Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the new adventure from Naughty Dog, and protagonist Nathan Drake’s second outing exclusively on PS3.

The first game, out just before Christmas two years ago, was a bit of a surprise hit. Indeed, I was one of the people surprised to find it wrapped up under the tree on Christmas day. On paper, it was nothing special, which is why I’d missed it – a third person action adventure game that’s part Tomb Raider, part Indiana Jones and part Rambo. Climbing, treasure hunting and shooting. Once you played it though, you knew you were playing something special, as the graphics were exquisite, the gameplay was all about fun, and the characters were believable and well acted.

This time around, then, a lot was expected. Uncharted 2 has you playing as the same character, Nathan Drake. He’s effectively a younger and cooler Indiana Jones who likes to shoot people whilst traveling the world looking for treasures. In this game, Nathan gets tipped off by his friend and fellow thief Flynn that a client has a lead that could lead them to the fabled Cintamani stone. The Cintamani stone is an important item in Buddhist mythology, but more importantly for Drake and his fellow thieves, it is rumoured to be a massive raw sapphire that would fetch hundreds of millions of dollars.

That’s as far as I’ll go with the story, for fear of spoilers, but let’s just say that that beginning leads you and your character on an epic journey which takes you around the world. You’ll travel through, round and over some of the most stunning terrain yet seen in a game, ranging from jungle lushness, war-torn cities and barren snowy mountain tops in search of the treasure. Graphically the game is stunning, with the action often taking place in front of the sort of awe-inspiring vistas that are most normally seen on motivational posters. The world is teeming with details and even the darkest underground cavern has graphics to make you gape. The sound is also brilliantly delivered, and playing as DTS through my surround sound system, it really transported me to whatever exotic location Drake was currently in.

Of course, that doesn’t mean much, as there have been plenty of stunning looking games that are as dull as dishwater to play – so what about the gameplay? Uncharted 2 mixes up elements of platforming, stealth, out and out gun battles and Lara Croft style puzzles. Often in a game this is a bad thing, as having too many different gameplay elements just means that  they are all done badly. Not so here, as the game masters all these styles effortlessly whilst blending them together. For example, you might find yourself without a weapon, and be forced to use stealth. Rarely, though, does the game force you to keep using stealth if you don’t want to – if stealth isn’t your thing, it often works just as well to sneakily take down the first guard, grab his gun and get blasting. Also, the climbing and platforming meshes well with the gunplay, as Nathan Drake will happily hang from one hand off of a ledge whilst shooting with a pistol from his other. The levels also have a tremendous amount of verticality, and there are plenty of vertigo inducing moments as you leap from ledge to ledge. The story also merges seamlessly into the cutscenes, leaving me just occasionally not realising the cutscene had actually ended and then springing into life.

Although the “normal” levels could certainly not be called boring, what Uncharted 2 does particularly well is its big set pieces. Being chased by a truck, working your away along a moving train and battling a helicopter are just three of the stunning set pieces that left me grinning like a kid who has just found the keys to the Kinder Egg factory. There are plenty more of these set pieces, all as amazing and as epic as each other. In fact, barring purely story based cutscenes, almost all of the cool stuff that happens in game has you actually playing along, not just watching. The opening five minutes of the game has wow factor by the bucketload, and it sets the scene for the rest of the game. Every time you hit a bit that you think was too great to be topped, you can rest assured that in the next level or two something even cooler will happen.

And once you’ve completed the single player main course, Naughty Dog have laid on a tremendous dessert of multiple multiplayer modes. There’s everything from simple deathmatch, to co-operative modes based on (but not the same as) sections of the story mode, as well as the (ubiquitous) “defeat endless waves of enemies” with your friends mode that all shooters now have. In fact, Uncharted offers a mixed up version of this mode, by offering you the chance to stop the wave of enemies coming by delivering a treasure to a treasure chest. The catch is that the treasure is heavy, so you can’t climb whilst carrying it, and can only use your handgun whilst holding it. This means you and your friends have to work very hard to stay alive, but it is tremendous fun. In fact, the multiplayer is just as polished and good looking as the single player, which is no mean feat.







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