Sunday, January 31, 2010

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review

Call this delayed, but at least it will be worth it. We're going to start off a new type of review today with a very special game, Naughty Dog's Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, sequel to 2007's Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and considered by many publications to be 2009's Game of the Year. But what make's this review different, you ask? This is VFH's first ever two-person game review!

Much like certain This Week In features, two-person game reviews will be divided into categories, with each reviewer giving their thoughts. To differentiate, my (JDW's) text will be default black, while Zach's parts will be in red. Let's get to it!

Uncharted 2 brings us back to the story of adventurer and smart talker, Nathan Drake, who has just woken up, bleeding, in a train hanging off of a cliff. What a way to start the game! You'll soon find out why, meeting both new and familiar faces along the way. Personally, I think the story of Uncharted 2 was really nice, it seemed a little more thought out than the first game, and thanks to the cinematic experience, was aided by the use of flashbacks and proper chapter cuts, making it feel more like a lengthy TV series or a movie, rather than just an adventure game.

Among Thieves delivers a similar story to its predecessor. It is filled with exploration, discovery, and twists. You start out with Drake and a couple of compatriots pulling a routine heist, but it soon evolves into something much more; an epic quest. The story flows fairly well from one environment to the next, where you may meet some familiar faces. However, I felt that it started to drag on towards the end, where the same thing kept happening again and again. You explore a new area/puzzle, and then the enemy finds you and you have to fight and run away. It was starting to get dull.

Among Thieves plays just like Drake's Fortune, only better. But how do you make it better? Well for one, Sixaxis controls are optional now; so if you weren't a fan of angling the controller to toss grenades, turn it off (I was used to it, so I left it on), and the parts where you had to cross logs or other beams no longer makes you balance Drake out, which cuts the frustration level. Also great is that a lot of the game plays out in a cinematic fashion, like when you're being gunned down by a helicopter while trying to navigate through a train, not getting through certain parts on time will result in you blowing up. It's a not a time limit, per say, but I felt it made the game much more immersive.

What I also appreciated was the improved Medals system. While the first game had Medals (which eventually were patched to earn Trophies), the ones this time around are a bit better. Not only do some of them earn Trophies, but there's some non-Trophy ones as well that make you play in a way you wouldn't have thought of. Granted, it'd be nice to get Trophies for all the goals, but, whatever, at least I can still earn unlockables from it all.

If you played the first Uncharted, then you will be ready for Among Thieves, as the gameplay is nearly identical. It is a third-person cover-shooter with a little puzzle solving on the side. There are plenty of moments for stealth, as it is better to attempt to take down a room of soldiers without anyone noticing, rather than going in shooting, however, when one enemy does happen to see you, the game isn’t over. You simply need to stay behind cover and take out the remaining opponents. They will lob grenades at you from time to time to get you to move around, but it isn’t too difficult. However, if you plan to run around without taking cover into a swarm of guards, you’ll be restarting very often.

Aside from the shooting, you’ll be doing a ton of climbing around buildings and solving relatively simple puzzles in order to continue on your path. Most climbable objects are highlighted in an obvious yellow or other bright color, but others aren’t. After playing the game for an hour, you’ll start to pick up on what is climbable and what is not, although there will be times when you run around aimlessly trying to figure out where you’re supposed to go or how you’re supposed to get there. There is a hint system, although it isn’t the most helpful.

Most of the time I spent in Uncharted 2's online multiplayer was actually during the beta test, but I can say from what I've experienced now that it's very much improved. You have your stan deathmatch, team deathmatch, king of the hill, and a few other modes that I'd rather not deal with explaining; there's even a machinima mode for creating custom movies! But the most fun I've had online is the co-op, which allows up to three players to cooperatively play through adjusted parts of the story mode. Adjusted as in, the map's basically the same, but the scenarios are adjusted to fit 2-3 players. Only issue is that a good percentage of PSN gamers lack a headset (I'm guilty of this) and communication may be an issue.

I have only played team deathmatch so far, but it plays just like the single player. You have a gun, with others scattered around the map, and you try to kill people. It takes a minute to learn each map, but finding out where the good guns are placed takes longer. Playing against more experienced players will obviously put you at a disadvantage, as they will quickly pick up the shotguns and RPGs and leave you empty handed, waiting to be pulverized. You also have two perk slots, where you can purchase and then equip a perk. You unlock more as you rank up and they do an assortment of different things, like giving you more accuracy, or the ability to see through walls.

Back in 2007, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune showcased the PlayStation 3's graphical power, two years later Uncharted 2 isn't that much different. There's a bit more detail and particle effects to the environments, and it's still lush with color, which isn't something you see often this generation. What I also really enjoyed was the level variety, unlike the first game, where you spent all game in the jungle... until the very end. This time around you go from the sewers in Istanbul, Burmese jungles, a Nepalese city, the snowy mountains of Tibet and more, which really makes the game's graphical engine shine, instead of just showing the same place.

The graphics in this game are very similar to the first game, but that isn't a bad thing. The environments are lush and vibrant, and the character models are very good. The animation is pretty top notch, and you are slowed by piles of snow or deep water, and the effects, like a wet shirt, are noticeable and a good little touch. The graphics alone won't completely blow you away, but coupled with the storytelling and score, it all comes together for a great package.

The sound design in Uncharted 2 is pretty fantastic. It's got a great cast that fit's the characters they're portraying, the emotion feels real, and the soundtrack rivals many a Hollywood feature. Put all of that together with the great cinematic look and feel of the game, and you've got an experience more fitting of a TV drama than what you'd expect to see and hear in a video game.

The story is presented via cut scenes which are voiced very well. All of the characters are believable and their voices match. I can’t complain about anything in there, but outside of the cut scenes, enemy exclamations are repetitive. And Nolan North’s voice is becoming more and more apparent to me in other video games….it’s odd.

Final Thoughts
I finally played the first Uncharted right before Uncharted 2 released this past November, which explains why this is a bit late. I loved the first one enough to want to play the second, and I was glad to see that the whole experience was very much improved, from the gameplay, to the graphics, to the score, all better. Sure, not everything is overly improved, but the game is definitely a step above the first, and certainly one of the best releases on PS3 and one of the best games released in the last decade. The online multiplayer adds to the experience once you finish the single player, but it may not be for everyone.

Overall, Uncharted 2 is a great sequel. It has everything the first game had, and a bit more. If you enjoyed the original, then this is simply another adventure that you will get to explore with familiar characters. However, if you didn't like the first, then this one wouldn't change your mind, as I believe it to be very, very similar to its predecessor. Granted, I haven't played the first in a very long time, so ask Jared what you think, but I believe they didn't add much to it, aside from the multiplayer, which has the possibility of hooking players in, assuming you don't already play something like Modern Warfare 2...

JDW's Score: 9.5/10
Zach's Score: 9/10

Overall Score: 9.3/10

Well this one's a bit delayed, but it wouldn't be the first time we've given out a VFH Seal of Approval a couple months late. Personally, I can't say I've thoroughly enjoyed another PlayStation 3 game this generation as much as Uncharted 2, except for Metal Gear Solid 4. I mean, other exclusives like the first Uncharted, LittleBigPlanet, and others I really enjoyed, but at the same time there would be things in those games I really didn't like. Uncharted 2 really is a near perfect game, and should be experienced!

1 comment:

Fun play online said...

Hey, I've truly enjoyed the original and would love to give the sequel I go. Thanks.