…the video game equivalent of a big budget action flick. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the most cinematic experience this side of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and dare I say the Oscar goes to… Uncharted 2: Among Thieves! Picking up shortly after the events of Drake’s Fortune, fictional treasure hunter Nathan Drake is lured back into the fortune seeking business when his British counterpart Harry Flynn invites him to seek out the lost fleet of Marco Polo which, spoilers aside, leads to a race to find the Cintamani Stone, a priceless artifact thought to be hidden in the mythical Himalayan valley of Shambhala. A cast of familiar faces, featuring old man “Sully” and journalist/love interest Elena, are joined by a host of new personalities, including the sleazy Flynn, a psychopathic Serbian warlord named Lazarevic, and an alluring yet mysterious femme fatale in Chloe Frazer, who makes up one-third of the game’s convincing love triangle sub plot.
Everything. From the captivating story and believable characters, to the thrill-a-minute gameplay, to the gorgeous visuals and superlative audio, down to the surprisingly robust multiplayer suite, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a near flawless experience. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights, shall we?
Among Thieves stays true to the original Drake’s Fortune in that gameplay is comprised primarily of cover-based shooting, acrobatic platforming and puzzle solving, except here they’re executed even better. Shooting is a much tighter affair, featuring an expanded arsenal to go along with a new grenade-tossing mechanic. Hand-to-hand combat, which was previously a weak point, is considerably stronger this time around. Nathan has so many more ways to take down enemies using melee, and there’s more opportunity to use stealth to whittle down the number of enemies in a given scenario.
In the end, though, it’s the “wow” factor that sets Among Thieves apart from the action adventure crowd, moments that stay with you long after you power down your console. A dangerous rescue mission on a moving train; a game of cat-and-mouse with a tank through the streets of a quaint Himalayan village; a chase across the roofs of Nepal as a building literally collapses with you inside it; and a daring escape from a train dangling precariously over the edge of a cliff. That’s just a sampling of the incredible situations Nathan constantly finds himself in, and the best part is the game rarely takes the controller out of the player’s hands in resolving them.
Among Thieves is a beautiful looking game, so much so that you’ll probably stop Nathan dead in his tracks on a few occasions just to take in the magnificent landscape. The level of polish and attention to detail in the visuals is awe-inspiring. The way Nathan runs down stairs, careful not to trip; the way he trudges through mud and wades through water; the way he lumbers about when he’s injured; the way Nathan’s clothes drip wet with water, or cake with snow when he’s knee-deep in the stuff. It’s meticulous details like these that make the game world feel that much more authentic. Audio is of equal caliber to the visuals. The sweeping soundtrack is befitting of an epic adventure; the sound effects are spot on; the dialogue is well written, Nathan has a witty one-liner for every occasion; and the voice acting is superb.
Uncharted’s cover-based gunplay lends well to multiplayer so it wasn’t surprising to see Naughty Dog inject it into the sequel. It was surprising, however, to see just how robust the suite is. Competitive multiplayer supports up to 10 players across a number of modes, including variations on Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag (with treasure in place of the flag) and King of the Hill. Co-operative multiplayer is also present, supporting up to 3 players with one player controlling Nathan while the other two control “hero” companions. Here you can play through three stand-alone adventures that stress teamwork in order to get from point A to point B. Then there's Survival, the trendy co-op mode that pits teams against waves of increasingly tougher enemies. The online component features a hearty character progression system. As you rank up and earn money, you can purchase weapon upgrades, skins and boosters, the latter of which is similar to the perk system in Call of Duty. You can equip two boosters prior to any multiplayer round, competitive or co-op, and they modify variables like your reload speed and the amount of damage you can sustain. For those only interested in the single player campaign, there are plenty of unlockable bonuses there as well, like video filters, skins and behind-the scenes clips with the developers.
What Doesn’t Work
Nothing sticks out like a sore thumb in Uncharted 2, but for the sake of not leaving this section blank I’ll nit pick a little. When you consider the variety and attention to detail found throughout the game, it’s surprising there are so few enemy character models. And even though enemies are less bullet resistant in Among Thieves than they were in Drake’s Fortune, there’s still a lack of realism with respect to some of the weapons. The same button is assigned to “take cover” and “evade” so it’s not uncommon to watch Nathan take cover when you meant to evade, and vice versa. It’s also not uncommon to plummet to your death during one of the many platforming sections due to an awkward camera angle. And when you compare it to some of the other amazing moments during Nathan’s journey, the final boss battle is underwhelming.
The Bottom Line
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is Sony’s crown jewel for the PlayStation 3. Future action adventure games have a lot to live up to. The single player story is one of the most memorable I’ve experienced in a long time and the new multiplayer component is far from a tack on, it’s a significant addition that presents tremendous replay value. Simply put, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the complete package. You’ll be hard pressed to find a game as polished and well executed as this. If you own a PlayStation 3, you owe it to yourself to have this game in your collection.