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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Nathan Returns in search of treasure in the second installment of the Uncharted Series.
Treasure hunters rejoice, Treasure Hunter Nathan Drake, better known as “Nate”, is back again in hot pursuit of another historical, unsolved mystery. We return to Nate’s dangerous lifestyle roughly two years after the events in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, still finding himself wrapped up in gunfire, explosions, and unfortunately for him, more climbing.
One of the grand things about this game, something I wish to commend Naughty Dog and voice actor Nolan North on, is that you, the gamer, feel as if you really are Nathan Drake, almost as if your life is really on the line. Those two forces combined have brought on this large treasure of their own, duly named Uncharted. Mainly for the fact that with every new installment of the series, they seem to tackle something no one else has touched. With the flawless mixture of cut scenes and actual game play, the developers finally found the element that makes the game look dangerously close to realistic. This formula also plays on the gamer’s emotional strings, causing them to become lost in the story line. Whether it the more chipper moments or even the dark, depressive ones, the gamer is enticed to go on.
Wounded, and weakened, Drake awakens to the blurry outline of an old train car. Raising his bloodied hand into his slowly sharpening vision, he merely says, “That’s a lot of my blood…” before random objects begin to hurdle towards him. As we slowly get a view of where the objects are flying to, we catch sight of the large, snow capped mountains directly below the train car as it hang precariously off a nearby cliff. From that moment on, the game is off to a huge start. After being flung from the train car by gravity herself, you are forced to make your way up the wreckage of the trashed train car, as natural results of destruction thwart your trek upward. During all this, you come to notice one thing, the transition of the game play and cut scenes are perfect, it’s an instant movement. As you are trying to escape the falling train car, you jump fervently to make it out in time. Suddenly you have no control and without knowing it you went straight into a cut scene of you leaping from the train to reach for the side of the cliff that you barely hang onto.
It seems Naughty Dog has perfected the one part of cinematics between cut scenes and game-play, making moments such as that seem, as many have said before, just like a movie. Not to say that we need to make games more like movies, because then that would become so much more boring on some game genres like FPS or RPGs, but they could take how amazing the graphics are and place them in the right spots. *Hint, hint gaming industry!*
The next thing you notice as you maneuver through the levels is that there is not a load screen in sight, minus the one that pops up when you first start the game and the one that loads the first level from the main menu. After that there is never a load icon nor a black screen moment as you walk through one part of the jungle to another. I personally love this about Uncharted 2, because it makes it feel… real. Which is the one thing I think we need to feel when playing a game. If it doesn’t feel or look real, how can we expect to be completely immersed in the game? Uncharted tapped into this and somehow managed to take away all the load screens, and was completely loved for it. In fact, many people have celebrated this exact trait as one of the top ideas that other games should take into consideration.
The graphics ARE stunning, without any other way to describe them. Things could not look better at the current level of progress in the gaming industry, giving Uncharted 2 my award for “Most realistic graphics in the industry in 2009”. I sometimes can’t tell the difference between the cut scenes and the real game, things just look that incredible. Knowing the gaming industry, the cinematics are normally better looking than the game-play, but Uncharted takes the cake. It goes without saying that Naughty Dog took the torch and ran all the way up the Himalayan Mountains, reached their peak and suddenly found some way to keep going up through the clouds.
It transcends all other graphics of the current era, whether it be from the tree branches and leaves blowing in the wind, to the beautiful and lush water effects, which are usually my favorite graphical aspect. Also the detail of the character models is so incredible that they take the time to pay attention to the minute, physical attributes, such as every cut, scar, burn, and bruise. If other developers follow along this path, then one day we’ll have the hardest time distinguishing between a video game character and ourselves.
The sound design is another part of what makes this game so spectacular. Everything from the wildlife all around you in the jungle to the snow crunching beneath your feet in the frozen mountains. Even the explosions are earth shattering and loud enough to leave your ears ringing. This game has so many sounds that were tested over and over again until it was brought to perfection.
The one thing that tops the charts in this department are the voice actors. The men and women who breathe life into the characters, like Drake and Elena, do it so well that they convey deep and moving emotions to the players, bringing the story forward and showing off how much power voice actors really have.
Nolan North returns as Drake and once again he pulls off Drake so well it feels that in most respects he is Drake. He makes the character his own, adding in his own personal touch of dialogue, when allowed to ad lib. But even when he doesn’t, he carries such a hold on gamers who love Drake. With his smart mouth jabs, his detailed historical descriptions, even his comedy in the face of immediate danger give him such a strong personality in the gaming world. I mean, how many people do you know that manage to survive a falling apartment building, leap through a window just moments before crashing and can laugh while saying, “We… We were almost in that!”?
