Friday, January 28, 2011

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) Guest Review

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was Runner-Up for GotY in 2009 to New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Nonetheless, you can probably tell that the tone of the following guest review will be positive, yes? Watch as my brother demonstrates his writing and reviewing prowess with this review (FINALLY) of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for the PlayStation 3.

Single-player review only.

You know, there are some people out there that say that “some reviews just write themselves”. I’m here to tell you that is a complete lie. I mean, this next game won Superphillip Central’s PS3 Game of the Year for 2009 and was second only to New Super Mario Bros. Wii as the overall Game of the Year. Did that review write itself? No, it didn’t. Instead, it just sat around the house doing nothing but mooch off of our hard work, and... What? You mean, it’s just meant as an expression? Oh, for crying out loud! Well, it’s finally time for the SPC to bring you a review of the PS3's Uncharted 2. Does it still hold up after all this time, or am I just trying to think of a tag line to anticlimactically build up suspense for a game we all know is going to get a good score? Take a wild guess.

Having made the Crash Bandicoot (PS1) and Jak & Daxter (PS2) series on past generations of consoles, Naughty Dog decided to go a bit more human with their PS3 attempt. Taking a bit from Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, and some other third-person shooters and voila. Uncharted hit PS3 consoles in 2007. The game was well received by critics that don’t matter and fans that do, but that’s not to say that the game wasn’t without its issues. Chapters had issues with pacing at times, the game had an overabundance of quick-time events, and the game felt the need to use Sixaxis controls for things such as shaking off enemies or even throwing grenades. I’m glad to say that with Uncharted 2, all of these issues were either corrected, toned down, or removed outright from the game, making this title much more fun to run through than its predecessor.

Uncharted 2 plops you right into Nathan Drake’s shoes as he’s almost at death’s door. Right off the bat, you’re asked to get used to the game’s climbing controls which have also improved since the original. You can now jump while climbing poles to get to your next death-defying leap faster as well as being able to rotate around certain corners to continue on with your ascent. Having that added freedom of movement really makes those segments much more fun when you come across them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, combat has become much more fun to deal with as well thanks to getting rid of unwanted timed button presses. How many times in the first game did you run up to a guard, try to execute a brutal combo, only to miss out on the slightly strict timing by a millisecond and be pushed off all the while other guards shot you down. Maybe I was just bad at the game, but still, in Uncharted 2, that issue is a thing of the past. The only time you’ll need to hit triangle is to counter an opponent’s counter. This allows you to just worrying about pressing the square button to punch your foes out, creating a much better flow to the game.

It’s not just the close-quarters combat that’s improved either as the controls have been changed up slightly for grenades. Instead of having to switch out for a gun to use them, you can just use the L2 button to toss them while keeping yourself ready to pull a trigger on any foes that are closing in on your position. Even better, you change the arc of your grenades by moving the camera around instead of having to tilt your controller with those odd Sixaxis controls. You’ll need the better controls, too, because there will be times when you’re being shot from multiple angles by a nearly overwhelming number of foes.

The enemies you’ll deal with are a bit smarter than the ones in the first game, too. Oh, you’ll still have a few guys that rush in like fools, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting picked off by a few foes from afar while another enemy with a shield rushes in. What are you going to do? Well, you’ve got plenty of options. You could deal the damage to shield guy as he gets closer and eventually run up to him, stomp on his shield, and get in a quick kill from behind to take the thing, but do you have the time? Or would it serve you better to shoot the guys in the background before the person with the riot shield can close in? And if it’s a case where the enemies have yet to spot you, it’s your call as to whether you want to use the game’s increased emphasis on stealth to takedown everyone in an area or go guns blazing. It’s generally best to keep a low profile, but it’s always nice to have that option.

The variety in the gameplay is matched by the number of locales you’ll be taking Nathan through. You’ll journey through mountaintops, a war-torn desert city, and yes, jungle-like environments not unlike the ones you’d find in the first game. Basically, the areas you go through all have the same concept of how to progress, but it really helps things out when the areas are so diverse. In the first game, you’d be backtracking through certain parts of areas a few times during different chapters. That’s not the case here as although there is some backtracking, it will generally be self-contained within a chapter. Again, it helps to keep the pace going in the right direction, and it does just that for most of the game’s twenty-six chapters. Said chapters are longer than the ones in the first game, too, making the game top off at around the ten hour mark. That’s pretty good for a game with gunplay in this generation.

There are times where the pace will slow down, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything for Nathan to do. Puzzles return from the first game, and these ones generally have a bit more platforming involved to solve or even reach them in some cases. Even the ones that are within peaceful rooms aren’t too tough to figure out as long as you make sure to take a good look at Nathan’s journal. I don’t want to go into detail on these as to avoid spoiling the game for you, but I think as long as you’re paying attention, you’ll be all right.

As a single player game, Uncharted 2 really delivers one of the most fun experiences I’ve had this generation. It starts off strong and rarely lets up, and even when it does, you know that the game is just building to another high-octane gameplay scene. Wait, did I just say “as a single player game”? That’s right, and the reason why is that Uncharted 2 also adds multiplayer to the mix, both in co-op and competitive styles. I didn’t get a chance to sit down and play those as much as I would have liked thanks to our bad internet connection over the last month, but I have seen enough to know that there’s a good time to be had online, too.

Overall, Uncharted 2 gets so much right that it truly is one of the Playstation 3's premiere games. There were some odd physics glitches that I’ve come across on subsequent playthroughs, but I do know that I didn’t let that stand in the way of the fun I had playing this title. I’m sure most of you will feel the same way, so that’s why I have to recommend Uncharted 2 as a game that you should play if you’re a PS3 owner. I’m sure it will be on the top of your PS3 games’ chart as well.

[Overall: 9.25/10]

1 comment:

Michael Janssen-Gibson said...

Nice, balanced review. It is definitely one of my favourite games full stop, particularly because it doesn't forget story and great voice-acting as necessary ingredients.