Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - Review

Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, was excellent. In fact, as I said when I first finished it, on this very Blog, it was a "Brilliant game, 10/10 brilliance. Buy it. Now. "

I still stick to that view. Uncharted: Drakes Fortune is an incredibly cinematic experience and one of the best games of all time. Uncharted 2 however, is the best game of all time. Let me explain.

I don't know when it happened, but there was a point probably about twenty minutes into the game, where I had to pause it and just stop for a second. I realised I wasn't playing just any old game... I was playing a monumental landmark in videogaming history. I was playing the equivalent of the original Metal Gear Solid, or Half-Life 2, a game so ambitious that it burrows itself within the minds of all those who play it, a game which is looked upon fondly by all... I was playing the sequel to my all time favourite game... And you know what I did? I turned it off. Not because of any inner realisation that I'm wasting my life, I'd just already had plans to go out that night.

When I finally returned to Uncharted 2 the next day I had ditched all of the emotional crap and got straight to it. Ten hours later, here I am to tell you that this game is as good as I expected it to be and my God, my expectations were high.

It's not often that a developer takes a game (and in this instance, a very good game) and improves on EVERY aspect of the original, and I mean that. Uncharted 2 boasts *inhales* improved AI, improved graphics, improved characterisation, improved character models, improved hand to hand combat, improved weapons, improved shooting, improved animations, improved trophies and a whole brand spanking NEW multiplayer mode which actually works. Not enough to convince you to go out and buy it? OK then. What if I told you that it's storyline of love, loss and betrayal which takes the main protagonist Nathan Drake to locations such as Nepal, Turkey and Borneo? What if I told you about the fantastic puzzle elements, firefights and exploration elements? What if I told you that this game is Tomb Raider reinvented by God, and then some?

The main campaign sees good old cocky, egocentric, all rounded good guy George of the Ju.... Nathan Drake on a quest to find Marco Polo's lost fleet. the Cintamani Stone from Shambhala and basically stick his middle finger up at historians everywhere for making it look so damn easy. In short, it's more of the same, but in no way is that a bad thing. Naughty Dog are by far the masters at taking lost things from history and mashing them all up together to make an intriguing, exhilarating and quite frankly remarkable plot and Uncharted 2 confirms this tenfold. Personally, I found myself getting so lost within the narrative that I was literally playing not just to find out what the conclusion to this exciting new dilemma I had just discovered was, but to actually, myself, gain the personal satisfaction for completing such a task and this was primarily due to the superb characterisation Uncharted 2 boasts.

The original cast (or the ones who didn't die anyway) return in this installment, so once again we're reunited with Elana Fisher (the worst dressed female in Videogaming) and Victor Sullivan (the man who I would give my left arm for in order for him to be my Grandad), along with new characters such as Chloe Frazer (the spunky, sexy, British alternative to Drake who ISN'T LAURA CROFT AT ALL. NOT ALL. DON'T EVEN THINK THAT SHE IS), Harry Flynn (Another Englishman who, would you believe it, is evil!) and Zoran Lazarevic (the evil villain guy, who ,would you believe it, is Russian). What's great, is that all these characters slot into the series nice and snugly, are fantastically well rounded and have voice actors that once again blow you, as the player, away. There is something that Naughty Dog are just doing so right with their characterisation, whether it's the pure emotion shown within the facial expressions of all characters (Sounds silly, but trust me it's incredible) or the voice acting. Either way, you'll fall in love with all of them, whether it's Drake's witty banter or the amount of times Chloe talks about how nice her arse is.

The gameplay then. Well, as I said It's certainly been improved and at the same time retains it's original charm. For half the game you're clambering around pretty much everything you see, staring in awe at the fluidity of the new climbing animations and for the other half your diving behind cover, blind firing at waves of enemy mercenaries with a variety of well rounded and well balanced weaponry. One of the complaints I had towards Drakes Fortune was how the amount of gunfighting seriously outweighed all other aspects of the game, but in Uncharted 2 it's been beautifully weighed out allowing a fluidity not really witnessed within a videogame before. Uncharted 2 flows like a dream, and you'll be damn appreciative of it too, especially when one minute you'll be stealthily raiding an artifact from a museum and the next you're clambering up the side of a derailed train carriage... that's hanging over the edge of a mountain.

There's so much I haven't spoke about. The multiplayer, the treasures, the weapons... but what's the point? All in all, you need to experience this to understand just where I'm coming from and when you do there's no denying it. This is a monumental achievement on Naughty Dog's behalf. It's often said, a good game does not a good console make but hell... in this instance I'd be willing to argue that. Best game ever made? I always say that, but this time I certainly believe I mean it. Game of the year? No doubt about it.

So, as I said, there'll be a point where you yourself will stop and just think "...Yea. This is it", and that's because it is. Uncharted 2, in my opinion, marks the point in which Videogames finally break through as a medium of art, as a true form of Media. It boasts a far more intelligent plotline than most Hollywood blockbusters, and a far more likeable cast and a fair few more explosions. There's a brilliant bit near the beginning where Sully turns to Drake and just says something like "I can't be doin' with this no more. I'm getting to old for this, Nate" and to me, this was almost as if a character within the very game itself was realising what was happening around him. This guy had been through some pretty hard times in the first game, but from where he was standing in the sequel... he couldn't cope. He literally had to drop out, because of the sheer scale of what was going on around him. Uncharted 2 has rocked the industry to it's core so hard, that even the characters within the very game itself are feeling the vibrations.

If you own a PS3, hell even if you don't own a PS3, please go and buy this game because seriously, you will not regret it.

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