The action in this game is so intense, that every moment that you don’t expect something to happen, just before your eyes an explosion will occur, debris will fall blocking your path or the building itself falls down while you and everyone in it stumbles and falls. Literally everything inside the room will shift. From furniture, plants, to you and your enemies stumbling around as you try to hit your mark, while your cursor is thrown wildly around the screen at the mercy of the sliding room. Everything is so perfectly timed, it’s as if when you feel a sense of calm, the game engine realizes it and compensates by throwing you off guard with a huge explosion that knocks you off your feet. Your heart rate will increase, your mind will be on edge, and everything will change as you are thrown off balance once again.
Adding to the action, Uncharted 2 brought in a new silent take down option, allowing Drake to take enemies who don’t realize he is there and knock them out or kill them. Adding a change of pace to the regular “Gun and Duck” game play, and utilizing these silent kills allows for a danger decrease from avoided fire fights. People may even use it just for the sheer joy of sneaking up on the mercs and just letting all your anger out on them. The game also allows you to simply push mercs off the rooftops or the side of a building, whatever your anger management coach recommends.
The story, overall, has such an engaging plot filled with twists and turns that you never expect, or maybe you did but still feel that sense of surprise when they happen. It starts out from showing you where you are at that point, finding you bleeding, confused, and hanging off a cliff. Which transitions to a string of flash backs telling just how you got from point A to point B, as you started out in the train. Then it takes you through a quick recap of how you made it through the train car. You are then sent forward to the final, and even more suspenseful, point C at the startling conclusion.
Things are never as they seem Among Thieves, (see how I did that?) and you should never expect things to ever stay constant, besides the action and the gunfire surrounding the frightening battle for the ultimate treasures. I believe that Naughty Dog is a big believer of a good story line as I am, seeing as how they created such a deep and ever changing plot in the original Uncharted and kept the same idea in this one. Another aspect I loved from this game of treasure hunting was the collectibles in the form of treasures hidden around the levels, which started out with 60 treasures in the first game now in this game has turned into 100. While you collect each one, you eventually get Playstation trophies for every 10 trophies, till you get number 100. Achievements are associated with kills from different guns, silent take-downs, and hidden actions done during game-play. Though there is a new addition this time around, each 5th trophy you grab, or any other achievement, earns you a sub achievement granting you a new title and allows you a certain amount of money to spend in the in-game shop on the main menu or pause menu. You can purchase anything from single player weapons, skins, render filters, to concept art.
I am a stickler for collectibles and being a treasure fanatic at heart, I loved gathering treasures and even the occasional Secret Relic. It gave me a reason to explore the beautiful terrain and environments and see another side of a cultures treasure.
Overall, this game had very few flaws, yet it did have some downfalls. Not enough for me to change my opinion of it, but I did become aggravated at these downfalls, (who wouldn’t?). The constant jumping off of cliffs, missing the ledge I was aiming for, or rolling into a pit on pure accident. I mean, in the final level I fell three times trying to run away from an enemy and each of those times instead of jumping straight onto the next landmass, I fell to my death and had to restart that part. Another annoyance was that Drake, as great as he is, tends to grunt when he jumps up or forward. And those grunts do get… annoying… It’s the simple fact that “Argh!” over and over again does kind of irritate people after trying to jump onto a ledge you keep missing somehow. One other hindrance I found, were the controls were sometimes unresponsive or did the opposite action I was hoping for. When trying to change my cover, instead I would roll away from the barricade and launched me right into the line of fire, sometimes causing death. Overall, the flaws aren’t exactly big enough to cause me to change my score from all the spectacular aspects of the game.
In the end, this game was a blast, was amazing, and so powerful I have to say this is my game of the year. The Uncharted franchise is looking to launch at full steam ahead and from the rumors heard around the net, many people say that there is already hope from inner Uncharted members that the 3rd game exists, and supposedly will look better than #2. I also hear that they have enough adventures to go on for some time to come. So my hopes for a 3rd may be founded and I really wonder if any information will come out about it any time soon. I loved this game just like I loved the first. It maybe my inner treasure hunter coming out but either way I am in love with this series and many other works by Naughty Dog, such as Jak and Daxter and Crash Bandicoot, and I know that they continue to pump out such great titles as these.
My final score for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves gets 10 out of 10. For realistic graphics, amazing sound work, voice actors, an engaging story, powerful emotions along with an adventure steeped in historical drama, and action packed gun fights.