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'Uncharted 2' a spectacle like every other

Oct 26, 2009

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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In a year where holiday gaming blockbusters are surprisingly few and far between, Naughty Dog's 'Uncharted 2: Among Thieves' is most certainly a standout. You may not remember it quite so easily once Santa comes around next year, but it's still a game that should make your wish list if you're a PS3 owner.

The sequel to the very successful Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Among Thieves once again puts players in control of Nathan Drake, the luckiest man on the planet (you'll see what we mean as you play through the game).

Uncharted 2: Among ThievesOnce again, Nathan is brought into the world of treasure hunting after being tempted by some acquaintances to search for the legendary Himalayan Valley of Shambala, where it's believed that Marco Polo's long lost treasure awaits for whoever can find it.

But some believe there's more than just money at stake, and just as Drake is in search of millions (maybe billions) of dollars worth of treasure, a ruthless fugitive war criminal is also in search of Shambala, as he believes he can find everlasting life there.

It all sounds like a summer blockbuster and the game certainly plays out that way. There are stunning locales, impossible chase sequences, gorgeous women, double crosses and more last minute escapes than you can shake a stick at. The opening sequence in particular is heart-pounding, and instantly sets the tone for the entire game.

Of course it's easy to be blinded by all this spectacle and forget that the game itself has to be fun to play. Uncharted 2 is both hit and miss here. For the majority of the game, players will be doing one of two things - shooting or climbing, which have both been happening since the days of Mario and fire flowers. Nothing here is new, but What Uncharted does is wrap it all up in one of the nicest-looking presentations ever put on a console.

Drake traverses dense jungles, ice and snow covered mountains, sewers, war-torn cities, and more as he makes his way to Shangri-La. Movies that use the game's engine are interspersed throughout to help along the plot, but much of what you watch, you end up doing. As you watch Drake hang out the door of a Jeep that's speeding down the side of a mountain, you know it'll only be a few seconds before you're actually controlling the protagonist as he shoots at the numerous vehicles giving chase. Think about what Drake is doing and it's all completely and utterly impossible, but this is a video game, so it can be forgiven to a certain extent.

Uncharted 2: Among ThievesControlling Drake is for the most part quite fluid. This game isn't a shooter per se, though as mentioned above, there are quite a few firefights you'll come across. Thankfully, aiming, shooting, reloading, and changing weapons all work quite seamlessly and makes the repetitiveness of these sequences painless.

When he's not shooting, Drake can usually be found sneaking up on enemies, taking them out silently. It's here that the game's cover system shows its stuff; and it is both good and bad to be sure. Of course, developer Naughty Dog didn't try to make this game Gears of War, but sticking to cover is a big part of staying alive, and there are several times where your character will flip (into plain view of enemies) instead of stick, as both these actions are controlled with the system button. And there are numerous places in the various locales of the game that you simply won't be able to stick to, making for frustrating deaths.

Hand-to-hand combat is as basic as it gets, and can also be quite frustrating. Actually taking out enemies this way isn't difficult - punch a few times with the square button and duck out of the way of their one inevitable counterattack with triangle. The problem lies in every close quarter fight being slowed down. We assume this is both for its cinematic quality, as well as to make it easier to time the counterattacks, but it also results in dozens of needless deaths, because if you're being shot by other enemies while punching another, there's no way to get away or speed up the whole process.

There's still plenty of things to make gamers continue playing despite these problems. The musical score of the game is as epic-feeling as its environments, and the voice acting is absolutely some of the best we've heard in a game, period. Drake is easily one of the most likeable characters in video games today and in this game in particular he has some truly laugh-out-loud one liners.

Now, as clear as it is that a ton of work was put into the single player campaign, it's the multiplayer aspect of Uncharted 2 that makes it truly memorable. Though the multiplayer is just as unoriginal as the single player, everything is done so brilliantly that it's difficult to complain.

The game types will be familiar to anyone who has played a multiplayer game in the last decade - capture the flag (with a treasure instead of a flag), king of the hill, Horde mode (kill wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies), etc. - but everything is done perfectly to encourage gamers to keep coming back.

Uncharted 2: Among ThievesThere's an interesting leveling up system where you improve based on how much money you make. You can earn money money in all kinds of ways, from ending kill streaks, to scoring treasure captures, to taking control of zones. In addition to that, you can use your money to buy 'perks', only two of which can be equipped at a time. It's just another way to strategize, as once your game type is chosen, you're given a few seconds to equip your perks. If it's an elimination match, you may want to get more ammo in your clip, but if it's the capture the flag mode, you may want to use your ability to run faster with the treasure.

As a nice little bonus, money earned in single player and co-op can be used toward buying upgrades in competitive multiplayer.

Though there are less than a couple handfuls of maps in multiplayer, each and every one is extremely well thought out and a blast to play on. Just as you'll be doing a ton of climbing in single player, the same can be said for multiplayer. It's an easy way to get the advantage on enemies - climb on that crashed train cart or that building to get a better view of where the other team is.

Our only complaints about the multiplayer is that the party system is slightly flawed - there's no way to simply press a button to party up with met players - and the statistics that can be found on Naughty Dog's website, though quite robust, is not up-to-date as of the writing of this review, which is a shame considering how much fun can be had comparing trophies and other stats with your friends.

It's the very nature of a summer blockbuster to be forgettable, because there's always next summer, which promises even bigger explosions, narrower escapes, and more jaw-dropping moments. But that doesn't make watch you're watching right now bad.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves knows exactly what it is. It may not take a lot of chances, but it still has plenty of 'holy cow!' moments in single player, as well as a superb multiplayer experience, to make it an easy recommendation for PlayStation 3 owners.

 

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Format: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Naughty Dog
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Official Site: http://www.unchartedthegame.com

Rating: 9 / 10

 
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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.