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Nathan Drake knows how to have fun in a warzone. Leaping off rooftops, playing tag with a tank, and frolicking around in a swimming pool while hostile helicopters circle overhead are all in a day’s work for this intrepid treasure hunter. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is his second outing on the Playstation 3, and it’s certainly an improvement on its entertaining but somewhat pedestrian predecessor, Drake’s Fortune. Once again we take on the role of Drake as a simple money-making expedition turns into an epic bid to save the world and get the girl. As this daring treasure hunter progresses through the game, we find ourselves running, climbing, and jumping our way through jungles, mountains, and urban conflict-zones, battling against mercenaries and monsters, solving puzzles, and unlocking the secrets of the fabled city of Shambala.
This is a compelling and immersive action-adventure from start to finish, with dazzling visuals, varied and engaging gameplay, and an intricately detailed world complete with beautiful environments, interesting characters, and a highly entertaining plot. Developer Naughty Dog’s explosive thrill-ride convincingly blurs the line between traditional video-game and Hollywood blockbuster. Among Thieves is not a game to be missed.
One of the game’s greatest strengths is its ability to draw you into the world that the developers have created. It’s Nathan Drake who really steals the show. He’s not your typical action hero. Instead of setting out to save the world, initially all he wants to do is make a lot of money. But as he gets caught up in the main villain’s plot to discover the source of supreme power, he quickly has to set aside his less noble instincts. And he’s not a picture perfect muscle man either. Far from deflecting bullets with his iron-hard abs, he stumbles, slips, limps, and hobbles his way through the game. This is a great character – brave rather than indestructible, not at all humourless, and far from one dimensional. Overall, the characterisation really brought this game to life for me. And it doesn’t end with Drake. There’s the detestable Harry Flynn, Drake’s erstwhile associate, the highly desirable Chloe Frazer, and a host of other entertaining characters. The only weak link is the somewhat wooden and clichéd main villain, Zoran Lazarevic. The cheeky dialogue throughout the game is also brilliant. Among Thieves is one of the few games I have ever played that has actually made me laugh.
Overall, the storyline itself is engaging and well executed. The game starts off in medias res, with Drake hanging onto the end of a derailed train, which is itself lurching precariously over the edge of a cliff. From there, the plot twists and turns its way through multiple betrayals, conflicting motivations, a love-triangle, a meandering quest that takes you across the world, and the supernatural. Some of it leans towards the ludicrous, especially towards the end; and on occasion the storyline does descend into cliché (particularly when Zoran appears on screen). But, for the most part, the plot, the characters, and the dialogue really make you feel a part of Drake’s world, and that is a great achievement for a video-game.
23/25 – Compelling storyline with brilliant dialogue and characterisation
Uncharted 2 offers an eclectic gameplay mix of traditional third-person combat, puzzle-solving, acrobatics, and stealth-based action. As a result, the pacing varies throughout and the game never ceases to surprise you. One moment you might be firing rockets at helicopters or machine-gunning baddies as you run along the top of a moving train (one of my favourite sequences in the game), the next you’ll be clambering and jumping your way through icy caves in a bid to solve a puzzle created by the ancients.
The acrobatics are an integral part of Among Thieves. Drake will climb up walls, swing from ropes, jump across rooftops, and much more. Sometimes this can seem a little linear. To be sure, you can only interact with those parts of the environment that the developers have deliberately selected, so you’ll see a lot of conveniently positioned bricks and ledges. But that doesn’t really detract from the fun. The mechanics have also been improved since Drake’s previous adventure – no more impossible jumps that take twenty plus times to master. The whole system is a lot more intuitive and comfortable. Often, you’ll have to make use of Drake’s climbing skills to solve puzzles, which are also a great aspect of the game. They help to check the pace a little between action sequences and require some thinking, which makes things more challenging and rewarding.
The action is entertaining and varied. Frequently, you’ll get to choose either to approach enemies using stealth and quietly take them out with strangle holds and various other moves (including a particularly impressive flying kick), or to go in all guns blazing. Both options are satisfying. The traditional combat is thrilling and challenging, with a variety of different enemies to take on and a range of weapons to use. For the more lightly armoured opponents, pistols or an AK47 will do, but for stronger foes you’ll want to make use of the more powerful assault rifles, grenades, or even the minigun. The introduction of the monsters towards the end of the game also shakes the combat up a bit; don’t try to melee with these guys – only the most powerful weapons will do.
The multiplayer is also worth mentioning. Featuring both a coop and a competitive mode, it adds something extra to the game. Coop is fun if you want to play with some friends without shooting at them, but the competitive action is the best. With various different game-types, including the conventional death-match and capture-the-flag (or treasure, in this case), it will keep you entertained.
25/25 – Eclectic mix will constantly keep you on your toes
Among Thieves boasts some of the finest graphics to grace the Playstation 3. The game offers a simply dazzling visual feast, with the beautiful and diverse environments brought to life by Naughty Dog’s meticulous attention to detail. Everything looks stunningly realistic, from the burnt-out urban warzones to the jungles and mountains. The glistening water, the icy crevasses, the bricks, rocks, cars, and caves almost seem to live and breathe in this carefully crafted world. And the characters’ clothes and expressions all look great, even through Drake is a shabby dresser.
20/20 – Up there with the best of them
The game is also brought to life by its excellent sound effects. Of course, the combat sounds have all been done to perfection. But it’s the environmental sounds that really provide the best showcase for the developers’ talents. The gentle trickling of the water, the sound of Drake’s feet running over the snow and the ice, the screech of a signpost bending as you try to climb over it all help to immerse the player into the world. The voice-acting, meanwhile, is superb, with the sole exception once again being the rather clichéd Zoran Lazarevic with his ‘generic terrorist’ voice. Claudia Black, who voices Chloe, is the most impressive. She’s a pro. Very sexy. Play the game; you’ll see – or rather hear – what I mean.
19/20 – Zoran bombs, but otherwise ideal
You’ll probably complete the main campaign in 12-15 hours, which is pretty impressive nowadays. But on top of that, there’s the multiplayer, which essentially gives the game an unlimited lifespan. Among Thieves is also quite replayable. The game features a ‘find the treasure’ dynamic, which has you looking for easter-egg treasures throughout the singleplayer mode, if you’re so inclined. This might add an extra incentive to play it through again in order to find the treasure, though I found it a bit lame. Personally, I played it through a few times to experiment with different stealth approaches. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.
10/10 – Solid multiplayer and pretty replayable with good campaign length
You may have noticed that my only serious gripe with this game is Zoran. The evil antique collector-cum-Serbian war criminal didn’t exactly surprise and excite. Nevertheless, everything else about this game is truly brilliant. From the eclectic gameplay and the superb characterisation, dialogue, and wacky storyline, to the state-of-the-art graphics and sound effects, Uncharted 2 is a masterpiece.