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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PlayStation 3) artwork

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PlayStation 3) review


"Drake is a kick-ass sort of super-cool guy who seems completely in control whether he's gunning down hostiles, impersonating Spider-Man while exploring vast caverns for treasure or delivering devastating zingers with impeccable timing. Working as his support cast are TWO potential love interests, an equally sarcastic friend-turned foe, a gruff and shady mentor and, of course, a megalomaniac looking to take over the world. The script writes itself."



Since coming out in October of 2009, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has received all sorts of accolades because of how it looks so good and is like playing a movie. I'd agree with that. Uncharted 2 is the video game equal of today's big cinematic blockbuster.

Think of the film Avatar. Released after a lot of hype, it was this gorgeous creation that immediately wowed people with its gorgeously-rendered visuals. It was destined to be a huge hit and it was. But due to its nature, it's also destined to be considered more of a cultural phenomenon than an actual amazing movie -- where people will forever remember the lush environments of its world while its comparatively generic plot and characters get reduced to a confused hodge-podge of "those guys who are trying to take the land from those other guys" and "the heroes who help the other ones".

Uncharted 2 is the cinematic video game equal to that. It looks wonderful and possesses some huge, exotic locales for treasure-hunter Nathan Drake to exhibit his superhuman agility in exploring. But a year after its creation, much like with Avatar, I'm mainly thinking, "It was cool...but what I'm really wondering is what will they come up with next?!?" You know, a situation where my excitement is due more to the potential for true future greatness as opposed to the love of what I have in front of me presently.

With Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog took the tried-and-true Raiders of the Lost Ark formula and, with gusto, ran with it. Drake is a kick-ass sort of super-cool guy who seems completely in control whether he's gunning down hostiles, impersonating Spider-Man while exploring vast caverns for treasure or delivering devastating zingers with impeccable timing. Working as his support cast are TWO potential love interests, an equally sarcastic friend-turned foe, a gruff and shady mentor and, of course, a megalomaniac looking to take over the world. The script writes itself.

To Naughty Dog's credit, they did a fantastic job in making this game feel like a movie. You start with a wounded Drake in a bit of a jam, as he's in a train car precariously hanging over a cliff. Injured or not, he is able to extract himself from that predicament...and we travel back in time to when Harry and a pair of associates were planning a museum robbery. One associate betrays Drake and we're led on a world-wide quest to prevent the traitor and a Serbian war criminal from finding some mystical artifact capable of unleashing devastating power.

The formula works. Just look at Drake's visit to Nepal. An important clue is hidden in a Kathmandu temple, but to get there, you'll have to fight your way through an entire army of the main bad guy's mercenary army. It won't just be Drake leaping from building to building in order to gun down soldiers who are way over their heads -- there are awesome moments like an extended battle with a helicopter that provide heart-stopping exhilaration. When you reach the temple, the game segues from combat to puzzle-solving, as you must take advantage of your hero's insane athletic ability to find the proper levers and switches to actually find the well-hidden clue.

That's Uncharted 2 in a nutshell. You'll alternate between intense action sequences and intricate puzzle levels. At one point, you'll be working your way through a train, one action-packed car after another. A bit later, you'll be navigating a vast arctic temple to find yet another important piece of the mystery. It nearly reaches perfection.

Unfortunately, it felt like Naughty Dog was so proud of what they accomplished, they wanted to make sure players saw every bit of their creation without having to struggle or anything like that. Maybe this is just the frustration of an old-school gamer ("Back in my day, we didn't have checkpoints and only could continue a game TWICE!") and the number of Game of the Year awards won by this game does seem to back that up, but I have fond memories of games where I had to learn levels thoroughly before being able to advance in the game. Here, an overly-generous checkpoint system ensured that I would keep things rolling as long I could stay alive for short durations of time. Hell, once I even advanced by failing.

A great example of this happens reasonably late in the game. A village you'd be staying at has been overrun by the villain's forces and you have to do something about them. Eventually, you attract the attention of a tank and have to take it out of commission. This should have been awesome, as you have to avoid it for some time (you can't damage it; it kills you just like that) before reaching an area concealing a few enemies with rocket launchers. By killing each one, you'll get a one-shot launcher to damage the tank until you've hit it enough times to put it out of commission. This should have been a magnificent cat-and-mouse battle, but the constant checkpoints made it a foregone conclusion, as it seems you reach one whenever you accomplish anything. Once, I damaged the tank just as it shot me. To my surprise, despite dying the instant I wounded the tank, I was given a checkpoint and, well, one successful rocket launcher attack in the books. That just felt cheap.

I had a great time playing Uncharted 2 and it offers more than just the single-player mode that I played (a good amount of multiplayer stuff), so it would well be worth a rental, at the least. But still, a large part of me is more concerned with wondering what awesome creation Naughty Dog will come up with next as an improvement on this game than it is with praising Uncharted 2 as a be-all, end-all pinnacle of gaming.

Rating: 8/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (November 13, 2010)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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