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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

 

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: PS3
Category: 3rd Person: Action
 
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Author: Scott W

Developer - Naughty Dog
Publisher - Sony Computer Entertainment

Features

Single player story mode
Co-op Multiplayer 1 to 3.
Competitive Multiplayer 1 to 10
HD – 720p native resolution
Supports 7.1 PCM multichannel surround sound.

I loved Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, a PS3 exclusive title that was released towards the end of 2007. Since that time, and after finishing the game, I really wanted to see a sequel. Everything the original did, from the gameplay to the story, fully immersed me into the experience of being Nathan Drake and taking him through his adventurous story. A sympathetic protagonist in a life or death struggle within a compelling narrative may be common in film, but it is rarely found in a video game. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune did so many things well and, for me personally, it set a new standard for video games as it satisfied so many of my personal wants in a game. Well the time has come and Sony has recently released Uncharted 2: Among Thieves which is the sequel to the 2007 best seller that I so highly speak of. Does Uncharted 2 live up the original? You will just have to read on to find out.

Graphics

If the original Drake’s Fortune was a visually stunning game, then Uncharted 2 is visually mind blowing even despite a 720p native resolution! It is not a “same scene drawn and repeated” type game either as you are taken to so many different locations you will not see the same thing twice. The detail on both small scale and large scale is tremendous. The vistas are breathtaking and the detail to the smallest of items is meticulous. You can almost see the bite marks on a pencil that is sitting on a desk. The one thing that stands out for me the most though is the care that was taken with the animation of the cut-scenes; the smallest of details has not been overlooked. It may be the gesture of a hand or the widening of a character’s eyes as they speak with emotion, but no matter what it is the animation and quality of the cut-scenes is done much like it would be in a big screen offering from such power house animators like Pixar. The graphic presentation of the characters strengthens their well crafted and distinct personalities. The seamless way that the player transitions from gameplay to cut-scene is astounding and there is barely, if any, difference from the quality of the cut-scenes to the quality of the gameplay visuals. Naughty Dog has torn down the “wall” so to speak that we all face when presented with cut-scene animations. The level of graphic quality is not degraded from cut-scene to gameplay and the result is nothing short of dazzling. It does beg the question: “if it is this amazing at 720p resolution, how much better could it have been at 1080p?” I would dearly like to find out.

Sound

The phrase “painted with sound” was coined to describe an astounding sound package that enhances every aspect of a game. The sound effects are top notch and made for a movie like experience. Explosions to footsteps to the flutter of a bird’s wings, the dynamic range of the game’s sound effects is amazing and in some ways unequalled. As much as the sound effects were amazing and the use of directional sound was even more astounding. As with Drake’s Fortune I was offered the choice of stereo, 5.1 surround and 7.1 surround. I chose 7.1 surround and I was blown out of my chair by the realism originating from my speakers. I was amazed how the floor under my feet shook from the ground pounding sound of a helicopter crashing before me and then around me, and further on in the game I repeatedly looked over my shoulder as my attention was drawn to the subtle and light sounds of Sully’s footsteps as we crept through the jungle. This was all due to both the quality of the sound effects and the mastering of the surround sound effects. As for the voice acting, it is unparalleled. The dialogue is exceptionally well written and the humour had me laughing out loud many times. The characters speak as real people would talk which furthers their development and realism. Of course along with the great sound effects and great dialog comes a great score. The music that plays out in Uncharted 2 adds to the whole feel of the game and immerses you even more into the experience unfolding on-screen. Overall I cannot see anything wrong with the audio offered up in this game.

Gameplay

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves truly a sequel to Naughty Dog’s Drake’s Fortune. The story picks up a number of years after the first adventure Nathan Drake experienced. This time around the story revolves around the unsolved historical mystery of Marco Polo and his doomed voyage from China in 1292 and finding Shangri-La. In typical Drake fashion you will be fighting for survival from the moment you hit the start button on the controller. Your adrenaline will pump as Nate struggles to survive by his wits, his brawn, and a few well placed bullets as he tries to solve this latest historical mystery.

