Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Also on: N/A (PlayStation 3 exclusive)
Console Played on: PlayStation 3
Release Date: Friday October 16th 2009
Age Rating: PEGI 16, BBFC 15
Four years since the last game from the Jak and Daxter series, Jak X for the PS2, that Naughty Dog made.
Three years since Naughty Dog teased their newest project at the Sony press conference at E3 for the PlayStation 3.
Two years since Naughty Dog released Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
Nearly a year since Naughty Dog revealed the sequel to Drake’s Fortune.
And all it took was five minutes, just five minutes, to convince me that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is almost certainly now my Game of the Year (baring a miracle from Assassins Creed II and Modern Warfare 2).
“I have not told half of what I saw.” – Marco Polo.
That is the first thing you see as the game begins, as Nathan Drake awakes onboard a derailed train (the scene is actually mid-way through the game, but is used as an introduction). His torso bleeding and finding himself somehow upside down, Drake then tries to hang on with dear life, as he falls out of the carriage and finds himself literally hanging on for dear life from the crashed carriage hanging on the end of a mountain cliff.
After Drake barely escapes with his life, we then find ourselves in a flashback four months earlier in unknown tropical islands. There, Drake has bumped into an old pal, Harry Flynn, who offers a role in a three person museum heist in Turkey. The third person being a person from Nathan’s past: Chloe Fraser. As the game progresses, you’re on for a non-stop tour around the world including Turkey, Nepal, the Tibetan mountains as Drake tries to stop war criminal Zoran Lazarevic from getting his hands on the Cintamani Stone and the secret passage to Shambala.
And come near the end of the game, you will see, what I arguably think, is the most beautifully designed level ever in a video game. I won’t mention where that is as it’s pivotal to the story and a massive spoiler, but you’ll know when you’ll see it. Truly an incredibly beautiful piece of artistic design.
It goes without saying now, but you can now shout it to the world without whispering it: Naughty Dog CAN write an incredible story. With Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter, they made great platforming games with the two franchises. But while Jak and Daxter did have a story to the series (as well as Crash), you couldn’t really compare them with the likes of great storytellers like BioWare, Kojima, Ueda, Molyneux, Bungie or Infinity Ward (the latter two of which are thanked in the credits for the game, as you may have heard by now.). But while Drake’s Fortune was a great story in its own right, the story in Among Thieves is absolutely the best story I have played this year, and is actually second in my opinion only to Metal Gear Solid 4 in being the best story in a game ever.
The way the story is played out just reeks on quality. The fantastic script and writing in the game, the incredible acting by Nolan North (Drake), Emily Rose (Elena) and Claudia Black (Chloe) and then some, with great action set-pieces in the game (relied on by stuff like the train level and the hotel in Nepal, the level from E3).
The game handles a lot more solidly then the first game. While I felt Drake’s Fortune was based on puzzles a lot more than the shooting, Among Thieves is a mixed variety this time, with stealth now added in for good measure. Stealth does work very well in Among Thieves, although the stealth level in Turkey can get very difficult at times: taking inward of up to 20 minutes to get past one scene in the level. However, it is a welcome gameplay mechanic to the game and adds a whole new dimension to play the game in sometimes, although it is totally optional of course.
And the environments in the game is a lot more varied than Drake’s Fortune. While in the first game, all you had been just the jungle, this time in the sequel, you have war-torn cities, the Himalayas as well as jungles early on in the game. At some points in the game, some of the gameplay mechanics in the game mix well with the environments, like the puzzle elements near the end of the middle parts of the game and stealth near the end.
But the truth is that Uncharted 2 truly does shine in the presentation. You get an incredible voice cast led by North, Black and Rose, with great writing, a great script, fantastically acted drama from start to finish and a fantastic soundtrack. Simply put: AAA quality that easily rivals that of a Hollywood blockbuster like Indiana Jones.
But obviously, the biggest talking point is its looks.
It. looks. incredible.
Drake’s Fortune was known to be a great looking game when it was released. And still to this day looks incredible. But undoubtedly, Among Thieves is absolutely the best game designed this generation, and one of the best looking games ever full stop. The character models are absolutely great looking, no question. But it’s the environments which truly look outstanding. From the derailed train at the start of the game, all the way through to Nepal, the Tibetan mountains, this game just screams beautiful. And of course, there is the unspoken level which I mentioned at the top of the review. I’ll say it again, it is the most beautifully designed level in a video game ever made. It really is just incredible. Overall, I think we can just agree that Uncharted 2 just looks incredible.
Naughty Dog has also implemented something which hasn’t been seen in any of their games since Jak X a couple of years ago: online multiplayer. We haven’t played too much of the multiplayer since it’s release, but we’ll be returning to it in a second opinion article which will be going live sometime next week. Look out for that.
Overall: Even with a couple of small flaws, like the camera sometimes and old case of it becoming slightly repetitive near the end, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a non-stop rollercoaster AAA blockbuster. I do feel now though it was slightly overhyped come near the end. But make no mistake, Uncharted 2 is a game that really does live up to the hype.
Story – 10: Truly unforgettable. Fantastically written, superb acting. A truly incredible story all round,
Gameplay – 10: Despite a couple of flaws, especially becoming slightly repetitive near the end, it does play very well. A mix of puzzles, stealth and shooting comes good for the game.
Graphics – 10: Do I need to say anymore on them? They’re incredible.
Sound – 10: Fantastic voice cast led by Nolan North and an incredible soundtrack. All round brilliant.
Overall – 10: Five minutes was all it took to displace Beatles: Rock Band as my GOTY. Thats how much of a start-to-finish rollercoaster Uncharted 2 is.
I know it sounds like I am gushing about the game too much, and I do agree, I am gushing about it too much. But even with small flaws, the truth is there is nothing absolutely wrong with Uncharted 2. I’d be a hypocrite if I said it was flawless after saying there was small flaws, but the truth is it is an incredible, and there is mostly nothing to complain about in the game.
The only bad thing about it was the ending. Not as in the ending was bad or anything, it just had to end.
I’ll stop talking now, but I will say this to close off. This IS the reason to buy a PS3.