven’t played this game already then you should go visit your doctor, because there is probably something wrong with you (just kidding…sort of). Naughty Dog has a working formula with their growing series of Uncharted games, as Uncharted 2 shows that it is a serious candidate for game of the year 2009, and is a must play for all PS3 gamers.

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2 Responses to “Uncharted 2: It’s Awesome. Just Buy it.”

  1. John says:

    awesome review, I love the sneaking around aspect too!

  2. Horhay says:

    That was an awesome review! The game is simply amazing!

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