More than most video games, the single player campaign of Uncharted 2 is driven by the story line. The story offers exceptional writing that not only propels the arc of the plot but defines the characters. As control of the Nathan Drake seamlessly flows from cut-scene to gameplay the lines between the two elements blur. With no waiting for the cut-scene to stop the action, you become immersed in the cut-scene therefore you become immersed as Nathan Drake. The smooth transition from gameplay to cut-scene, that was a milestone in game development in Drake’s Fortune, is taken to a level not experienced before. This game flows like no other as the cut-scenes don’t simply further the story line but they provide a much needed rest from the adrenaline fuelled ride that is Uncharted 2.

The story’s characters are well developed throughout the story and possess traits that are key to their development. From the lovable rogue Nathan Drake, his female accomplice Chloe, to the reprise of his trusty side-kick Sully; you will anxiously await the peril we know will befall all as they move around the next bend. From the stealth action segments as you move cat-like through an ancient courtyard, charging head-long guns blazing through a villain’s covert camp, to searching for a solution to one of the frequent climbing puzzles; every action you take will lead you forward in this well crafted story. Your movements are fluid when sneaking up behind an enemy in a stealth action sequence, when running and gunning down a war ravaged Nepalese street while being hotly pursued by a 10-ton truck, or diving for safety as a building crashes down around you. All of this adds to the high intensity of the story that you are so much a part of.

The games controls are intuitive to the PS3 gamer. From the left stick control of character movement to R1 trigger for weapons, the controls for character movement and all the necessary actions are logical and well positioned. The frenzied need to take cover behind an object as bullets zing around you is as simple as a tap of the circle button. The wonky inaccurate aiming I cursed in Drake’s Fortune is long gone and replaced by precise game mechanic that make head shots and spot on shooting a strategy rather than a fluke.

Sully and Chloe assist Nate battle through the games levels and are not just NPC’s who are a hindrance to gameplay. They actually have a role in the game. Sully will be there to give you that much needed boost up to that just-out-of-reach ledge or supply a blanket of cover fire as you dodge bullets to get to the next objective. But don’t be fooled, just because your buddies are smart doesn’t mean that the villains are less smart. Though there is an element of predictability with the enemy AI there will be the random enemies who will appear out of no-where to take you by surprise. It all supports the non-stop action and adventure of the single player campaign story and I appreciated the fact that both the NPC and enemy AI alike play a role to make this game that much more enjoyable.

One thing that was non-existent in the original Uncharted was any sort multiplayer component to the game. Though I didn’t think it was missing the addition of such would have been nice to have. So, it was with some scepticism that I approached the online multiplayer gameplay of Uncharted 2 as I didn’t know how they would implement it. There is the option to engage in some adversarial modes such as Deathmatch, Plunder, Elimination and Chain Reaction. Deathmatch is self explanatory. Plunder is a CTF mode and sees each team attempting to capture a treasure from a central point. Elimination has each team fighting to eliminate the other with no respawns. Finally, Chain Reaction has all those playing capturing flags that must be captured in a specific order. All in all these modes work quite well and offer up some crazy fun. For a PS3 game, the implemention is well handled and pretty darn smooth.

I prefer cooperative play online as I enjoy the feeling of me and a few friends collectively reaching the objective set out in cooperative modes. Well Uncharted 2 has that covered as well and it does not disappoint. The cooperative modes are Survival, Gold Rush, Co-op and Machinima. My favourites were Gold Rush and Survival. In Gold Rush you and up to two others find the treasure and try to get it back to your base. Enemy AI will try to stop you. In Survival, you can play as Nate, Chloe or Sully you will engage in three player squad based play towards a common goal of survival. When surviving the onslaught of enemy NPCs in “horde-like” waves, teammates can heal each other in order to stay in the fight or battle to stay alive as you wait for your fellow combatants to respawn. Just as in the single player campaign, in cooperative modes, you will be wishing for a checkpoint so you can catch your breath and regroup with your team mates. On a final note, I was also stoked to finally have a solid use for my PS3 headset as I haven’t used it since Killzone 2 was released in March.


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