Feb 10, 2011

Review: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

After his little trip through the Amazonian forest, Nathan Drake returns for  yet another PS3 exclusive, only this time around he's on a quest to Shangri-La, and to get there he will have to shoot legions of goons, climb countless walls, and seduce every single woman he sees on the way.

Lets start by talking about Uncharted 2's major flaw: it's the most bloody unoriginal game EVER! Naughty Dog could have replaced Drake by Lara Croft, put Tomb Raider on the box and no one would have noticed a damn (they would have had to get rid of the flirting with women bits though). Every single adventure film cliche known to man has been brought in: you've got the bold and witty hero, the not very useful sidekick who smokes cigars, the Russian bad guy with a strong accent and a private army, and many more. As for the gameplay mechanics, the Prince of Persia-style climbing and the Gears of War cover system have a strange smell of copy n' paste.

Without a sexy she-archeologist, it's up to the secondary characters to provide the good looks.
When I end up with a game like this, I usually throw it away thinking "Why play a mere copy of a game when I can get the real thing?". Well, not with Uncharted 2. Where many games diligently follow their model's every move, while never reaching the same level of quality, Among Thieves outruns all its possible rivals. Even Tomb Raider is no match for it (whatever the hardcore fans may say). Instead of just taking various elements from other media and leaving them in a big messy heap, developers Naughty Dog crafted them into a familiar-looking, but polished and likable whole. Graphically, it's so amazing it makes you wonder why no other PS3 games look this good (at least it did before God of War 3 trundled along). The face animations are particularly impressive, making you forget you live in a gaming age of expressionless botox-injected dummies.

Looks familiar?
Gameplay-wise, Uncharted 2 is pretty much the same as with everything else: classic, but efficient. Climbing is swift and ledges are a bit more obvious than in Tomb Raider, and unlike the latter, Uncharted 2 is a lot more focused on gunfights. But while shooting with Lara Croft felt as sloppy as trying to handle chopsticks with a pair of mittens, Nathan Drake actually knows how to handle a gun, allowing for more accurateness and an overused but nonetheless useful cover system. Stealth moves and hand-to-hand combat work rather well, but there's one aspect of the gameplay which is truly bad, and ironically it's also the domain where Tomb Raider shines. Puzzles. Yes, when Crystal Dynamics (the people who make TR in case you didn't know) delivers some well-thought and cleverly designed brain twisters, all Naughty Dog has to offer is a couple of "match the symbols with the colours" activities, and they're so mind-numbing they  nearly feel like they're insulting your intelligence.

Uncharted 2 is one of those games that could rely on looks alone, but doesn't.
But, looking on the good side of things, they only represent about 15 minutes of the total 8 hours of Uncharted 2's spectacular ride. Lets face it, even without the magnificent graphics, with the sheer amount of brilliant set-pieces, ranging from toppling buildings to a tank chase, things manage to keep fresh. Once you've finished the game, and if you're uninterested by the usual hidden collectibles, there is a multiplayer mode worth checking out. Although it doesn't reach the heights of, say, Call of Duty, it's still very decent, and  features some three player co-op missions with areas from the solo game, only with tougher enemies. 

Uncharted 2 has managed what seems at first to be an impossible combination: being a completely unoriginal game while still remaining excellent. Probably one of the best PS3 exclusives out there.

The Baron's Gaming Blog: first post!

Hello, and welcome to my blog. I'm Baron Mac Starfish, and I will be regularly writing game reviews, my opinion on various matters (mainly gaming) and other stuff. Without further ado, here comes my first article.