Starting out this review with the boldest of bold statements seems fitting for this title so here goes. Uncharted 2 is possibly the best game I have ever played. It seems like a tall order and it is not without its faults but when it comes to modern “next-gen” gaming experiences, this has captured the way I have thought games should be unlike any game on the Xbox 360, Wii or PS3 until now.
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The sequel to Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, this title takes everything that was great in the first game and improves on it. The developer, Naughty Dog, has learnt a great deal about storytelling and the way this tale unfolds is so much fun and, at the same time, quite clever. The plot follows our hero, Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter of sorts akin to Indiana Jones or Lara Croft. He is joined by a band of like minded characters and together they set out to find the lost treasure of Marco Polo. The quest takes a drastic left turn as events unfold and a villain is uncovered. The race is then on to get to the treasure before it is used for dark purposes. I am deliberately keeping plot points fairly light in this review simply because i don’t want to give much away. The way the story unfolds and the twists and turns are so enjoyable it would be criminal to give too much away. Sufficed to say, you will finish the game feeling very satisfied and the ending leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling, especially the place they leave the characters. Bring on Uncharted 3.
What is brilliant about this game, and what makes it stand out from similar titles is the storytelling. It is more like an interactive movie than a game but it has all the classic third person shooter and treasure hunter elements in there too. There is plenty of gun play, car chases, shootouts with helicopters, damsals to rescue, monsters to fight and villains to defeat. There are puzzles to solve, fist fights to be had and dark jungles and temples to explore.
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The blending of cut scenes and gameplay are done so well that there is very little difference between the two. All the cut scenes are done using the game engine so once they are over, the character is able to be controlled right of the bat. Also, there are also moments where the action that would normally be reserved for a cut scene happens while you are still playing. An example (which was shown at E3) is during a battle in a building against a helicopter. As the chopper fires repeated rockets at the building to take you out, it finally gives way and the building comes crumbling down while you are still inside. This is in the middle of a firefight with various henchmen so you will need to take them out while guiding yourself toward the only way of getting out of there alive. There are many moments like this where the action is ramped up and the player is in the middle of it.
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All of that wouldn’t be so impressive if you weren’t emotionally involved with the characters. Each and every character is memorable and this is due to the incredible voice acting and the motion captured animation. It also helps that the graphics in this title are one of the best that I’ve seen the PS3 pull off. Naughty Dog said that when making the first game they used about 40% of the processing power of the PS3 and with Uncharted 2 they used 100%. This is clearly shown and the characters and environments have far more polygons that the first title and are rendered with exquisite detail. They don’t suffer from the “dead eyes” syndrome that many video game characters do. Instead they acting comes from how well the facial expressions and eye movements are handled. The voice acting is done so well that when combined with the animation, the game really comes alive and the player feels invested in what is unfolding before their eyes.
It isn’t just the big action set peices that make Uncharted 2 great though. The small details that are thrown in also help build the world. Just as much as the main dialogue, the offhand comments help build who these characters are and the fact that the game is genuinely funny without being overly cheesy is a big plus. What this game does, it makes look effortless.
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The graphics, sound design, direction, animation, character acting, plot development and gameplay are all awesome. However, it isn’t a flawless game. It comes pretty close though. The control system can be a little cumbersome at times depending on the camera angle. Quite a bit of the game involves climbing terrain and jumping from ledge to ledge and from time to time, even though you have pressed the right direction the character still jumps in the wrong direction. Also, the multiplayer isn’t that great – at least not when I was trying it.
There are two types of multiplayer to be had here. One is the co-operative missions where you and a friend work through the game together. That works brilliantly and adds depth to the game similar to the way Gears of War played. However, there is also online multiplayer with games like Deathmatch, capture the flag and whatnot. This plays well too and has the potential to be perfect but we experienced quite a bit of lag and getting into a match took ages or didn’t happen at all. It uses a matchmaking system to put you on an even playing field but it can take an excruciating time to get into a game and sometimes it just sits there and does nothing, forever searching for a game that doesn’t exist.
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However, as much as the multiplayer didn’t work well for me, I don’t really care all that much. There are plenty of deathmatch style games out there to play and this one doesn’t offer much that others don’t. For me, this is a single player or co-op game. If the rest works well for you, then that is an added bonus. The single player campaign is so good that I am more than willing to forgive the multiplayer shortcomings.
With every generation of consoles, there are a handful of games and franchises that define it. With the Xbox 360 there have been quite a few titles that have driven sales of the console and have been quite memorable and even the Wii has titles that are considered “must have”. The PS3 has been largely underwhelming for me so far with very few games that I have needed to own that could only be found on the PS3 or look better on the so-called “advanced” hardware. Uncharted 2 is THE game to own on the PS3. It shows off the power of the console and what can be done with a little ingenuity and creativity. It shows that games don’t have to follow a worn out formula to be successful but most of all, it shows that the PS3 can be fun. This is one game that you will love to death and it will even make you want to go back and play the original, either for the first time or all over again. If you own a PS3, you owe it to yourself to player Uncharted 2.