Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

After the success of Uncharted: Drakes' Fortune, developer Naughty Dog produced a sequel, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, released 2 years later in 2009. This playthrough was my second, and I still loved it the second time, even more so than the original. If Drake's Fortune was an attempt at making a game feel like a Hollywood movie, then Among Thieves has almost succeeded with flying colors.

From the very beginning the game captures your attention and doesn't hold anything back. Already, Nathan Drake is on the brink of death. Within an inch of his life, he must scale a massive train car to get to safety to reach a cliff on the snowy Tibetan mountains. After going through a moment as amazing and powerful as this, I was glad to find that the game is liberally filled with more like it, each one equally filled with arresting tension and drama, from an intense train ride to taking out a battle tank in a small mountain village.

The plot this time revolves around the lost fleet of Marco Polo, and it is filled to the brim with moments like those found in Uncharted. It's amazing not only what locations the story hits, but also where Nathan Drake goes as a character. His voice acting, like all of the other characters, is still solidly done with great seriousness but also with perfect timing of his more lighthearted side. His situation becomes ever perilous, and he always knows what to say.

The gameplay mechanics haven't really received any additions, but rather the right tweaking of the first game to get it done right. The guns are more fun to use, and necessary, and there is a surprisingly great variety in the enemy types that make firefights more interesting and rewarding. Enemy AI is also improved, making them smarter and thus more satisfying to overcome. While I do like the different mechanics for throwing a grenade by assigning it to a single button, the ease of access is also annoying when I accidentally pressed the button to throw one. Otherwise, the cover system is improved and the blind fire system is a very nice addition.

As far as graphical capabilities are concerned, Naughty Dog really knew what they were doing and seemed to take  full advantage of the PS3's tech. Locations from Borneo to Tibet are beautiful to look at, with a stunning attention to detail and a smooth flow unmatched by most video games of this generation. The snow and water effects are impressive to see, as is the flow of the character models.

This greatly aids the level design. The levels feel more natural in pacing with less predictability in the location of a firefight, as well as a seamless transition between player control and cutscenes. Platforming is still linear, although the challenge is not lost at all. With variances like spinning gears and falling ledges, the game really knows how to keep players on their toes in moving around.

Uncharted 2 is a testament to game design mastery. From the biggest breathtaking set-pieces and moments, to even the most subtle of details, it's a real marvel to play through. This is a game that should not be missed by anyone who owns a PS3, with a video game that feels very much like an action blockbuster. However, I do recommend playing through the original beforehand, as some things make more sense or are much funnier once you know the continuing character relationships.

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